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The Problem of Human Suffering

There is a paradox that needs addressing about this great and mighty God regarding the problem of suffering in the world. Does God care about hate, pain, suffering, crime, and all the other bad things in the world? Does He care that children suffer, and that good people get hurt? Surely if God was as good as the Bible makes Him out to be He would desire for these things to be abolished. And if He was as intelligent and powerful as the Bible says, He could easily take care of these problems. Where is God when good people get senselessly killed or hurt? Where is God when a drunk driver hits an innocent child?

What is Good?

We may want to begin by asking a slightly different question - What is Good? If God is truly good, wise, and powerful then He above all else would know. Conversely, as mere humans with finite minds and experiences, we are not in the very best position to assert our opinion about what good is. Perhaps what we perceive as good is not good at all. Perhaps God's infinite wisdom can see beyond the immediate circumstance for which He takes the blame.

This might be hard to swallow at first, but if we put ourselves in the position of a child it is easier to see. As a child, our parents were the infinitely wise and powerful beings that we looked up to. But surely if they were so good and powerful they would want me to be happy each and every moment of my childhood life. Surely they would want me to have chocolate bars for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Surely they would want me to do whatever I want and never be disciplined under any circumstance. After all, discipline is often painful.

Naturally we would argue that broccoli and carrots are better for the child than chocolate. Discipline helps the child learn how to function safely and respectfully in the world. Is this an oversimplification of how God operates? It would only be fair to say that it is. But we might reconsider our ideas about what is good, fair, and just in the world with our own human limitations in tow.

Freedom to Choose

With these things in mind we must also remember that, while God loves His creation, He has empowered us with completely free will. We have the freedom to choose to have chocolate for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and we have the freedom to never discipline a child. These obviously absurd examples would lead to disaster. There are many choices not so shortsighted and obvious, which we make with similar consequences. Corruption and immorality pervades humanity, and yet these are clearly free-will choices. If God wanted to remove them He would have to remove free-will altogether. C.S. Lewis said it this way,

"Try to exclude the possibility of suffering which the order of nature and the existence of free wills involve, and you find that you have excluded life itself." 1

From the very beginning, in the Garden of Eden, man chose to do wrong. It was the choice of humanity to bring sin and its consequences into the world. For this very reason God has provided mankind with the alternative solution of redemption through Jesus Christ, wherein we ultimately escape the pain and suffering of this world. This was necessary in order for God to demonstrate His love. For God to eliminate free will is tantamount to binding a child and forcing him to say he loves his father. He might say he loves his father, but under duress genuine love is quenched.

The simple fact is that God did create a world free from suffering, hate, death, and pain. Man chose to rebel and bring sin into it, and this corruption still exists today. That pain exists in the world is a fact that cannot be denied, especially by Christians. But atheism and agnosticism are not the answer. The best answer is one that provides hope.

Perhaps God is disciplining us, perhaps He is growing us in some way, or perhaps we are suffering the consequences of sin in the world. Whatever the reason for our suffering Christians can call on their hope,

"And hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us." (Romans 5:5)

Lewis, C.S. The Problem of Pain, New York: Touchstone Books. 1996. p.31

 Article info: 
By: Bill Smith
This article is adapted from Bill's book Firmly Rooted. Click here to learn how to get a copy.
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