We have been looking at different reasons that we may suffer and several of them have to do with our choices or the choices of someone else. Sometimes we suffer the natural consequences of our choices. Sometimes our choices bring about punishment and judgment on our lives or someone else’s. Sometimes the evil choices of someone else results in the suffering of someone innocent. But sometimes we face tragedies that have nothing to do with our own actions or the choices made by others. Natural disasters in the world, like tornadoes, hurricanes, tsunamis, or volcanic eruptions can wreak havoc on people’s lives and take loved ones from us all too soon. And natural disasters in our bodies can cause disease, sickness, and disability causing much suffering to our lives and our loved ones. Those situations typically have nothing to do with someone’s choices. They seem to be almost random yet give our lives so much grief and pain and suffering. How do we explain the existence of those things if there is a loving God?
What we have to understand is that while God is perfect and loving, the world we live in now is not. And it all goes back to the fact that we have free will in this world. When God created the earth and everything in it, it was created good. In fact, at the end of creating God declared it “very good.” God also created a natural order for that good creation with humanity at the head of it. Humanity was given authority for the well-being of the earth and its creatures. So when Adam and Eve made their free will choice to disobey God, it wasn’t just those two that were affected by that choice. Their sin broke humanity’s relationship with God, and the earth fell with it. Genesis 3:17 says that God told Adam, “Cursed is the ground for your sake.” And all other creatures were cursed – the serpent just more than the rest of them.
Adam’s sin caused the earth to be cursed and it fell from wholeness and perfection just like mankind. We see the connection between humanity and the earth with the story of Noah. "The Lord said, "I will blot out man whom I have made from the face of the ground, man and beast and creeping things, and the birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.” Because of man’s sin, nature would be destroyed as well. However, we also see that "Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord." And God developed a plan to save not only Noah and his family, but all the animals and creatures on the earth. From this we see three great truths about our earth.
Romans 8:19-22 For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now.
He tells us that the good earth was subjected to corruption because of humanity’s sin. The only way to keep the earth pure after the introduction of sin would be to remove people from the earth. In other words, you can’t have kids and white carpets in the same house. You cannot have sinful people on a perfect earth and expect to keep the planet spotless. Paul tells us that nature is not only fallen, but it knows that it is fallen – and doesn’t like it. It is “groaning” and “laboring” with birth pangs “together,” meaning nature with humanity. Nature does not want to be as it is, but it is powerless to do anything about it.
And just like we, as mankind, can do nothing in our own power to redeem ourselves, there is nothing that mankind can do in our own power to redeem nature. We are both condemned together through the presence of sin and Adam’s choice. And we will both be redeemed together by the second coming of Jesus. We are to be good stewards of the earth, but man alone cannot redeem the earth, just like man alone cannot redeem humanity. All of creation needs to be delivered by God.
So no matter what man does or doesn’t do right now, there will still be hurricanes, tornadoes, tsunamis, ice storms, drought, and floods because the earth is fallen and cursed. We would do well then to remember that as Jesus says in Matthew 5:45 “for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and send rain on the just and on the unjust.”
Think about what all is really included when we we say nature is fallen. Is it just trees and the oceans or would it also include our genetic code and mutations? We see birth defects, cancer, disease, and disabilities in our own bodies because that part of nature is fallen too. Is that God’s will? Is that God’s judgment on the sinful? Jesus was asked this exact question by his disciples.
John 9:1 Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth. And His disciples asked Him, saying, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
The disciples, like most Jews at that time, thought sin was always the cause of affliction. They assumed that if this man was born blind, then someone had sinned – either the man or his parents. But look at how Jesus responds.
Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him.”
Jesus says that a man’s affliction is not necessarily a direct result of someone’s particular sin. But He did say that God’s sovereignty and purposes play a part in such matters. Think about the miracles Jesus worked that proved to others His deity and His power. Jesus revealed His power as God through healing the sick, making the lame to walk, causing the blind to see, cleansing the lepers of leprosy, raising the dead to life. In order to do that, those people had to be sick, lame, blind, lepers, and dead. But God allowed them to experience that tragedy here so that the works of God could be revealed in them. No, that doesn’t mean that the works will always result in healing, but it means God will still reveal Himself through them.
Sickness, disease, tragedy, and death are not always a result of judgment for a particular sin. Those are things that will always plague mankind because we live in a fallen, sinful world in general. We may ask why God allows those sicknesses because it seems unfair to us. However, we know that God is sovereign and can reveal His works in the midst of our sickness.