Why Does God Allow Suffering?
Probably the most asked question of all is, "Why is there suffering in the world?" There are several ways to view the suffering of this world.
The Abuse of a Gift
God gave us the gift of free will in order for us to choose to love Him.
- God created us in order to love Him, and for Him to love us.
- The nature of love requires some sort of choice (to love or not to love); love can not be forced.
- This choice gives us the capability to choose the opposite: hatred.
- Reality is that our free will has consequences that can impact others.
- If I chose to drink and drive, my decision can impact the well-being of others.
- If you allow hatred into your life, it may impact others through verbal or physical abuse.
- God can't change the impact of our decisions, because this would in essence remove our free will.
- When faced with the decision to serve God or self, humans chose self.
- Much of the suffering in the world comes from humanity's misuse of the freedom God gave us.
A Fallen World
- Some suffering comes from the natural world around us. This is not the way God intended it to be (read further).
- When God created the world, everything, including humanity, was completely good.
- When sin entered into the world, through man’s disobedience, it sent creation in a new direction of both moral and natural evil (diseases, earthquakes and accidents).
Suffering as a Warning
- Suffering can often act as a warning. When our head hurts, we know we need to go to the doctor or at least take some aspirin.
- Suffering can often point out bad choices and/or relationships in our life and help us to correct them before the impact is too great.
God Suffers With Us
- We can take comfort in knowing that God knows the pain of suffering.
- In fact no one has suffered more pain than God:
The fact that God suffers with us can best be summed up through the short play "The Long Silence" :
- God's most loved creation consistently turn their backs to Him.
- God's most loved creation abused, tortured, and killed His one and only Son.
- God has paid the price for our sins through the body of His own Son.
At the end of time, billions of people were scattered on the vast plain before God's Throne. Some shrank back from the brilliant light before them. But many other groups talked heatedly, not cringing with shame, but with belligerence.
"Can God judge us? How can He know about suffering?", snapped a pert brunette. She ripped open a sleeve to reveal a tattooed number from a Nazi concentration camp. "We endured terror ... beating ... torture ...death!"
In another group an African-American boy lowered his collar. "What about this?" he demanded, showing an ugly rope burn. "Lynched, for no crime but being black."
In another crowd there was a pregnant school girl with sullen eyes: "Why should I suffer?" she murmured. "It wasn't my fault."
Far out across the plain were thousands of such groups. Each had a complaint against God for all the evil and suffering He had permitted in this world. How lucky God was to live in Heaven, where all was sweetness and light, where there was no weeping and fear, no hunger or hatred, no sickness or sorrow. What did God know of all that human-kind had been forced to endure in this world? After all, God leads a rather sheltered sort of life, they said.
So each of these groups sent forth a leader, especially chosen because they had suffered the most. A Jew, an African-American, a person from Hiroshima, a horribly deformed arthritic, a thalidomide child, and an AIDS victim. In the center of the vast plain, these leaders consulted with each other. At last they were ready to present their case, item by item, leader by leader, to God. It was rather pertinent.
Before God could be qualified to be their Judge, He must endure what they had endured. Their decision was that God should be sentenced to live on earth as a human being, as a man.
Let him be born of the most despised race, a Jew, in poverty-stricken conditions. Let the legitimacy of his birth be doubted. As a child, let him be forced to flee as a refugee, and live several years in a foreign country. Then give him a work to do and an ideal to uphold that is so difficult that even his own family will think him out of his mind when he tries to do it. Let him be betrayed by his closest colleague, intot he hands of those who hate him. Let him face false charges, be tried by a prejudiced jury, and convicted by a cowardly judge.
At the last, let him see what it means to be terribly, terribly alone--forsaken of all his friends. Let him be tortured. Then let him die. Let him die the most excruciating, and humiliating death possible, before a taunting, reviling crowd, which not only verified his death but contributed to it.
As each leader announced his portion of the sentence, loud murmurs of approval went up from the whole assembled throng. When the last leader had finished pronouncing his part of God's sentence, there was a long silence. No one uttered another word. Nobody moved.
For suddenly, everybody knew that God had already served His sentence.
God Can Turn the Bad to Good
- God can use the challenges in our life to forge us into the type of people he wants us to be.
- There's a famous saying that "Nothing good is easy." This has merit in our spiritual lives as well. Ronald Nash once used the analogy of a person who wants to climb to the top of Mt. Rainier. As the person trains he realizes that the task is too hard and decides to rent a helicopter to fly to the top. The question is, would reaching the top be anywhere near as rewarding as if he had hiked to the top? Of course not!
- God can use the suffering in our lives to help bring us home to Him.
- God can turn the evil choices we make into positive results.
"And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose." Romans 8:28 This passage gives hope for those who put their trust in God.
Joseph in the Bible had a tough life. He was sold into slavery as a child by his brothers. Later in life he was thrown into prison for a crime he did not commit. Through it all, Joseph remained faithful to God. In the end, Joseph was reinstated to his position of power and saved the entire region from famine. When Joseph met his brothers again he said, "You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good." Genesis 50:20