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 claimed without regard for who the individuals were. Illnesses too can strike anyone at any time.
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.