If there is a God, why does he allow suffering?
It’s a huge question, isn’t it? Hardly a day goes by when we don’t come across suffering. Devastation caused by earthquakes and tsunamis… millions living in poverty… children being abused… family breakdowns… bullying… people suffer. We suffer. So it’s right to say to God: “God, if you’re there, why don’t you do something about it?”
Well, imagine we could actually tell God what to do. Where would you suggest he starts? How about God gets rid of the terrorists and the murderers. That would mean a lot less suffering for many people—but suffering hasn’t been eradicated yet. How about God deals with the paedophiles and the drug dealers and the thieves? We can see the world’s getting a much better place, but it’s still not perfect.
How about God gets rid of the unkind, the gossips, the liars, the selfish—oh, but that’s actually me.
You see, when we ask God to get rid of suffering, we’re actually asking him to get rid of us. We do suffer, but we actually cause loads of suffering ourselves. That time when we lost our temper with someone… when we trod on someone to get to where we wanted to… when we ignored our kids because we were just too tired or busy… when we gossiped about a work colleague… when we were just plain nasty to someone. We cause much suffering.
So if we demand that God throws suffering out of this world, we’re actually demanding that he throws us out too.
God is delaying the day when he will deal with all suffering so that we can realise that we’re part of the problem, and we can ask him if there’s any way not to be thrown out of his world.
That’s an answer—but the Bible offers us much more than that. I don’t know you—and maybe you’ve clicked on this video because you’re really struggling with something at the moment. When I’ve struggled in the past, what I need more than answers is hope – I need to know that I’m going to getthrough this suffering, and I need to know that there’s something beyond this suffering.
And the amazing thing is that God knows what you’re going through when you suffer—because he himself suffered. God lived on earth as a man, Jesus, and Jesus suffered and even died in agony on a cross. He promises to be with those who trust in him, comforting them and helping them through their suffering.
But even more amazing than that promise is that God promises that one day he will put an end to all suffering. Those guilty of causing suffering will one day have to answer to him, and justice will be done. He promises that he’ll make a perfect world, a world of “no more death or mourning or crying or pain”, for those things will be gone forever. And God says that because Jesus died you, me, anyone, can ask for a place in his perfect world instead of being thrown out of it.
You know, when I’m going through suffering, knowing that God is with me, and that one day I’ll live with him in his perfect world, are two amazing hopes that keep me going.
Well, this is a huge and really emotional subject, and I’ve only had a short space to talk to you about it. But why not go along to a good local church, and there you’ll find some people who’ll be able to help you practically, listen to you, and answer any more questions you may have. You know, churches are just full of people who’ve suffered in the past and who may still be suffering now. But they know the promises of God—that he will be with them, and that one day they will live with him forever in a world with no more suffering.
As Dawn said, this is a very emotional issue, and a very difficult one. We hope that something in Dawn’s answer, or in this Go Deeper section, has proved helpful to you as you think through the problem of suffering. There may well be many more questions and objections in you mind: we’d encourage you to:
GO ALONG to a good local church (you can find one using the “Find a Course” function on this website), where you’ll find people you can trust who will listen to you and try to help you.
READ If I were God, I’d end all the pain by John Dickson (you can buy a copy here
GO ON a Christianity Explored course, where you can ask any and every question you have.