In creating the physical world, God made a place that is complete for what he intended to accomplish with it.  If man had never sinned he could have remained in the Garden of Eden paradise forever.  However, because God knows all that is the object of knowledge (omniscience), he knew that man of his own free will would sin and thereby be alienated from him.  Hence, from eternity in the mind of God there was found the great scheme of redemption (Ephesians 3:7-11).  Therefore, the world today is a place of preparation for eternity.  If life in the flesh in this material world is used for that purpose, one rids himself of all manner of worry, frustration, and anguish that characterizes those who live in the flesh as if this world is their permanent abode.  Hence, when all is said and done, we understand that God never intended for the world to be man's eternal home, but an environment wherein man could prepare to be with God eternally in heaven (Ecclesiastes 12:13,14; Matthew 6:33; II Corinthians 5:1-10; I Corinthians 15:42-49; Revelation 2:10).

Because "God is love" (I John 4:8), he could not create man as some kind of robot.  In giving man a free will, he made it possible for him to make choices.  When man makes wrong choices he must suffer for his bad selections. Without suffering the consequences of bad choices, man does not learn to value good over evil.  Without the space for a detailed study let us briefly note that man under­ goes suffering due to a number of reasons.

Wrong Personal Choices: Man is at fault when he murders, steals and rapes.  Because God made man with freedom of choice, he does not stop the crime nor set aside the consequences of such sins AT THIS TIME (I John 3:4; I Peter 4:15; John 12:48).

Wrong Personal Choices Made by Others: When a deranged person decides to shoot as many school children as possible, such children are not necessarily suffering from any­ thing wrong they did, but because of the wrong committed by the deranged person.

Wrong Personal Choices of Our Forefathers: Today we reap the benefits of Pasteur, Bell, and Edison.  At the same time, we continue to be plagued with the consequences of false religions and philosophies.  The terrible and sad condition of the world is man's fault.  In the Garden of Eden, before man sinned, he was free of disease, death, and all the other consequences of sin (Genesis 3:22, 23).  But, when man sinned, the whole of creation was affected (Romans 5:12; 8:18-22).

In the area of sexual relations, venereal diseases are examples of what happens to man when he violates God's laws (Romans 1:24-27).  There is no doubt that over the thousands of years since man's fall, many germs and viruses have mutated.  Therefore, such diseases as AIDS appear.  In the natural catastrophes (floods, earthquakes, etc. are no doubt the result of sin entering the world.)  Please study closely the state of the world before and after the flood (Genesis 1:6, 7; 2:5, 6; 6, 8).

God's natural laws are constant, consistent, and dependable.  When we violate them in ig­norance, innocence, or otherwise, we suffer the consequences. How terrible it would be if man never knew whether the law of gravity was going to work or not.

While I do not understand all of the design, purpose, and value of pain, I do know that it is an indicator with which man is better than he is without it.  How many serious injuries are avoided because of painful warnings?  Painful suffering and other kinds of trial develop the mind with the understanding that all things in this physical world are uncertain, fleeting and will cease altogether someday (James 1:1-5).  The sufferings of this present world cause the wise to prepare so they will not miss heaven (Job 3:17; Romans 8:18).

Before Jesus gave up the form of God, he, being omniscient, knew man's plight.  Yet, knowing such, he chose to give up the form of God and take upon himself the form of man­kind.  He thereby exposed himself to the actual life and experiences of a sin plagued world.  What an amazing testimony to God's love for mankind!  No one can ever accuse the Lord of not understanding what it is like to actually suffer (Philippians 2:5-8; Hebrews 4:14-16; 5:8).

After days of prayer and fasting on behalf of his sick child, King David's child died.  David did not continue mourning, but arose; and in his answer to those who questioned why, with the child's death, he did not continue mourning, he revealed the inner strength that has always characterized the faithful: "Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me" (II Samuel 12:23).

In this life we can never understand all that is involved in suffering because we do not know the whole design of God for man (Romans 11:33, 34). However, we do know enough to realize that life is God's classroom, the Bible God's textbook, and, as God has designed this world and the people who live in it, a great many tests try our faith in God and his system of salvation.  As the apostle John wrote: "... we know that the whole world Iieth in wickedness" (I John 5:19).  No matter what the situation, a man's duty is to do God's will.  Thereby, Christians are abundantly sustained by the mighty hand of our maker (I Corinthians 15:54; Revelation 2:10; 4:11). Let us, therefore, not be dismayed by the workings of the present sinful world.  Let us meet every problem with the counsel of the God who knows best.  David P. Brown, Spring, TX. [The Saluter, September 14, 2008; Dresden church of Christ, Dresden, TN]