Why do suffering and evil exist?

1. Where do suffering and evil come from?

In the previous lesson, you learned from the Bible that the first humans, Adam and Eve, chose to disobey God and join Satan’s rebellion. In this lesson, you’ll learn that by doing this they brought on themselves and their children two root causes of suffering and evil:

  • Sin
  • Bad rulership

Genesis 3:‌1-3

“Now the serpent was the most cautious of all the wild animals of the field that Jehovah God had made. So it said to the woman: ‘Did God really say that you must not eat from every tree of the garden?’ At this the woman said to the serpent: ‘We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden. But God has said about the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden: “You must not eat from it, no, you must not touch it; otherwise you will die.”’”

How did Satan respond? Let’s examine more of the Bible’s account.

Genesis 3:‌4-6

“At this the serpent said to the woman: ‘You certainly will not die. For God knows that in the very day you eat from it, your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and bad.’ Consequently, the woman saw that the tree was good for food and that it was something desirable to the eyes, yes, the tree was pleasing to look at. So she began taking of its fruit and eating it. Afterward, she also gave some to her husband when he was with her, and he began eating it.”

When Adam and Eve broke God’s law, they not only sinned but also joined Satan’s rebellion against God. That rebellion was the start of bad rulership and has led to evil and great suffering. Click the picture to compare the effects of Jehovah’s good rulership with those of bad rulership independent of God.

Summary of Section 1

Suffering and evil are caused by sin and bad rulership. The first humans, Adam and Eve, chose to disobey God. They thus brought sin into the world and rejected God’s authority over them.


2. Why has God allowed suffering and evil until now?

Why didn’t Jehovah just destroy Satan, Adam, and Eve and start over? How much time will God allow to pass before he eliminates suffering and evil? Let’s see what the Bible says.

2 Peter 3:9

“Jehovah is not slow concerning his promise, as some people consider slowness, but he is patient with you because he does not desire anyone to be destroyed but desires all to attain to repentance.”

Summary of Section 2

God has allowed suffering to continue for a limited time in order to (1) prove that his rule is best and (2) allow as many people as possible to gain everlasting life by learning about him.