Is it possible that God permits evil and suffering in order to accomplish a higher purpose than strictly our personal comfort? And could it be that like light shines brightest in the darkness, God’s unfailing love, justice and righteousness are most meaningful to us in a world of evil and suffering?
According to the Scriptures, God’s higher purpose for our lives is to “adopt” us as his children. Paul, who had been a leading Pharisee and enemy of Jesus and Christians, learned this amazing truth when he encountered the resurrected Christ on the road to Damascus. Later as Christianity’s greatest apostle, Paul marvels at God’s plan for us in his letter to the Ephesians,
“For consider what he has done—He planned, in his purpose of love, that we should be adopted as his own children through Jesus Christ” (Ephesians1:3-6, J. B. Phillips)
Think of it: The God of all creation wants to be our loving heavenly Father!
But as Paul writes, God’s plan requires us to be “holy and blameless” like him. Throughout the Bible (nearly 600 times), God is spoken of as “holy.” His character is morally pure in every way—unblemished.
So, if God wants us to be holy and blameless like himself, why didn’t he just create us to be that way? He certainly could have. However, it is God’s desire that we choose to trust him and follow his ways without coercion. He didn’t want to force his love upon us or force us to love and obey him.
So that we could love and obey him of our own volition, he gave human beings free will. That freedom opened the door to our moral choices. We were given the opportunity to do good to one another—or to do evil.
We might stop right here and ask, “What if we didn’t have free will?” What is the alternative? In other words, what would our world be like if we were robotically programmed like Siri or Alexa?
Such a disastrous world was depicted in the movie, Stepford Wives. In the movie, weak, lying, greedy and murderous men engineered submissive, obedient robots to replace their liberated wives who they considered threats. The wives were programmed to always obey and please their husbands.
Without the freedom to make our own choices we would be robotic. We wouldn’t be human at all. Like it or not, our free will can cause pain and suffering to others. The Holocaust, child molestation and bombing of innocent civilians are examples of how horrible such suffering can be.
Our free will made it possible for us to either obey or to disobey God. The Bible identifies our disobedience to God as sin. When the first man, Adam, disobeyed God, sin entered our world. According to the Bible all people have inherited that sin nature passed on from Adam.
Sin causes the severing of all relationships: the human race severed from its environment (alienation), individuals severed from themselves (guilt and shame), people severed from other people (war, murder), and people severed from God (spiritual death).
Sin is therefore the great obstacle separating us from a holy God. The Bible says our sin has separated us from God’s love. Sin is an affront to God’s holiness and must be judged. God imposed the penalty of death for our sin—not just physical death, but eternal separation from God.