If God exists, why does he let the good suffer, and reward the evil?

We all know the types. They are nowhere near the nicest people you know. Most would call them selfish. Others would say they’re straight-up bad people. Yet for some reason they have so much in life.

The personalities of these people, coupled with their undeserving reward, could almost make a man believe there is no God. They don’t deserve what they have, and they almost certainly don’t appreciate it as much as we would if we had it. It seems unjust.

Then there are those who, despite having nothing, will give you their entire heart and the shirt off their back. They are known for loving and helping others, and we aspire towards their purity. Yet, they either have no money or they suffer in some incredible way. Life seems to torment them unfairly.

If there is a God, and if that God is just, how are we to reconcile such differences? Why are the evil rewarded while the good are left to suffer? We’re told that God loves us, but surely this is not love, for love is compassionate, and love is just.

The answer is fundamental to God’s love, and to our own nature.

God gives all men that which is in their heart.

God (or the World for the secular reader) gives all men that which is in their heart. For those who crave money, they shall have money. For those who crave power, they will find power. For those who crave love, they will find love. And for the religious man longing to be in God’s eternal presence, his life will be shaped accordingly. 

For those who seek God the way to eternity is through suffering and sacrifice. The good are left to suffer for it makes them humble and spiritually learned; both are essential elements for divine qualification. While suffering brings sorrow, it also brings wisdom, enlightenment and joy over our life and our spiritual resilience. In the greatest of ironies, those who suffer learn to find everlasting happiness in their sacrifice, and repentance in their suffering.

For the secularist longing for the material, suffering has no purpose. Suffering strikes at the spirit, and as the secularist is non-spiritual, suffering becomes a purposeless inconvenience, much as it does for a flea-infested dog. The secularist does not long for humility, enlightenment or divinity, and so is left to enjoy this life.

The secular and the religious must ultimately war over the hearts of men. The secularist seeks to spread materialism and to crush the spiritual, and he does so by filling man’s heart with the obscene. The religious seek to soften man’s heart and to encourage self-sacrifice. The essential heart of secularism is therefore selfish, and the heart of religion, selfless.

We, the religious, need never be envious of the secularist’s reward. God knows all hearts, and we have already seen theirs. They however are yet to see ours.

Allow yourself to suffer in life, and have endless patience. You don’t know your own heart better than God does. The mind may want something in life yet never receive it, for the heart longs for something different.

Do not hate God if he does not give you what you want. He sees your heart and you will have what is in it when the time is right. This, is faith.

The story of Lazarus.

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12 Responses to “If God exists, why does he let the good suffer, and reward the evil?”

  1. Nick
    August 5, 2013 at 10:06 AM #

    What I think is really great about this article is that it really speaks to the fundamental difference between religion and secularism.

  2. Arby
    August 8, 2013 at 5:53 AM #

    Toma, I’m was pleased to see you tackle this question. You always give me a lot to think about.

    One question I have though on your particular take on this is, why do you say God gives everyone the desires of their heart? In the Bible it is written “Delight yourself in the LORD; And He will give you the desires of your heart.” It speaks to those that delight in the Lord. However, how are you translating this to the secularist? I think that God allows them to prosper and they give themselves what is in their hearts or it comes from somewhere else (Luke 4:5-6).

    Or are you approaching this by citing the claims used in the book called The Secret? I hope not as I find the premise of that book disturbing on so many levels.

    • Robert
      July 17, 2014 at 10:47 PM #

      I would argue that the key to understanding God’s promise in this instance is to read the verse carefully to catch what it is really saying. The promise if that IF you delight yourself in the Lord, THEN He will give you the desires of your heart. The thing is, though, that if you truly delight yourself in the Lord, the desires of your heart will change from what they would otherwise be and they will line up with what He knows is the very best for us and desires for us. We will start to strongly desire what He already desires for us—and He will give us those desires. We are given what we desire because our desires have changed to what they should have been all along.

