If there is a God why does he allow suffering?
Loss of a loved one or a friend who is fighting a serious illness is a powerful and painful reminder that we are surrounded by suffering. Or watch a harrowing news report about some unbelievable cruelty or a natural disaster. Suffering and loss feel bad because they are bad. Why does God allow such suffering?
We have a shared sense that suffering is wrong. It’s one of those echoes of God that suggest we want someone to take responsibility and make sense of our troubled and tragic world.
If God is going to eliminate suffering where should he start? After earthquakes and hurricanes he ought to deal with terrorists, child abusers and drug dealers. But then what about muggers, tax cheats, liars, and people who are just downright selfish? Now the question becomes “where should he stop?” I’ve an uncomfortable feeling that it’s getting very close to me ... and you. One big reason that God doesn’t simply wipe out all the wrong is because it would mean wiping out a lot of us. And his great plan is that people should turn to him, accept his forgiveness and a new life. The bible says “He is patient with you, not willing that any should perish.”
Suffering can be complex and difficult. Disease is a scourge but so is the extortionate cost of drugs and the scarcity of health resources. It doesn’t help when prominent leaders refuse to acknowledge or allow the health measures that could dramatically reduce disease levels.
If we conclude that since there is suffering in this world there cannot be a God, at least not the loving and powerful God that Christians believe in, then we are left with a problem.
We want there to be ultimate justice for the wrongdoers don’t we? We need a God for that. We want the possibility of a better future with no suffering. We need a God for that.
Without God there is no point in trying to be good. You might as well walk next door, rape you neighbour’s pretty wife, crush his kids if they get in your way and take his car keys! We really do need someone bigger and better than us to keep us from anarchy.
Christians believe that far from not caring, God is sharing the suffering with us and he is working in Christ to eliminate it by transforming lives and preparing for a sinless, pain-free life for everyone who comes to him for help. And that is a much better hope than the bleak prospect of no God, no change.