1, 2. What do many people ask?
A TSUNAMI destroys a village. A gunman opens fire in a church, wounding and killing a number of people. Cancer takes a mother’s life, leaving behind five children.
2 When disasters or tragedies like those happen, many people ask, “Why?” Many ask why the world is so full of hatred and suffering. Have you ever wondered about that yourself?
3, 4. (a) What questions did Habakkuk ask? (b) How did Jehovah answer him?
3 In the Bible, we learn that men who had deep faith in God also asked such questions. For example, the prophet Habakkuk asked Jehovah: “Why do you make me witness wrongdoing? And why do you tolerate oppression? Why are destruction and violence before me? And why do quarreling and conflict abound?”—Habakkuk 1:3.
4 At Habakkuk 2:2, 3, we read God’s answer to Habakkuk’s questions and His promise to correct the situation. Jehovah has deep love for people. The Bible says: “He cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7) In fact, God hates to see suffering much more than we do. (Isaiah 55:8, 9) So then, let’s discuss the question, Why is there so much suffering in the world?
WHY IS THERE SO MUCH SUFFERING?
5. What do many religious teachers say about suffering? What does the Bible teach?
5 Pastors, priests, and religious teachers often say that it is God’s will that people suffer. Some may say that everything that happens to a person, including tragedies, has already been decided by God and that we can never understand why. Others may even say that people, including little children, die so that they can be with God in heaven. But that isn’t true. Jehovah never causes bad things to happen. The Bible says: “It is unthinkable for the true God to act wickedly, for the Almighty to do wrong!”—Job 34:10.
6. Why do many people blame God for all the suffering in the world?
6 Many people blame God for all the suffering in the world because they think that God rules the world. But as we learned in Chapter 3, the real ruler of the world is Satan the Devil.
7, 8. Why is there so much suffering in the world?
7 The Bible tells us that “the whole world is lying in the power of the wicked one.” (1 John 5:19) The ruler of this world, Satan, is vicious and cruel. He is “misleading the entire inhabited earth.” (Revelation 12:9) Many people imitate him. And that’s just one reason why the world is so full of lies, hatred, and cruelty.
8 There are other reasons why there is so much suffering in the world. After Adam and Eve rebelled, they passed sin on to their children. And because of sin, humans cause other humans to suffer. They often want to be more important than others. They fight, they go to war, and they bully others. (Ecclesiastes 4:1; 8:9) Sometimes people suffer because of “time and unexpected events.” (Ecclesiastes 9:11) When they are in the wrong place at the wrong time, accidents and other bad things can happen to them.
9. Why can we be sure that Jehovah has a very good reason for allowing suffering to continue?
9 Jehovah never causes suffering. He’s not to blame for war, crime, and mistreatment. God does not cause disasters such as earthquakes, hurricanes, and floods. But you may wonder, ‘If Jehovah is the most powerful person in the universe, why doesn’t he stop those terrible things from happening?’ We know that God cares deeply about us, so he must have a very good reason for allowing suffering to continue.—1 John 4:8.
WHY GOD ALLOWS SUFFERING
10. How did Satan challenge Jehovah?
10 In the garden of Eden, the Devil misled Adam and Eve. Satan accused God of being a bad Ruler. He claimed that God was keeping something good from Adam and Eve. Satan wanted them to believe that he would be a better ruler than Jehovah and that they did not need God.—Genesis 3:2-5; see Endnote 27.
11. What question do we need to answer?
11 Adam and Eve disobeyed Jehovah and rebelled against him. They thought that they had the right to decide for themselves what was right and what was wrong. How could Jehovah prove that the rebels were wrong and that he knows what is best for us?
12, 13. (a) Why did Jehovah not destroy the rebels immediately? (b) Why has Jehovah allowed Satan to be the ruler of this world and humans to govern themselves?
12 Jehovah didn’t destroy Adam and Eve immediately. Instead, he allowed them to have children. Then Jehovah made it possible for the children of Adam and Eve to choose whom they wanted as their ruler. Jehovah’s purpose was to fill the earth with perfect people, and that was going to happen no matter what the Devil tried to do.—Genesis 1:28; Isaiah 55:10, 11.
13 Satan challenged Jehovah in front of millions of angels. (Job 38:7; Daniel 7:10) So Jehovah gave Satan time to prove whether his accusation was true. He also gave humans time to set up their own governments under Satan’s guidance to show whether they could be successful without God’s help.
14. What has time proved?
14 For thousands of years, humans have tried to rule themselves, but they have failed. Satan has been proved a liar. Humans do need God’s help. The prophet Jeremiah was right when he said: “I well know, O Jehovah, that man’s way does not belong to him. It does not belong to man who is walking even to direct his step.”—Jeremiah 10:23.
WHY HAS JEHOVAH WAITED SO LONG?
15, 16. (a) Why has Jehovah allowed suffering to go on for so long? (b) Why has Jehovah not fixed the problems caused by Satan?
15 Why has Jehovah allowed suffering to continue for so long? Why does he not stop bad things from happening? It has taken time to prove that Satan’s rule has failed. Humans have tried every kind of government, without success. Even though they have made advances in science and technology, there is more injustice, poverty, crime, and war than ever before. We cannot successfully rule ourselves without God.
16 However, Jehovah has not fixed the problems caused by Satan. If he did, it would mean God supports Satan’s rulership, and He will never do that. Also, humans would believe that they are able to rule themselves successfully. But that is a lie, and Jehovah would not support that either. He never lies.—Hebrews 6:18.
17, 18. What will Jehovah do about all the damage that Satan has caused?
17 Can Jehovah repair all the damage that has been caused by the rebellion of Satan and humans? Yes. With God, all things are possible. Jehovah knows when all of Satan’s challenges will have been fully answered. Then he will make the earth into a paradise, as it was meant to be. All those in “the memorial tombs” will be resurrected. (John 5:28, 29) People will never get sick or die. Jesus will undo all the damage that Satan has caused. Jehovah will use Jesus “to break up the works of the Devil.” (1 John 3:8) We are grateful that in the meantime Jehovah has been patient with us so that we can come to know him and can decide that we want him to be our Ruler. (Read 2 Peter 3:9, 10.) Even when we suffer, he helps us to endure.—John 4:23; read 1 Corinthians 10:13.
18 Jehovah does not force us to choose him as our Ruler. He gave humans the gift of free will. Let us examine what this precious gift means to us.
HOW WILL YOU USE THE GIFT OF FREE WILL?
19. What wonderful gift has Jehovah given us? Why should we be grateful for this gift?
19 Jehovah’s wonderful gift of free will makes us very different from the animals. They mainly act because of their instincts, but we can choose how we want to live our lives and decide whether we want to please Jehovah. (Proverbs 30:24) Also, we are not like machines that do only what they are made to do. We have the freedom to make choices about whom we want to be, whom we want as our friends, and what we want to do with our life. Jehovah wants us to enjoy life.
20, 21. What is the best choice that you can make now?
20 Jehovah wants us to love him. (Matthew 22:37, 38) He is like a father who is happy to hear his child say “I love you” when the child says it from his heart and not because he’s forced to. Jehovah gave us the freedom to choose whether to serve him or not. Satan, Adam, and Eve chose to reject Jehovah. How will you use your gift of free will?
21 Use your free will to serve Jehovah. There are millions of others who have decided to please God and to reject Satan. (Proverbs 27:11) What can you do now so that you will be there in God’s new world when he removes all suffering? The next chapter will answer that question.
WHAT CAN THE BIBLE TEACH US?