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Since Jehovah God * is the Creator of all things and is almighty, many people may be inclined to hold him responsible for everything that takes place in the world, including all that is bad. However, consider what the Bible says about the true God:

  • “Jehovah is righteous in all his ways.”—Psalm 145:17.

  • “All his [God’s] ways are justice. A God of faithfulness who is never unjust; righteous andupright is he.”—Deuteronomy 32:4.

  • “Jehovah is very tender in affection and merciful.”James 5:11.

God does not cause bad things to happen. Does he, though, incite others to commit vile deeds? Not at all. “When under trial,” state the Scriptures, “let no one say: ‘I am being tried by God.’” Why? Because “with evil things God cannot be tried, nor does he himself try anyone.” (James 1:13) God does not try, or test, anyone by inciting him to behave badly. God neither causes bad things to happen nor incites others to do what is bad. Who or what, then, is to blame when bad things happen?

BEING IN THE WRONG PLACE AT THE WRONG TIME

Identifying one reason why humans suffer, the Bible states: “Time and unexpected events overtake them all.” (Ecclesiastes 9:11) When unanticipated events or accidents happen, whether someone is affected or not depends to a large extent on where he is at the time they occur. Nearly 2,000 years ago, Jesus Christ spoke of a calamity involving 18 people who were killed when a tower fell on them. (Luke 13:1-5) They did not become victims because of the way they had lived their lives; they were simply under the tower when it happened to fall. More recently, a devastating earthquake struck Haiti in January 2010; the Haitian government says that over 300,000 lives were lost. All those lives were claimed without regard for who the individuals were. Illnesses too can strike anyone at any time.

Why does God not keep good people out of harm’s way?

Some might ask: ‘Could not God prevent such deadly calamities from happening? Could he not shield the good people from the calamity?’ For God to intervene in such ways, it would mean that he knows about bad things before they happen. While God certainly has the ability to foreknow the future, the question we need to consider is this: Does God choose to exercise to a limitless extent his power to foreknow such things?—Isaiah 42:9.

The Scriptures say: “God is in the heavens; he does whatever he pleases.” (Psalm 115:3) Jehovah  does what he deems necessary to do—not everything he is capable of doing. That applies also to what he decides to foresee. For example, after wickedness became prevalent in the ancient cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, God told the patriarch Abraham: “I will go down to see whether they are acting according to the outcry that has reached me. And if not, I can get to know it.” (Genesis 18:20, 21) For a time, Jehovah chose not to know the extent of the wickedness in those cities. Similarly, then, Jehovah can choose not to foreknow everything. (Genesis 22:12) In no way is this an indication of imperfection or weakness on his part. Since “perfect is his activity,” God balances his ability to foreknow the future with his purpose; he never forces humans to follow a certain course. * (Deuteronomy 32:4) What, then, may we conclude? Simply this: God’s exercise of foreknowledge is selective and discretionary.

A woman in a parking lot about to become a victim of crime

Why does God not protect good people from crime?

 

 

ARE HUMANS RESPONSIBLE?

Part of the blame for wickedness lies with humans. Notice how the Bible describes a process that can lead to harmful acts. “Each one is tried by being drawn out and enticed by his own desire. Then the desire, when it has become fertile, gives birth to sin; in turn sin, when it has been carried out, brings forth death.” (James 1:14, 15) When individuals act on improper desires or give in to wrong cravings, they are bound to suffer bad consequences. (Romans 7:21-23) As history shows, humans have committed horrendous acts and caused immense suffering. Moreover, wicked men can influence others to become corrupt, thus perpetuating badness.—Proverbs 1:10-16.

