Why does God allow people to become sick? Why do we suffer at the hands of others or face personal tragedy? In his book entitled When Bad Things Happen to Good People, Harold Kushner answers questions like these by saying that God allows such things because He cannot stop them. According to Kushner, God has a limited ability to stop suffering.
Such an answer may relieve a certain amount of intellectual tension, but it falls far short of the biblical picture of God given in the Bible. The Psalmist declares, “Our God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him” (Psalm 115:3). So is there anything that God cannot do?
The answer to this question is yes. There are many things God cannot do. God cannot sin (James 1:13). He cannot lie (Titus 1:2). He cannot disown or deny Himself (2 Tim. 2:13). Theologian Charles Ryrie explains, “Omnipotence means that God is all-powerful and able to do anything consistent with His own nature.”
God does not use His power arbitrarily. His ability to act in accordance with His nature is unlimited—but so is His understanding (Psalm 147:5). Whenever He exercises His power, He does so to accomplish two fundamental ends: His own glory and our good.
Why Theology Matters
There is actually little comfort in thinking that God permits bad things to happen to good people because He is powerless to do otherwise. We may not understand the reason God allows some things to enter our lives, but we can always be confident that He is powerful enough to cope with them. God’s omnipotence is the basis for our confidence in prayer. If God “does whatever pleases him,” and our prayer is consistent with His will, then we can trust Him to act lovingly and faithfully on our behalf.
FOR FURTHER READING
To learn more about the subject of God’s omnipotence and how it relates to the problem of evil, read Can God Be Trusted?: Faith and the Challenge of Evil by John G. Stackhouse Jr. (Oxford).