A good God can allow suffering because He is merciful. Let me explain.
IT GETS HARDER
The sixth and final question asked of the group brings up the problem of evil, but the original query that was asked was even tougher because it removed a core argument from the debate – freewill. So here is the full question that I will answer.
How can a good God allow suffering? Freewill seems just like an excuse.
I found this question to be quite difficult. I think the removal of freewill is the cause of my challenge in finding a complete answer. Freewill is not just an excuse. It is an essential piece to the human story. It is an essential piece to any love story. How can one love without choice? Does a wife love her husband because she can do nothing but love him? The question doesn’t even make sense. Love falls apart without freewill.
Below are 7 statements backed by scripture to help understand the problem of suffering, doing my best not to harp on freewill. I prayed this would be God breathed and I pray now that this would be helpful to you.
1. Justice for all means extinction
If God were to end all suffering right now by bringing justice to the guilty everyone would be dead (Isaiah 64:6, Romans 3:23, Romans 6;23). Suffering is the result of sin. Sin is done by sinners. We are all sinners. Therefore in order to get rid of suffering you must get rid of the sinner, and that would mean no one could be allowed to exist. The problem isn’t just some evil force working to do harm to all people. The problem is us.
2. God is merciful
God does not bring swift judgement to end all humanity (and all suffering) immediately because He loves us and is merciful (Psalm 86:5, Luke 6:36). 2 Peter 3:9 says “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” God has not judged us yet because he wants everyone to be saved.
3. God did not design a world with suffering.
In the beginning God created good. We see that over and over again in Chapter 1 of Genesis (Genesis 1:10, 12, 18, 21, 25, 31). In Chapter 2 we even see that the relationship between man and woman is in good standing (Genesis 2:25). God did not design a world of suffering. This planet and its current affairs are not what He wanted for us.
4. Suffering is the result of human decision(s)
Genesis 3 lays out how what humans did to bring suffering into the world. They desired to be God, and they took action to achieve that goal in direct disobedience to God’s rule. Adam and Eve started a terrible tradition where men continue to try and replace God. This is the beginning of suffering. Elevating our thoughts, ideas, or desires above other’s wants and needs produces suffering. Our decision to lie at work hurts our employer and our customer. Having sex with a previous lover introduces possible insecurities in our next partner. Our rude, flippant remark at someone’s elementary mistake can scar an individual for a lifetime. We are the vicim and perpetrator of suffering.
5. God suffers with us
We are not alone in our suffering. God has done something really, really profound. He has chosen to suffer with us. In Mark 14:31 – 15:41 we witness God in human form (Jesus) experience dread, close friends unable to be there for Him in his time of need, betrayal, injustice, false accusations, disownment by a close friend, being mocked, torture, disgrace, public shame, and asphyxiation. Our God knows our suffering. He knows it intimately.
I’m not sure we understand the complete absurdity of this. God actually has experienced our suffering. It would be like if we were to go and experience the troubles of a worm. The individual worm’s suffering has no bearing on our life. There is no need for it. It makes no sense.
Unless there is love.
6. Suffering is not without purpose
A lot of us ask the question ‘why there is suffering in the world,’ but I think a more relevant and impactful question is ‘why do I suffer?’ The Bible tells us that our suffering has purpose (John 9:1-3, 2 Corinthians 12: 9-10; Luke 14:13-14; Acts 20:35).
This too is also quite profound. There must be suffering in this world because sin exists, but there does’t have to be purpose behind it. The purpose of suffering is a grace God has given to us in the midst of pain. He has found a way to make evil result in good.
7. God has taken action
When people say God has done nothing to combat evil and suffering that is a lie. God has done something and will do more.
He has always been a God of mercy and action. Even after the first sin God made clothes for Adam and Eve to help them cover their shame. He sent his only son to take our punishment for our sins so we can have peace and eternal life (John 3:16).
Finally, Jesus is coming back and His new kingdom is going to be epic. There will be no tears, pain, or death (Revelation 21:4). This world and its ways will pass away, and thank God!
The problem of evil and suffering is a very culturally relevant issue. I heard Neil DeGrasse Tyson give suffering and evil as the reason he does not believe in a good, all powerful God. He did not say because there was a lack of evidence. He didn’t say it was impossible. He said because there is evil and suffering. That reason does not stand, and we have an answer for it.
Please remember that just because we are people of faith does not mean that we are people without reason. Our God made the rules of this universe and any honest science will not disprove Him.
~ Daniel F. Grey
MORE ANSWERING HARD QUESTIONS
Is My Unbelieving Loved One In Hell?
Can Someone Embrace Homosexuality And Still Be Saved?
How Do You Admonish Someone Who Is Not A Believer?
How Do You Direct A Stranger Who Wants To Take The Next Step As A Believer?
Why Do Christians Obey Some OT Laws & Ignore Others?
CBS Sunday Morning
How can a good God allow suffering? Freewill seems just like an excuse.
I found this question to be quite difficult and I still don’t think I am satisfied with the answer I prepared below. I think the removal of freewill is the cause of my difficulty in this. It is not just an excuse. It is an essential piece to the human story. It is an essential piece to any love story. How can one love without choice? Does a wife love her husband because she can do nothing, but love him? The question doesn’t even make sense. Love falls apart without freewill. Anyways below is 7 statements backed by scripture to help understand the problem of suffering, doing my best not to harp on freewill. I prayed this would be God breathed and I pray now that this would be helpful to you.
- If God were to end all suffering right now by bringing justice to the guilty everyone would be dead. Romans 3:23; Isaiah 64:5-6; Romans 6:23
- God does not do this (point 1) because he loves us and is full of mercy. 2 Peter 3:9; Luke 6:36; Psalm 86:5
- Our God did not design a world with suffering. Genesis 1:10, 12, 18, 21, 25, 31; 2:25
- Suffering is the result of human decision(s). Genesis 3
- Our God did not leave us to suffer alone; he experienced it too. In Mark 14:32 – 15:41 we see God go through dread, close fries unable to be there for Him in his time of need, betrayal, injustice, false accusations, disownment by a close friend, being mocked, torture, disgrace, public shaming, asphyxiation
- Suffering is not without purpose. John 9:1-3; 2 Corinthians 12: 9-10; Luke 14:13-14; Acts 20:35
- Our God does not just sit back and allow suffering. God DID/WILL DO something to eliminate suffering. John 3:16; Revelation 21:4