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With so much suffering in the world, how can I believe in God?

Updated: Sep 12, 2022

I am often asked questions about what the Bible teaches on certain topics. From time to time I'll post them as a blog because I'm sure others have the same questions. I change the facts and names to protect the privacy of the individuals that email me.

Q: Just a quick bio - I’m in my 40's, single, with no kids. Since I was a young teenager I have been the caregiver for my parents and my uncle. All of them are deaf, one is a quadriplegic, another is autistic and the other suffers from depression. While my mom is able to help with my dad, her disability and illnesses make that a challenge. Not to mention the verbal abuse she suffers from those she and I are caring for.

I also suffer with severe depression because I feel like my life has been stolen as I’ve been a caregiver for most of my life. I was raised Christian home, went to church, studied the Bible. My mom is a solid Christian woman grounded in her faith. But recently over the past few years, I look at her solid faith as foolish, when I watch her tolerate the abuse as a caregiver, while she herself isn’t well. Regardless, she still sings hymns and tries to be remain joyful even with her depression. She believes the Bible no matter what and believes in the goodness of God no matter what. I used to, in fact I was a missionary living in another country in the early 2000's.

But as I’ve gotten older I’ve been slowly but surely losing my belief in a God. It feels like air being let out of a balloon. The reasons are such a long list…but they include me getting cancer, and the years long consequences of chemotherapy, among other suffering I won’t bore you with.

What I’d like to hear your thoughts and answers on are on these questions:

1. Why does anyone deserve hell if God created us fallible and sinful? Isn’t that just setting us up? I realize the Bible says he made it for satan and his angels, but he created Lucifer knowing he would fall and knowing his creation he supposedly loves would be sent there due to their sinfulness and unbelief. But it’s difficult for many people to believe and trust in something that can’t be proven, especially those with a scientific critical thinking brain (that God created this person with!)

2. God gives us “free will” but does he? That free will comes with strings and a disclaimer. If I choose to believe in God, hooray! But if I don’t, I get his eternal tortuous punishment. Isn’t that extortion? Does free will exist if God controls everything anyway? Isn’t it just His will imposed on us?

I sincerely apologize for this lengthy email and I do not wish to make it seem as though I want to argue. The purpose of this email is to honestly hear what your answers. I REALLY WANT to believe in God and believe he knows me and loves ME. But my brain just has to know how things work and can’t seem to get past these things. I wish I could just believe without question like I used to many years ago.

A: Thank you for your email and for your honesty, it's refreshing. I also believe the Lord treasures our honesty, He's not interested in our pretense, especially since He knows our hearts anyway.

I want to express from my heart the deepest compassion for your situation and the challenges you have had to endure. Being a full-time caregiver is much harder than people realize, and to add insult to injury being a caregiver to an ungrateful person is even more challenging. As I was reading your story, it reminded me of the life of Jesus. He was perfect, the embodiment of love, He lived as a full-time caregiver too, and often His compassion wasn't appreciated. In fact, He washed the feet of the disciple that hours later sold Him to the Pharisees for 30 pieces of silver.

Before I answer your two questions, I want to address the pain and suffering you mention that have been a part of the lives of those you care for as well as your own life. Sin sucks. Physical ailments, pain and suffering are all part of the consequences of sin. That doesn't make the discomfort less, but it should give us comfort to know that these things while common aren't normal. Normal was what God created in Eden, what we live with now are the consequences of sin.

Why does anyone deserve hell? That's a good question, the simple answer is that all have sinned. But I think we need to take a step back and look at the big picture. Big picture, God created humans with free will (we don't have enough perspective to understand that the benefits of free will outweigh the cons, but God does and because He is good I trust in the end His decision is right) and we regularly use our will to rebel against God and His perfection. Now we are all born into a sin nature and are dead. The message of the gospel isn't that God takes bad people and makes them good, it's that He takes dead people and makes them alive. There's a difference. If we don't want God's Spirit, the new life He offers, then He won't force Himself upon us. If He did that would be a violation of our free will.

Since sin is radical and deadly, there's only one way to deal with it and that is to contain and annihilate it radically and totally. That is why the cross is so radical. Jesus wasn't just executed to death, He was beaten, falsely accused, had His beard ripped out, crucified in one of the most horrific types of capital punishment, all the while being 100% innocent. The Bible explains quite clearly that when the Lord creates the new Heavens and Earth that He will ensure sin will never enter. The only way for sin to not enter the new creation, is to be sure that those in the Kingdom are sinless.

Because we can't be sinless on our own, the only way to be sinless is to have Jesus give us His righteousness. To get the righteousness of Jesus we have to submit to Him as Lord and become His. This is the rub for most people, whether or not we realize it, there is a rebellion inside of us that kicks up when we think of having to surrender to someone other than ourselves. The idea of submitting is almost repulsive. UNTIL we wake up and realize we are already submitted and surrendered to another, we aren't free at all. We are in bondage to sin and the enemy. We only *think* we are free, until the Lord reveals how we are really slaves. Just think about a sin you have in your life that you've tried and tried to give up. Maybe it's an angry reaction to something someone does (Jesus says if we hate someone, we have committed murder), or a desire to gossip (The Bible makes it clear that gossip is something the Lord despises), whatever it is we are a slave to it.