Humans have committed horrendous acts and caused immense suffering

Should God intervene and prevent people from doing bad things? Consider how man is made. The Scriptures say that God created man in God’s own image, that is, in God’s likeness. Thus, humans have the ability to reflect God’s qualities. (Genesis 1:26) Humans have been given the gift of free will and can choose to love God and stick to him by doing what is right in his eyes. (Deuteronomy 30:19, 20) If God coerced people into following a certain course, would he not be nullifying the gift of free will? Why, humans would be reduced to nothing more than machines, doing exactly what they were programmed to do! The same would be true if fate, or Kismet, dictated what we do and everything that happens to us. How glad we can be that God dignifies us by allowing us to choose our own course! This does not mean, though, that the harm caused by human error and bad choices will forever plague mankind.

 IS KARMA A CAUSE OF SUFFERING?

If you were to ask someone from a Hindu or Buddhist background the question posed on the cover of this magazine, you would likely hear this answer: “Bad things happen to good people because of the law of Karma. They are reaping the fruitage of what they did in their previous lives.” *

Regarding the teaching of Karma, it is helpful to note what the Bible says about death. In the garden of Eden, where humankind originated, the Creator said to the first man, Adam: “From every tree of the garden you may eat to satisfaction. But as for the tree of the knowledge of good and bad, you must not eat from it, for in the day you eat from it you will certainly die.” (Genesis 2:16, 17) If Adam had not sinned by disobeying God, he would have lived forever. Death came about as a penalty for disobedience to God’s command. Then, when children were born, “death spread to all men.” (Romans 5:12) Thus, it can be said that “the wages sin pays is death.” (Romans 6:23) The Bible also explains: “The one who has died has been acquitted from his sin.” (Romans 6:7) In other words, people do not keep paying for their sins after death.

Millions of people today explain that the problem of human suffering involves Karma. A believer usually accepts his own suffering as well as that of others without getting too disturbed by it. But the fact remains that this concept holds out no hope of stopping bad things from happening. It is believed that the only relief offered to an individual is liberation from the cycles of rebirth through socially acceptable behavior and special knowledge. These ideas, of course, are far different from what the Bible says. *

THE PRIMARY CAUSE!

A hand holding planet Earth

Did you know that the main cause of suffering is “the ruler of the world”—Satan the Devil?—John 14:30

 

 

The primary cause of wickedness, though, is not man. Satan the Devil, originally a faithful angel of God, “did not stand fast in the truth” and brought sin into the world. (John 8:44) He instigated a rebellion in the garden of Eden. (Genesis 3:1-5) Jesus Christ called him “the wicked one” and “the ruler of the world.” (Matthew 6:13; John 14:30) Mankind in general follow Satan by heeding his urgings to ignore the good ways of Jehovah. (1 John 2:15, 16) “The whole world is lying in the power of the wicked one,” says 1 John 5:19. There are other spirit creatures who have turned wicked and have joined Satan. The Bible indicates that Satan and his demons are “misleading the entire inhabited earth,” causing “woe for the earth.” (Revelation 12:9, 12) Thus, the principal blame for wickedness has to be placed onSatan the Devil.

Clearly, God is not responsible for bad things that happen to people; nor does he make them suffer. On the contrary, he has promised to eliminate badness, as the following article will show.

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‘If God knows everything, including my thoughts and needs, why should I pray?’ you might ask. That is a valid question. Did not Jesus say that God “knows what you need even before you ask him”? (Matthew 6:8) King David of ancient Israel realized this, and he wrote: “There is not a word on my tongue, but look! O Jehovah, you already know it well.” (Psalm 139:4) Why, then, should we turn to God in prayer? To answer that, let us consider what the Bible says about the prayers of God’s worshippers. *

“Draw close to God, and he will draw close to you.”—James 4:8

 PRAYER DRAWS US CLOSE TO GOD

Although the Bible says that Jehovah * God knows everything, it also shows that he is not interested in merely collecting facts about his worshippers. (Psalm 139:6; Romans 11:33) His limitless memory is not like that of a computer that impersonally stores data about individuals. In fact, God is keenly interested in our innermost thoughts because he wants us to draw closer to him. (Psalm 139:23, 24; James 4:8) That is why Jesus encouraged his followers to pray, even though his Father well knows our basic needs. (Matthew 6:6-8) The more we share our thoughts with our Creator, the more we will draw close to him.