      Also, there are lots of people who have lots of material wealth in this life who have no interest at all in spiritual matters and have no relationship at all with God. We live in a world where certain rules of order and operation have been set into motion and they tend to work for the individual who knows how to use them regardless of whether he is a good person or a bad person. If a Christian jumps off a bridge, he will fall just like an atheist would if he did the same thing. Likewise, if an immoral (or amoral) individual invests wisely or uses his natural skills and gifts to acquire wealth or possessions, he may end up rich. But people typically miss the BIG kicker to this question—TIME. We look at some 30 or 40 year old who has piles of money, fast cars, big houses, and whatever else he wants, yet he doesn’t know, love, or serve God in any capacity and has no interest in doing so. We see this and we become jealous or angry and wonder why we struggle to pay our bills and this hedonist has it all with seemingly no price tag. Again, the key is understanding TIME.

      Because we live in time, we often struggle with the concept that the great equalizer of all men is ETERNITY. If this life were all we had, then yes, maybe that man would have the edge. But it isn’t and he doesn’t. He will live and enjoy his wealth here on earth for 70 or 80 years—100 on the far outside. Then he will die and leave it all behind. Not one penny of what he has accumulated will he take with him into eternity. That is not the case, however, for Believers. The key is to understand that those who live for THIS life will reap their rewards in THIS life. Those who live for ETERNITY will reap their rewards in ETERNITY. Think of it this way—would you rather have someone tell you they will give you a million dollars today, tax free, and you get to enjoy it for the next 75 years and then you die? Or would you rather have someone tell you that in 75 years when you are ready to die, they will hand you absolutely unbelievable wealth—the equivalent of a Bill Gates—that you can take with you into the next life where you can use it to live like a king forever? Because that is, in essence, what we are looking at when we start asking why bad people prosper and some good people don’t. We are looking at current market trends and judging the end result without realizing that things will change drastically and fundamentally at the doorway into eternity. God has promised us wealth and eternal life and prosperity and endless joy THEN—not now, at least not every moment of now. Our time is coming. We have to be willing to prepare and wait for our eternal portfolio to reach maturity so that we can cash it in. That’s the perspective the world of unbelievers miss. They live this life only—and they are the greatest losers because of it.

      • Toma
        July 17, 2014 at 11:00 PM #

        Great comment.

        What people miss about Christianity is that it also enhances THIS life. It teaches you to appreciate the smallest of things and to know life’s greatest beauties. The truth that Christianity teaches brings men strength and purpose, in this world, which is timed, and the next, which is without time.

  3. Toma
    August 9, 2013 at 7:06 PM #

    Forgive me Arby, I totally forgot to reply to this. If we delight ourselves to the Lord, he will give us that which is in our heart, and that which is in our heart will be to delight ourselves to him. It is a constantly magnifying love, not unlike that we experience when we love one-another whole-heartedly. Love can grow and die exponentially.

    One could take from this the implication that if we do not delight ourselves to the Lord, he will not give us that which is in our heart. The bible however does not specify this. I read it and see a specific reference to the Lord seeing our heart, and knowing our heart, and giving that which is in our heart. I guess it depends on whether you take the first part to be a proviso.

    • Arby
      August 10, 2013 at 1:43 AM #

      No worries, I am practicing patience. After having worked in a Marketing Dept in Corporate America for five years, where it was pretty much beaten out of me, I find that I am enjoying relearning it now that I am free. And, it is a beautiful thing – both patience and being free.

      I agree that God gives us our desires for Him as you say, and this is an awesome message! For an ordinary example, I wanted to add that when God gives you something earthly that you desire, He always leaves His mark so that you know it was Him. When I was young I had the typical childhood fascination with horses, so I decided to ask God for one. Since I didn’t want to overreach His kindness, I asked for only a colt, not a whole horse (only a child could think this way, eh?). I didn’t get a colt when I was young and it wasn’t until years later that in buying my first car, I bought a Plymouth hatchback (I was poor, what can I say). It wasn’t until years after I had traded in that car that it occurred to me that God did give me a colt, it just happened to be a Plymouth Colt, and it was exactly what I needed at the time (if I could barely afford a car how would I have been able to board a horse or use it to get to work). So that twist right there lets me know that it was God’s doing and I imagine Him smiling when it finally dawned on me that He had answered my prayer.