Therefore, we are at a crossroad: do we continue to live our lives separated from Jesus under the pretense we are "running our lives" while actually dead and in bondage to sin and the enemy, or do we get freedom and care from The Good Shepherd? To follow Jesus we have to die to ourselves and surrender to Him, but what we get in return is love, nurture, grace, hope, peace, an eternal future, the list goes on and on. The big lie is that we lose something “good” when we surrender to Jesus, the truth is we gain life and real freedom when we choose Him.

To answer your question about hell... we deserve it because we reject the option for freedom and therefore God will contain sin and those that choose to be subjected to it. To ensure it never again pollutes His creation, He makes it a simple binary decision. His intention is to end sin and contain it once and for all. So, if you agree that the suffering you and your loved ones have endured should end and never happen again, then you agree with God's plan. The thing is that He's going to let us choose if we want to be in His kingdom of perfection or if we will reject His plan and therefore be quarantined for eternity so as not to taint His perfection.

It is difficult for many to believe because they would rather lie to themselves about their condition rather than face the truth. That's why the Bible says: "This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil." John 3:19

To address your point about "science" I would like to point out that the more we learn about physics, biology, paleontology, cosmology they all point to the Biblical account of creation as being true. Science does not disprove God, it in fact points to God. While we have popular secular scientists like Dawkins and Hawking that have spent a great deal of time trying to rationalize their findings in terms of a godless universe, the major gaps in their conclusions (and believe me they are major) are filled in with completely made up theories that are easy to poke holes in when scrutinized by other subject matter experts. A great book that discusses at length the proof of God is in the book "I don't have enough faith to be an Atheist" by Dr. Frank Turek. Or if you want a quick listen, tune into this episode of his podcast: with Dr. Steven Meyer. Dr. Meyer points out the errors in the theories posed by Dawkins and Hawking. If you truly wanted to explore science, you'll find that most of what is normalized in mainstream culture about evolution and creation, etc. just isn’t true, it’s made up theories masquerading as truth. (2 Corinthians 11)

To your last question, does God really give us free will? Yes, He does. But, we are not God so we cannot control the outcomes of our decisions, we can only control what we decide to do. John Maxwell says life is 10% what happens to us and 90% how we choose to respond. Your comment about not doing things God's way means eternal damnation, is actually a complaint with consequences of our free will, not free will. You seem to be bothered by the lack of control of the outcome, not the ability to choose.

With our limited perspective it can be easy to criticize God and the way He has chosen to do things. But the longer I live the more I understand His wisdom and I am grateful that He is God and that I can rest in Him and His goodness.

I was once very angry with God about my circumstances too. I rejected Him, walked away from Him and went and played in the devil’s playground for a little while to protest the way He was doing things. I look back now and I want to throw up when I see how I was rolling around in feces telling myself I was “free”. I am repulsed by who I was and what I did. What I fell for, the evil I gave into. The lies that dominated my thinking. I was living in darkness all the while telling myself I was “free.” Gross, so much gross.

Now I finally have clarity and I see that God is really good. That my circumstances don’t have to be “perfect” for me to have His joy and peace. I understand that what we really needed as humans isn’t a perfect life or world, but freedom from sin. I now understand why Jesus lived how He lived and did what He did. He saw what we didn’t: our total death and depravity. Therefore, He rolled up His sleeves and as our Good Shepherd He washes us, heals us and cleanses us.

As long as you live on planet earth you will live with the consequences of sin. However, if you choose to believe God and trust Him, you will live out the remainder of your days in total peace and with complete hope.

When you describe your mother, that’s not foreign to me at all. God’s ability to give us grace in the most trying of circumstances is unmatched. It’s incomprehensible until you’ve known it. It’s unknowable until you surrender. You can’t surrender until you believe and you can’t believe until you ask for help and mean it. The Bible says over and over and over “The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love.” He is a Good Father and He gladly comes to our rescue when we cry out and actually mean it.

Because God sits outside of time (time is created, which is confirmed by the second law of thermodynamics and cosmological physics) He sees the beginning from the end. There is nothing He doesn’t see, know or understand. It is not “escapism” to trust Him, it’s wisdom. He cares much more for our eternal salvation than our temporary comfort. Therefore, He will allow us to go through challenging things to help us grow and see the truth. There is no growth in the comfort zone.

I hope and pray that you can open your mind and heart to your Father who loves you more than you can comprehend. You cannot begin to understand how much He loves you. He does love you and He sees you (El Roi- The God who Sees Me), He sees your pain. He wants to set you free, but He wants to heal you from the inside out. He wants to deal with the true cause of your suffering. If you choose to give Him the authority to do so, you will experience real freedom and real hope.

When He is done with you, you will have the strength and courage to walk through the challenging circumstances in life with His goodness leading you. You will find joy in the stewardship of what He has entrusted to you and you will rejoice in storing up eternal treasures and living out your true calling and purpose.

This was the topic of my last podcast, if you care to give it a listen: Are you Born Again

It’s normal to ask questions and be frustrated. If it's the truth you are seeking, there’s only one place you’ll find it: Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." John 14:6

Big hugs!

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