Suffering: If God Is Good, Why Is There So Much Evil in the World? – Gospel in Life

Suffering: If God Is Good, Why Is There So Much Evil in the World?

Tim Keller |  October 1, 2006

Download Agreement

By downloading this file, I confirm I understand Gospel in Life's Copyright & Permissions policies and agree to only use this file for personal usage and will not upload it to any third-party platforms.


  • Suffering
1 Peter 1:3-12
RS 192-2


We’re looking at the problems people in our culture, and especially in New York City, have with Christianity. We’re now going to look at the one you could call the problem of evil and suffering. And it’s a very formidable one for Christian belief.

The problem goes something like this. If God allows evil and suffering to continue because he can’t stop it, then he might be good, but he’s not all-powerful. On the other hand, if God allows evil and suffering to continue because he could stop it and yet won’t stop it, then he might be all-powerful, but he’s not good. It’s a pretty formidable argument. What do we say to it?

Let’s first look at why getting rid of your belief in God in order to understand evil and suffering will not help. And then three ways, according to Peter, we can face suffering and evil in our lives. Peter says you have to look back to something, you have to look ahead to something, and you have to look into something to handle evil and suffering in this world.

1 Peter 1:3–12

Everyone faces the problem of pain and suffering, and saying there’s no God doesn’t solve this problem. Without God, we can’t even decide what’s fair or unfair, which makes evil and suffering more confusing. But we can handle these hard things in three ways: by looking back at what’s happened, looking forward to what will happen, and deeply understanding what’s happening now.

1. You have to look back to something

Peter uses the image of a fiery furnace to explain suffering, similar to the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego from the Bible. Isaiah 43 promises that God’s love and presence will be with us during tough times, helping us grow, instead of just avoiding hardships. When Jesus was crucified, he showed that God is willing to suffer with us. This gives us confidence that God is with us in our own struggles, and helps us make sense of evil and suffering.

2. You have to look ahead to something

Peter talks to people who are suffering about living hope, a powerful thing that not only expects a good future, but also helps us when life is hard. This hope is based on Jesus coming back to life, and it promises us that we will receive good things in the future, like a healed world, healthy bodies, and strong relationships. Knowing that suffering and death will be defeated in the new heavens and new earth gives more value to our future resurrection, and allows us to think about what Christ has done and look forward to the end of suffering and evil.

3. You have to look into something

The good news about Jesus is very important, so important that even angels are interested in it. It’s not a basic or simple thing. Jesus had living hope when he suffered, because he wanted to save and restore his loved ones, who are his living hope. Understanding this, and continuously learning more about what Christ did for us, increases our love for him and changes our sadness into something valuable.


June Book Offer

Deepen and Strengthen Your Marriage!

Marriage is one of the most profound human relationships — but it can also be one of the most challenging. So Tim and Kathy Keller designed a devotional book for married couples to use together.