At times, we may find it difficult to know precisely what to ask for in prayer. In such cases, God can even look beyond our unexpressed feelings and use his perfect knowledge of our circumstances to respond to our needs. (Romans 8:26, 27; Ephesians 3:20) When we realize that God has intervened in our personal life, even in very subtle ways, we feel drawn to him.

DOES GOD ANSWER ALL PRAYERS?

The Bible assures us that Almighty God answers the prayers of his faithful servants, but it also gives reasons why he does not listen to some prayers. For example, at a time when violence was rampant in ancient Israel, God directed his prophet Isaiah to tell the people: “Although you offer many prayers, I am not listening; your hands are filled with blood.” (Isaiah 1:15) Clearly, those who show contempt for God’s laws or pray with improper motives cannot expect to be heard by God.—Proverbs 28:9; James 4:3.

On the other hand, the Bible states: “No matter what we ask according to his will, he hears us.” (1 John 5:14) Does that mean, though, that God will automatically grant his worshippers every request? Not necessarily. Consider the case of the apostle Paul, who begged God three times to remove “a thorn in the flesh.” (2 Corinthians 12:7, 8) It may be that Paul suffered from a chronic eye affliction. How frustrating that must have been for him! Paul had been given the gift of healing and had even performed a resurrection, yet he had to endure his own illness. (Acts 19:11, 12; 20:9, 10) Even though the answer to his petitions did not take the form he wanted, Paul accepted God’s response with gratitude.—2 Corinthians 12:9, 10.

“This is the confidence that we have toward him, that no matter what we ask according to his will, he hears us.”—1 John 5:14

True, some Bible characters did receive miraculous answers to their prayers. (2 Kings 20:1-7) But such answers were hardly the norm, even in Bible times. Some believers were disturbed when it seemed that God had not responded to their prayers. King David asked: “How long, O Jehovah, will you forget me? Forever?” (Psalm 13:1) But when that faithful man realized how often Jehovah had come to his rescue, David reaffirmed his trust in God. In the same prayer, David added: “As for me, I trust in your loyal love.” (Psalm 13:5) Just like David, God’s worshippers today may have to persevere in prayer until they perceive God’s response to their petitions.—Romans 12:12.

 HOW GOD ANSWERS PRAYERS

God responds to our genuine needs.

For good reason, caring parents do not always give their children what they ask for when they ask for it. In like manner, God may not respond to our requests in the way we think he should or at the moment we expect. But we can be confident that our Creator, like a loving father, will respond to our genuine needs at the right time and in the right way.—Luke 11:11-13.

A man reading in the Bible to find the answer he needs
God’s answer to a plea for help may come through the pages of the Bible 

God may answer in subtle ways.

What, though, if we pray to find relief from an ongoing problem? Should we conclude that because there is no miraculous answer, Jehovah has not answered at all? On the contrary, we would do well to consider whether God has supported us in more subtle ways. For example, perhaps a caring friend did what he could to help us at just the right time. (Proverbs 17:17) Is it possible that Jehovah moved that concerned friend to reach out to us? In addition, God’s answer to a plea for help may come through the pages of the Bible. In it we may find the insight needed to cope with a challenging situation.—2 Timothy 3:16, 17.

A husband and wife bringing flowers and a card to a sick friend who is in her home alone
God may use caring friends to help us at just the right time 

Instead of removing a personal problem, God often gives his people the strength needed to cope with it. (2 Corinthians 4:7) For example, when Jesus begged his Father to remove an ordeal, fearing that it would bring reproach on God’s name, Jehovah dispatched an angel to strengthen his Son. (Luke 22:42, 43) Similarly, God may use a close friend to give us a word of encouragement when we need it most. (Proverbs 12:25) Because this kind of answer is subtle, we may have to be more alert to the way God responds to our prayers.

Some answers must await God’s timetable.