  4. Cianna
    September 4, 2013 at 1:50 AM #

    I’m not religious but we suffering happens because of our ego. God gave us free will we can do whatever we please. God is love and by spreading love can we make suffering end. But before we know love we must destroy the ego. For many years many of us have used our free will for selfish and unkind gains. Heaven, love, and light is within so is darkness. To truly end suffering we must emulate the light and love within us to all people no matter the race beliefs sexual orientation ect. So why doesn’t God destroy evil? It does not exist only stupidity and ignorance. Love knows the ego is foolish. Love triumps over ego. Love is the purpose of life. The question is not where is God, but where is man. We are the saviors of our world cause this is where we live. Taking this from a spiritual 17 yr old girl. Let us link up, hold hands, and walk out of hell right here right now.

  5. BZR
    October 2, 2013 at 2:06 PM #

    Man I gotta say that picture of the old guy and Ana Nicole Smith is hysterical and gross at the same time!! Yeah sometimes it is easy to blame god for not being there when you need him and ask him why he lets all this horrible crap happen to good people but then if you doubt him he sends you to hell so that is even worse. Why risk it, right? Might as well believ in him and chance going to heaven vs hell!

    • Toma
      October 2, 2013 at 11:24 PM #

      I have a friend who agrees with you, but I’ve always tried to avoid this perspective. If we serve God based on a desire for heaven or a fear of hell then we are not serving him, but ourselves.

  6. humanneutrino
    April 30, 2014 at 5:52 AM #

    My greatest hurdle in my walk is this singular issue. I appreciate that you’ve tackled it, and I can, in part, agree with your position. My contention is based on many promises made to us by God, which are singularly not fulfilled in this life: specifically: Genesis 39:2, “The Lord was with Joseph so that he prospered” Deut 5:33 “Walk in obedience to all that the Lord your God has commanded you, so that you may live and prosper”, Deut 6:24 “The Lord commanded us to obey all these decrees and to fear the Lord our God, so that we might always prosper”, Deut 28:11 “The Lord will grant you abundant prosperity—in the fruit of your womb, the young of your livestock and the crops of your ground”, Deut 29:9 “Carefully follow the terms of this covenant, so that you may prosper in everything you do.”, 1 kings 2:3, Walk in obedience to him, and keep his decrees and commands, his laws and regulations, as written in the Law of Moses. Do this so that you may prosper in all you do and wherever you go”

    I could quote a multitude of other examples, but those generally show the promises based on obedience.

    Let’s look at the penalties for disobedience:

    Exodus 15:9 “The enemy boasted, ‘I will pursue, I will overtake them. I will divide the spoils; I will gorge myself on them. I will draw my sword and my hand will destroy them.’”
    Joshua 23:16 “If you violate the covenant of the Lord your God, which he commanded you, and go and serve other gods and bow down to them, the Lord’s anger will burn against you, and you will quickly perish”

    Once again, I could quote a multitude of scripture that states explicitly that God rewards the good and punishes the wicked.

    The reason so many ask this question is because God’s word is NOT honored in this life. The wicked prosper, and the good languish in poverty.

    Something else many don’t consider is that most people in the bible were VERY wealthy. Even Jesus was in one of the higher paying professions of his time. God USED to reward, not only spiritually but also monetarily, his people, and those days have passed on.

    IMO, God’s word now only holds true post death. If you follow his word, the only thing to look forward to in your life, should you truly choose to stand for truth and justice, is pain and misery. Even Jesus was not justified in this life. He was only justified post death, which might very well be indicative of the new covenant, in it’s position that hard work and honestly begets misery.

    Big money is rarely given in this world honestly. All of our major success stories now have major ethical issues in the background if you read the details.

