Hugh Ross on Suffering

The problem under discussion is basically this: If God is all powerful,
all wise, and yet good and loving – how is it that so much suffering and
evil is permitted in God’s world? Why does God not do more to intervene
if He is so powerful and loving?

I have begun to answer this question in another article.

Here are the elements of the answer given by the astrophysicist Dr.
Hugh Ross in his excellent book, “The Fingerprint of God”. Elements in
are my additions.
I myself may not agree with every single point
here but I think it is a worthwhile contribution to the whole question
and therefore I put it in with the only modifications from myself being
occasional additions marked in italics.

In fact I think better Scripture references can be found to support
the points made, but that is another issue. It would be interesting to
get comments back on this.

1. People are not robots

Man was sinless when God created him (Genesis 2-3).

If God had forceably prevented man from sinning, man’s will would not
be free.

Without free choice, real love is impossible.

For God, real love means more than anything else in the Universe.
If God wanted free sons and lovers, He had to give man a free choice.

2. God’s Ultimate Plan is to Perfect Those Who Choose to Be Perfected.

In the new creation man will retain his free will, but there will be
no sin, no suffering, no death, no evil (Revelation 21:4)

Only (and all) those who overcome sin and evil by choosing to worship
Christ, rather than to live for self, can enter into this perfect state
(Revelation 21:7-8).

The perfecting process takes place via the interaction of our will and
Christ’s in opposition to Satan’s will (Acts 8:23, Philippians 2:13, II
Thessalonians 3:5, II Timothy 2:26).

3. All People now sin. All enter life in a state of spiritual incapacitation.

Through Adam’s trespass, sin has been imputed to each human (Romans

We are sinners, by nature, from conception (Psalm 51:5).

Without God’s restraint and influence we would be totally depraved (Jeremiah
17:9; John 16:8-11).

On our own, nothing we do is righteous by God’s standard (Isaiah 64:6;
John 15:5).

4. What is spiritual is eternal

All spiritual beings are created to exist forever. They cannot be annihilated
(Daniel 12:2; Matthew 25:46).

Man’s conscience confirms that his existence continues after physical
death (Ecclesiastes 3:11).

Spiritual death refers to man’s incapacity to do good and, unless he
entrusts himself to the goodness of Christ, results in eternal separation
from God (Romans 5:12-21).

5. Life on earth has an eternal purpose.

This is roughly analogous to a school course with a final examination.

This life is intended to prepare us for the eternity that lies ahead
(1 Corinthians 6:2-3, I Peter 2:9).

Only one chance and only so much time is needed for an individual to
choose (or reject) God’s offer and to choose (or reject) God’s training
(Luke 16:19-31, Hebrews 9:27).

Neither too much nor too little time would be good for us (Isaiah 38-39,
Isaiah 57:1-2, Acts 5:1-10).

6. Physical Death has a good purpose.

God gave us physical death so that we might have the possibility of
being rescued from spiritual death (Genesis 3:22-24).

Death seals and protects the righteousness of the one who chooses God
(I Kings 14:12-13, Isaiah 57:1-2).

Death limits the degradation and punishment of the one who rejects God
(Romans 1:32).

Death limits the spread of wickedness in society (Genesis 19).

7. Suffering Has a Purpose

Suffering alerts us to potentially destructive problems – physical,
emotional, and spiritual (2 Cor. 7:8-13)

Suffering restrains us, keeping us from committing evil (Hebrews 12:5-13)

Suffering humbles us, reminding us of our weaknes (2 Corinthians 12:7-10).

Suffering teaches us about ourselves, our values, our choices (Matthew

Suffering teaches us about God – the magnitude of His love for us in
His willingness to suffer and die in our place (Hebrews 12:2).

8. Man’s short lifespan and suffering bring spiritual protection.

Long life-spans promote the wicked, not the righteous (Genesis 6:3-8).

Absence of suffering promotes the wicked, not the righteous (Genesis

9. Innocence is available in Christ alone.

Man’s conscience speaks to him of a God whose standard is perfection
– perfection in love, perfection in obedience to His moral code, obedience
in action, word and thought (I Samuel 6:20, Isaiah 59:2-14, Habakkuk 1:12-13).

Only a perfect being can meet the standard (Deuteronomy 32:4; I Samuel

Through His life, death, and bodily resurrection, Jesus Christ proved
Himself to be the perfect one, the one and only redeemer of sinful man
(Hebrews 2:9-15).