The Bible says that Almighty God shows favor to humble individuals “in due time.” (1 Peter 5:6) So if there seems to be a delay in his answering our sincere requests, we need not see this as a lack of interest on Jehovah’s part. Rather, with his vastly superior perspective, our caring Creator no doubt evaluates our petitions in the light of what he knows is best for us.

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you in due time.”—1 Peter 5:6

To illustrate: Imagine that you have a young son who asks you for a bicycle. Will you automatically grant his request? If you feel that he is not yet responsible enough to ride a bicycle, you might decide to postpone the purchase. In time, however, you may grant his request when you know that doing so would be in his best interests. In like manner, God may grant the proper “desires of [our] heart” in due time if we keep praying.—Psalm 37:4.

BE CONFIDENT THAT JEHOVAH LISTENS

The Bible urges true Christians not to lose confidence in the value of prayer. ‘That is easier said than done,’ some might say. True, if we have been enduring a nagging problem or some sort of injustice, we may find it hard to wait for God’s answer. We do well, though, to remember what Jesus taught about persistence in prayer.

Jesus gave the illustration of a needy widow who kept going to an unfair judge to obtain justice. (Luke 18:1-3) Although the judge at first refused to help her, he finally said to himself: “I will see that she gets justice so that she will not keep coming and wearing me out with her demand.” (Luke 18:4, 5) According to the text in the original language, the judge paid attention to the widow so that she would not “strike [him] under the eye,” or figuratively, “damage [his] reputation.” * If even an unjust judge, out of fear for his reputation, will help a poor widow, how much more so will our caring God grant justice to those “who cry out to him day and night”! As Jesus said, God “will cause justice to be done to them speedily.”—Luke 18:6-8.

“Keep on asking, and it will be given you.”—Luke 11:9

Though we may at times get weary of asking for help or favor, we should not give up. By persevering in prayer, we show the genuineness of our desire to see God’s hand in our life. We also learn to recognize God’s answers to our petitions and, as a result, draw closer to him. Yes, we can be confident that Jehovah will answer our proper prayers if we keep asking in faith.—Luke 11:9.


“Throw all your anxiety on [God], because he cares for you.”—1 PETER 5:7.

Death can seem preferable to life when you feel that there is nothing you can do to improve your situation. But consider some avenues of help that are available to you.

Prayer. Prayer is not merely some psychological crutch; nor is it a last resort for desperate souls. It is real communication with Jehovah God, who cares about you. Jehovah wants you to tell him your concerns. In fact, the Bible urges us: “Throw your burden on Jehovah, and he will sustain you.”—Psalm 55:22.

Why not talk to God in prayer today? Use his name, Jehovah, and speak from your heart. (Psalm 62:8) Jehovah wants you to come to know him as a friend. (Isaiah 55:6; James 2:23) Prayer is an avenue of communication that can become available to you anytime, anywhere.

According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, “studies have consistently found that the overwhelming majority of people who die by suicide—90% or more—had a mental disorder at the time of their deaths. Often, however, these disorders had not been recognized, diagnosed, or adequately treated”

People who care. Your life matters to others—including your family members or friends who may already have expressed concern for you. People who care also include some whom you may never have met. For example, at times in their ministry, Jehovah’s Witnesses encounter distraught people, some of whom have admitted that they were desperate for help and had considered ending their life. The door-to-door ministry has given Jehovah’s Witnesses a unique opportunity to help such people. Following Jesus’ example, Jehovah’s Witnesses care about their fellowman. They care about you.John 13:35.

Professional assistance. Suicidal thoughts often indicate the presence of a mood disorder, such as clinical depression. There is nothing to be ashamed of if you suffer from an emotional illness—any more than if you suffered from a physical illness. In fact, depression has been called “the common cold of the mind.” Just about anyone can get it—and it can be treated. *

REMEMBER THIS: It is usually not possible to climb out of a deep pit of depression by yourself. With a helping hand, however, you can succeed.

WHAT YOU CAN DO TODAY: Seek out a reputable physician who treats mood disorders such as depression.


