To understand why there is so much suffering and why human efforts to eliminate it have been unsuccessful, we need to identify the real causes behind it all. Though the causes are varied and complex, we can be thankful that the Bible can help us to identify them. In this article, we will examine five fundamental reasons why there is so much suffering. We invite you to consider carefully what the Bible says and see how God’s Word helps us to look beyond the surface to discern the true cause of this important problem.
EFFECTS OF BAD GOVERNMENT
“When anyone wicked bears rule, the people sigh,” says the Bible.
History is filled with dictators who ruled with an iron fist, bringing untold suffering to their subjects. Of course, that is not true of all rulers. Some may have the best of intentions for their fellowmen. However, once they are in power, they often find that their efforts are frustrated by infighting and power struggles. Or they may abuse their power for personal gain, to the detriment of the people. “History is a tale of efforts that failed, of aspirations that weren’t realized,” said former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.
The Bible also points out: “It does not belong to man who is walking even to direct his step.” (Jeremiah 10:23) Imperfect humans lack the necessary wisdom and foresight to manage all their own affairs successfully. If people cannot direct their own steps, how can they direct the steps of a nation? Can you see why human rulers do not have the ability to eliminate suffering? In fact, more often than not, bad government, or rulership, is the cause of suffering!
INFLUENCE OF FALSE RELIGION
“By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love among yourselves,” said Jesus.
Religious leaders of every creed and denomination preach love and unity. The reality is that they have failed to instill in their followers a love strong enough to eliminate biases. Rather than helping to cultivate love, religion often contributes to the division, bigotry, and strife among peoples and national groups. In the conclusion of his book Christianity and the World Religions, theologian Hans Küng wrote: “The most fanatical, the cruelest political struggles are those that have been colored, inspired, and legitimized by religion.”
In addition, clerics of many religions have openly condoned premarital and extramarital sex and homosexuality. This has led to the spread of disease, abortions, unwanted pregnancies, and broken marriages and families, resulting in untold pain and anguish.
HUMAN IMPERFECTION AND SELFISH DESIRES
“Each one is tried by being drawn out and enticed by his own desire. Then the desire, when it has become fertile, gives birth to sin.”
All of us, because of inherited imperfection, are prone to errors and mistakes and have to fight against the desire for “doing the things willed by the flesh.” (Ephesians 2:3) When wrong desire coincides with opportunity, however, the battle can be especially challenging. If we give in to hurtful desire, the results can be devastating.
Author P. D. Mehta wrote: “A vast amount of suffering is due to our own lust, to our feverish pleasure-seeking and self-indulgence, to our greed and our ambition.” Cravings and addictions of all kinds
POWER OF WICKED SPIRITS
Like Satan, the demons are actively engaged in controlling and misleading people. The apostle Paul acknowledged this when he said: “We have a wrestling, not against blood and flesh, but against the governments, against the authorities, against the world rulers of this darkness, against the wicked spirit forces in the heavenly places.”
While the demons delight in harassing people, that is not their primary goal. They desire to turn people away from the Most High God, Jehovah. (Psalm 83:18) Practices such as astrology, magic, sorcery, and fortune-telling are just some of the devices that the demons use to deceive and control people. That is why Jehovah alerts us to those dangers and offers protection to all who oppose Satan and the demons.
WE ARE LIVING IN “THE LAST DAYS”
Some two thousand years ago, the Bible foretold: “Know this, that in the last days critical times hard to deal with will be here.”
Pointing out what makes the times critical, it goes on to say: “For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, self-assuming, haughty, . . . having no natural affection, not open to any agreement, slanderers, without self-control, fierce, without love of goodness, betrayers, headstrong, puffed up with pride, lovers of pleasures rather than lovers of God.” Surely a key reason for all the suffering we see today is that we are living in “the last days.”
In view of the factors we have considered, is it not clear why humans are unable to put an end to suffering, despite their good intentions? Where, then, can we turn for help? We must look to our Creator, who has promised to “break up the works of the Devil” and his followers. (1 John 3:8) The following article will consider what God will do to eliminate all causes of suffering.