10. Human solutions fail to solve our problem.

Even with the best possible government, worldwide peace and justice,
unparalleled prosperity, unprecedented good health, and lifespans in the
hundreds of years, most people, when the chance arises, will choose rebellion
and evil (Revelation 20:1-10).

Minimizing the consequences of sin fails to check its spread (Genesis
4:11-13; Hebrews 12:5-13).

Punishment for sin is necessary for restraint and correction, but it
is insufficient to eliminate sin.

Only God has the power to conquer Satan, sin and death (Isaiah 43:10-11
& 59:15-16).

11. It is good that Satan initiated evil and is the tempter.

Because Satan is the most powerful created being, and because the circumstances
in which he is tempting us are the most severe, there exists no possibility
of our facing any greater test than the one we undergo in our brief physical
life on earth (Isaiah 14:11-17, Ezekiel 28:12-19, Jude 9).

If we pass this test, choosing God’s rescue in Christ, the way is opened
for God to deliver us eternally from all sin, death, suffering, and evil
taking away our free-will, and without losing the possibility to love.

In order for our rescue to be eternally secure, everyone must be subjected
to the ultimate test (Rev. 20:7-10).

12. The test is not too difficult

God will not allow us to be tempted beyond what we are able to bear
(I Corinthians 10:13).

God’s help and comfort are always available to those who depend upon
Him (Matthew 28:20, Hebrews 13:5).

13. Suffering that aligns with God’s will shows the power of the

Those who exchange their guilt for Christ’s innocence gain, through
the trials in their lives, perseverance, maturity, and God’s perfect joy
(James 1:2-4).

Suffering within God’s will purifies the soul and communicates to the
world the surpassing value of the spiritual over the physical, the eternal
over the temporal (Hebrews 12:16, I Peter 2:19-25 & 4:1-2).

Skeptics watch Christians’ response to suffering and persecution to
see whether or not the faith of such people is true, reliable, and secure,
to see whether or not God is miraculously at work within them (I Peter

The severest, often unacknowledged, test to which doubters subject believers
is persecution (Job, Acts 7:55-8:3 & 9:1-19).

One of the greatest joys of this life comes through suffering for “righteousness’
sake” (Matthew 5:10, I Peter 4:14).

14. Our time of suffering is brief.

Our lifespan is like a whiff of smoke compared to eternity (Job 7:6-10,
Psalm 103:15-16, James 4:14).

We can barely begin to fathom God’s time frame (II Timothy 1:9, 1:2,
II Peter 3:8, Revelation 21:1).

15. God has a purpose in blessing the wicked.

God always reaches to us first through His mercy and grace and then
through His rebuked (John 3:16-18, II Peter 3:9).

God first blesses those going astray so that they may acknowledge Him
as their source of blessing and then repent (Psalm 73).

If people refuse to acknowledge God as the source of their blessing,
God removes the blessing and thus prepares them to listen to the message
of those who have chosen Him (Proverbs 24:15-20).

If the wicked persist in wickedness, they receive only what they have
chosen – eternal torment and separation from God (Psalm 73).

16. Both heaven and hell are expressions of God’s perfect love.

Nobody dies without having the clear, understood opportunity to receive
or reject God’s offer of forgiveness for sin and of life with Him (John
3:16-21; John 1:9).

Just as it is impossible, from a human perspective, to imagine how awful
the torment in hell could be and how anyone could possibly deserve the
punishment, it is equally impossible to imagine how wonderful heaven could
be and how anyone could possibly deserve the blessing (I Corinthians 2:9).

Those who go to hell are those who prefer eternal torment to obedience
to God and fellowship with Him (Luke 12:8-10, Hebrews 6:4-6, Hebrews 10:26-29).

Scripture tells us of differing degrees of torment in hell – the greater
the wickedness, the greater it will be (Rev. 20:11-15; Luke 24:47)
– and of differing rewards in heaven, depending on one’s degree of submission
to the work of God’s Spirit in building Christlikeness (I Corinthians 3:12-15).

If God imposed no torment in hell, the residents there would vex one
another to an unthinkable degree (Jeremiah 17:9). One purpose of the torment
is to restrain the expression of evil. Some need more restraint than others.

Why so long?

Another common question asks why God takes so long to resolve the problem
of evil and suffering. From the perspective of the Creator, however, the
problem is resolved quickly. If the time since the creation of the Universe
were scaled down to a single year, the whole of human history would be
less than one minute.

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