Why does God allow suffering?
Seeing suffering inspires many
people, including Christians, to act
“How can God allow this to happen?”
This is not only a question for the skeptic, the philosopher, or the argumentative. This is a real question, even for people of real faith.
In fact, it can only really be asked from a position of faith! If there is no God, then there is no philosophical problem with suffering; it’s the way the world is—and that’s just tough. And if there is a God, but who isn’t loving, then why should an all-powerful being care one bit about what happens to you or me? He (or she or it) has more important things to do.
The problem, and the reason why suffering doubly hurts, is that God is real, and God is love, and—deep down—we are programmed to know this is true. When we, or someone we care about, are hurt there is an instinctive reaction that this isn’t right; it isn’t fair; it’s not how things were meant to be: “How can God allow this to happen?”
More books have been written on this subject than you could read in a lifetime. And, more importantly, this is a question of caring and loving, not just a theological one: the most important thing when we’re hurting is to hold on to the One who really cares, even when we don’t understand. So here’s my approach to why God ‘allows this to happen’:
- This is not how it was meant to be. God created a world where there was no pain: suffering came through disobedience. Sometimes we see this very obviously, but sometimes it’s a consequence of the detachment of creation from the creator.
- Love requires the ability to choose. The reason we’re free to disobey God is that we need to be free to love if we are to be human, and made in the image of a God who loves. Love can only be love if it’s a free choice. A husband forced up the aisle at gunpoint can’t be trusted when he swears undying love!
- God doesn’t cause suffering, but he does work through it. The Bible is clear that God doesn’t make us suffer, but he does allow it—and in the remarkable mystery of his goodness, he even uses it for good… in the end.
- God himself suffered the ultimate pain to bring the only solution. Elie Wiesel famously saw a boy being hanged in a Nazi camp and asked, “Where is God?” only to realise that “He is here, hanging on this tree.” God came as Jesus and died to break the power of sin. God really cares about suffering.
- Suffering will end. Jesus opened the door leading back to life with God, here and in the world to come. In that place there will be no more weeping, dying, or even gnashing of teeth! We may suffer now, but in Christ we have a hope that is utterly secure— that he holds that suffering, and our future, in his hands… and those hands are both scarred and utterly loving.
Pray: God, the question of suffering seems like such an obstacle—but I understand that we’re not ‘in heaven’ yet. Please help me, and those whom I love, through our troubles, and please be by my side, come rain or shine. Graciously help me to accept your perfect will for my life. Amen.
Watch the YouTube video Since Evil & Suffering Exist, A Loving God Cannot...?
Read the book Why Does God Allow Suffering? By Nicky Gumbel
Read the book Disappointment with God: Three Questions No One Asks Aloud by Philip Yancey
Read the book The Case for Faith: A Journalist Investigates the Toughest Objections to Christianity by Lee Strobel
Read the book Why Does God Allow Suffering? by Alister McGrath
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