The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is
patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.
—2 Peter 3:9
We naturally want to believe that bad things happen to people because
those people are bad. But Jesus said bad things happen to the righteous
and the unrighteous (Luke 13:4-5). Yet we can offer comforting insights
to those who are suffering: God is in control, God is loving, and God can
use evil for our ultimate good. And we can also say without hesitation that
God will ultimately defeat evil and end our suffering. Just because God has
not eliminated evil and suffering in the world yet does not mean He is not
going to do so in the future.
Why doesn’t God stamp out all the suffering in the world right now? For
God to do that He would have to put an end to the cause of suffering:
rebellion against God (or, as the Bible calls it, sin). For God to end all
rebellion against Himself means He would have to end history with a final
judgment of the righteous and the unrighteous. The moment that final
judgment occurs, all opportunity for repentance and salvation will be gone.
The apostle Peter offers this insight about why God has not yet ended
suffering, sin, and, therefore, the world as we know it:
The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness,
but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to
come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief,
in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be
destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up.
(2 Peter 3:9–10)
Make no mistake about it: God is going to defeat evil and end suffering. Mercy,not apathy or impotence, is God’s reason delaying the elimination of evil. Anytime you begin to doubt the certainty of evil’s ultimate defeat, look at the cross. In the death of Jesus Christ God assured all of His creation that He would not allow sin and its consequences to be the final word in human history. When Jesus cried out, “It is finished!” (John 19:30), the countdown clock began ticking away the seconds until God re-creates His creation. After all, the best way to defeat evil is to create a new world where evil no longer exists.
The fact that evil and suffering will ultimately be defeated in no way
minimizes the intensity of the pain we feel now, and God understands that.
But God is merciful, and heaven is for sure. These are important truths to
remember when suffering.