    Should you have a biblical refutation of this point, I would be glad to discuss it, because it is the single largest stumbling block I have in my spiritual walk.

    • Robert
      July 17, 2014 at 11:14 PM #

      You make a point and raise an issue that troubles a lot of people. But I think you have the answer right there in your post as well. I believe that even in this life God works for our good in things, even when we can’t see it happening. (We have very limited spiritual understanding much of the time.) I believe we miss the heart of this debate when we look at those who prosper in spite of being evil and envy them. We assume their wealth makes them happy. We fall into the error of believing that if only we had prosperity like they do, then we would be happier as well. I think that is a critical error in our thinking. Solomon was, by all accounts, the wealthiest man who ever lived, and yet if you read Ecclesiastes you see very clearly that in the latter stages of his life, he looked back at his earthly possessions and pursuits and considered them all an enormous waste. He said none of them brought him happiness or joy or satisfaction or peace.

      People are deceived when they believe that created things can provide peace and happiness. Those come only from the Creator Himself. Ever since the fall, man has tried in vain to fill the vacuum in his soul with things—money, jewels, houses, land, possessions. He has chased after excitement and thrills and adventure. He wallows in sexual escapades and drinking binges and drug orgies and buying splurges all in an attempt to find happiness and fulfillment. It never works—and it never will.

      I think you are wrong in your statement that God no longer rewards his people monetarily. I believe He DOES bless us in many ways. The thing is that He promised to meet all our NEEDS in this life, and He has promised to reward us for our service to Him in VAST measure in the next life. Also—most people in the Bible were NOT wealthy. Not at all. Very little has changed from then until now. I would say the average homeless man in America has it better than many people in Jesus’ day did. The fact that a few wealthy people are discussed in the Bible doesn’t take away from the fact that the vast majority were poor. That has been the case down through history. And even when some men DID accumulate great wealth, more often than not, it hindered their relationship with God and ended up screwing up their lives. The error we fall into is telling ourselves that if WE were in their position, WE would be different. No, we wouldn’t. Not based on everything Jesus said about money. Earthly wealth is deceitful and very hypnotic. It is extremely easy to start trusting in the wealth instead of the One who has given us the wealth. Look at those ministers who have become very successful and very wealthy as a result. Look at Solomon. Look at David. Look at the rich young ruler who walked away from Jesus (and eternal life) when he was told the cost of discipleship would be his earthly wealth.

      God will give us wealth and possessions as He recognizes we can be trusted with them. My personal belief is that, in this life, most of us can’t be. He knows what would happen if He handed great wealth to most of us and He protects us by not allowing that to happen. (Would you give your fourteen year old son a million dollars and trust him to use it wisely?) He will give us wealth and prosperity in measures beyond our wildest dreams in eternity—where sin and fallen human nature can no longer touch them or us. Besides, true joy and fulfillment and contentment don’t ever come from possessions—they come only from having an intimate relationship with the Giver of all things. Most humans just don’t realize that until it is too late.

  7. humanneutrino
    April 30, 2014 at 11:34 PM #

    I realize my specificity in my previous post could use some work.

    When I stated that most people in the bible were wealthy, I don’t mean every single character, but rather those main ones that are the focus of the stories.

    Specifically: Job, Abram (later Abraham) and his wife, Lot, Moses, Jacob (before and after his imprisonment), and on and on and on.

    The vast predominance of the people God chose to share stories about were exceptionally blessed not only spiritually, but also monetarily.. Take Solomon… Probably the richest person ever to exist. Yes, I know that he eventually destroyed himself, but my point still remains that in this world, NOW, things are not as God promised.

    Also, for clarification:

    When I stated “God’s word is NOT honored in this life” I was specifically addressing the blatant pattern of the evil being blessed with all good things while those who stand for truth, justice, and God’s word are destroyed and crushed underfoot. This is not intended as a refutation of the word’s veracity, but rather of it’s applicability with regards to how one is allowed to exist.

    As I stated before, this is the single largest issue that I stumble over and over and over.