Why Do the Innocent Suffer?
Question: Many verses in the Bible make it clear that God brings judgment on those who are evil. The Lord says, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay” (Romans 12:19). Scripture also teaches, “For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil” (1 Peter 3:12). What about the innocent? Why do they suffer?
Answer: First of all, there is no one who is completely innocent. Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” We have a sin nature. We are not sinners because we sin. We sin because we are sinners. Even little children, if they came to full years, would be full-fledged sinners. Though some die in infancy, this does not remove the fact that they are sinners.
To be accurate, and to do the teachings of the Bible justice, we have to put this issue into the context of the depravity of the human race. No one has any claims on God’s grace. We are totally unworthy of mercy from God.
People today have an “entitlement mentality.” People expect the government to provide their every need, from birth to death. They believe that they are entitled to that. God doesn’t operate on that principle. Not a one of us—and I include myself—is entitled to anything from God, other than judgment and condemnation.
Question: The question should not be, "Why do the innocent suffer?" but rather, "Why don’t the guilty suffer the full extent of their sins?"
Answer: That’s an excellent way of stating the issue. Our emphasis should not be on the suffering of the so-called innocent, but on the fact that there are many who do not get what they deserve. The fact is, there was only One Person who was truly innocent. He got what He did not deserve—a horrible death on the cross of Calvary. Isaiah 53:7 says, “He is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.”
And I may add that, for the Christian suffering is not eternal. Suffering is but for a limited duration. Psalm 30:5 gives us the right outlook: “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.”
So, then, does righteousness pay? It sure pays off in the long run. However, the New Testament recognizes that while it is to our advantage to live an obedient life, there is no guarantee that obedience will exempt us from suffering. First Peter 3:13 and following sums it up: “And who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good?” In verse 14 Peter adds: “Bu t. . .” That’s a word of clarification. ”But and if ye suffer for righteousenss’ sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled; But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.”