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“The meek will possess the earth, and they will find exquisite delight in the abundance of peace.”—PSALM 37:11.

The Bible acknowledges that life is “filled with trouble.” (Job 14:1) Today, everyone is touched by tragedy of one sort or another. But some people feel utterly hopeless about life, as if there were no light on the horizon, no prospect for a better future. Is that how you feel? If so, be assured that the Bible offers genuine hope—not just for you but for all humankind. For example:

  • The Bible teaches that Jehovah God intended something far better for us.—Genesis 1:28.

  • Jehovah God promises to make our earth a paradise.—Isaiah 65:21-25.

  • The fulfillment of that promise is certain. Revelation 21:3, 4 says:

    “The tent of God is with mankind, and he will reside with them, and they will be his people. And God himself will be with them. And he will wipe out every tear from their eyes, and death will be no more, neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be anymore. The former things have passed away.”

That hope is not mere wishful thinking. Jehovah God fully purposes to bring it to reality, and he has both the power and the desire to do so. The hope that the Bible holds out is reliable, and it provides a strong answer to the question “Why go on?”

REMEMBER THIS: Although your emotions may toss and turn like a boat on a turbulent sea, the Bible’s message of hope can be like an anchor that keeps you stabilized.

WHAT YOU CAN DO TODAY: Start investigating what the Bible teaches about a genuine hope for the future. Jehovah’s Witnesses will be glad to help you. You can contact them locally or find valuable information at their Web site, jw.org. *


“We are hard-pressed in every way, but not cramped beyond movement; we are perplexed, but not absolutely with no way out.”—2 CORINTHIANS 4:8.

Suicide has been called “a permanent solution to a temporary problem.” As hard as it may be to believe, a distressing circumstance—even one that seems beyond your control—may well be temporary. In fact, it can change for the better unexpectedly.—See the box  “Their Circumstances Changed.”

Even if that does not happen, it is best to tackle your problems one day at a time. “Never be anxious about the next day,” Jesus said, “for the next day will have its own anxieties. Each day has enough of its own troubles.”—Matthew 6:34.

But what if your circumstance cannot change? For example, suppose you have a chronic illness. Or what if your despair is the result of an irreversible situation, such as the breakup of a marriage or the death of a loved one?

Even in such cases, there is something you can change: your outlook on the situation. By learning to accept what you cannot change, you become more likely to view things from a more positive standpoint. (Proverbs 15:15) You are also more likely to look for ways to cope with the situation rather than resort to drastic means to end it. The result? You start to take a measure of control of what seems to be an uncontrollable situation.—Job 2:10.

REMEMBER THIS: You cannot scale a mountain in a single step; however, you can take on the challenge one step at a time. The same is true of most obstacles you face, no matter how mountainlike they might seem to be.

WHAT YOU CAN DO TODAY: Talk to someone—perhaps a friend or a family member—about your situation. That person may be able to help you view your situation in a more balanced way.—Proverbs 11:14.


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IF YOU met Diana, * you would find her to be an intelligent, friendly, and gregarious young woman. But beneath Diana’s charming exterior lurks a crippling despair that leaves her feeling utterly worthless for days, weeks, or even months at a time. “Not a day goes by that I don’t think about dying,” she says. “I truly believe that the world would be a better place without me.”

“Some studies have shown that for every death by suicide, 200 people have attempted suicide and 400 [other] people have thought about it.”—THE GAZETTE, MONTREAL, CANADA.

Diana says that she would never kill herself. Still, at times she sees little point in going on with life. “My greatest wish is to be killed in an accident,” she says. “I’ve come to view death as a friend—not an enemy.”

Many people can relate to Diana’s feelings, and some of them have contemplated—or attempted—suicide. Experts point out, however, that most people who try to kill themselves do not really want to end their life; they merely want to end their suffering. In short, they believe that they have a reason to die; what they need is a reason to live.

Why go on? Consider three reasons to keep living.


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Have you or has someone you know thought about suicide? Finding a reason to live can make all the difference.