22nd June 2014
Why does God allow suffering?
This question is one of the greatest barriers to belief in the God we Christians worship. We say God is loving, God is wise, and God is all powerful. If that is the case, how come there is so much suffering? Surely a good and loving God does not want his creatures to suffer, and if he is wise and all powerful he could do something about it. Doesn’t the fact that there is suffering prove he is not good and loving, or not wise or powerful enough, or that he does not exist?
Well, no. There are other possibilities. If there is a good and wise and strong God who allows a beloved creature to experience suffering for a life-time, it must be for a good reason. Even if that suffering is wholly undeserved. Even if we don’t know yet what that reason is.
Imagine a world with no experience of evil or suffering. I wonder whether people would be able to appreciate goodness or happiness if they had not experienced anything different. We take things for granted so easily; how could we avoid taking good things for granted if we had nothing to compare them with? This is of course just speculation. But I for one feel my life has been richer for its ups and downs, even if the downs were hard at the time. And I feel that there is a reason for Jesus bearing the marks of his crucifixion in his resurrected body.
The good news of Jesus is that he, the Messiah, will bring an end to evil and suffering, and that the Kingdom of God will sooner or later take over the world and begin a never-ending age of joy and peace. St Paul wrote, ‘I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us’ (Romans 8:18).
‘Our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all’ (2 Corinthians 4:17). Many may suffer undeservedly in this present world. But ‘God is no one’s debtor’ – he owes no-one any favours or repayment, and will ensure justice is done.
And grace and mercy.
1) When people ask this question, should we always try to answer it?
2) How do we ourselves cope with the problem of suffering ?