IF GOD IS LOVE, WHY DOES HE ALLOW SUFFERING AND EVIL TO EXIST?
When this question is verbalized most people think they have caught you in an obvious contradiction that you will not be able to answer. However, even though you can’t completely answer every possible situation regarding evil, you can give a general answer. How should you begin?
Start by asking this person, "Where did sin and evil begin? Who caused all the suffering and evil in this world?" The answer to this question is your best starting point. All suffering and sorrow in this world is the result of man’s rebellion against God and man’s choice to obey Satan (Gen. 3:4-5) (Gen. 3:16-19). God did not create this world to be a place of hardship, toil, and pain. Scripture emphatically declares that God is not the source of evil neither does He tempt men to do evil. "Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning" (James 1:13-17). On the contrary, God created man to experience eternal life, which results from personal fellowship with Him (Gen. 3:22-24) (John 17:3). God didn't tempt Adam and Eve in the garden, Satan did. Therefore, once the source of suffering and evil is identified, at least God can’t be blamed for that.
Concerning this topic of God’s relationship to evil you must be ready for some individuals who know Scripture that may bring up a passage that appears to contradict my statements above. In the old King James Version of the Bible, God declares, "I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things" (Is. 45:7). What does this verse mean? The word create means to bring about something. The word evil means calamity, which is the inevitable consequence of man’s sin. The word evil has been correctly translated as calamity in the New King James Version of the Bible. Therefore, God creates or brings about the consequences that result from man’s evil. Remember, God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all" (1 John 1:5).
However, then people usually say, "Yeah, but even if God didn't cause the evil in this world, why does He allow it to continue? He is either too weak or He must simply not care?" This part of the question is answered by explaining the alternatives that exist. You should take this line of reasoning because most people don’t understand what they are asking for when they want God to stop all the evil in this world. What alternatives does God have for dealing with evil?
1. To stop all evil in this world, God would have to destroy every evil person because the nature of man is dominated by the power of sin (Rom. 7:14). Remind this person that one day God will destroy all that offends and will take unto Himself all those who believe (Matt. 13:36-43).
2. To stop all evil in this world, God would have to destroy the world because the world is completely held under the sway of the wicked one (1 John 5:19). Remind this person that one day God will cause the kingdoms of this world to become the kingdoms of His Christ and will do away with all suffering and pain (Rev. 11:15) (Rev. 21:3-4).
In addition, you should explain that if this issue of evil in the world is of real concern, they should receive Christ today because He came to set them free from their personal battle with sin and evil (Rom. 6:6) (Gal. 5:16). God has delivered us from this present evil age by the sacrifice of His Son (Gal. 1:4). In addition, God wants to give us His spiritual armor so that we might withstand the evil in this world and overcome evil with good (Eph. 6:13) (Rom. 12:21).
Here is a possible story you might also use.
A Preacher and an Atheist:
A preacher and an atheistic barber were once walking through the city slums. The barber said to the preacher, "This is why I cannot believe in a God of love. If God was as kind as you say, He would not permit all this poverty, disease, and squalor. He would not allow these poor bums to be addicted to dope and these other character-destroying habits. No, I cannot believe in a God who permits these things." The minister was silent until they met a man who was especially unkept and filthy. His hair was hanging down his neck and he had a half-inch of stubble on his face. The minister then said, "You can't be a very good barber or you wouldn't permit a man like that to continue living in this neighborhood without a haircut and shave." Indignantly the barber answered, "Why blame me for that man's condition? I can't help it that he is like that. He has never come in my shop; I could fix him up and make him look like a gentleman!" Giving the barber a penetrating look, the minister said, "Then don't blame God for allowing people to continue in their evil ways, when He is constantly inviting them to come and be saved, and they refuse." Author Unknown