How we answer “Why, God?” in times of distress is critical to our relationship with God. Much of suffering is either self-inflicted or inflicted upon others by lawless and cruel people. A person is killed by a drunk driver because an individual makes a choice to drink and drive. Even some natural disasters can be traced to exploiting and destroying nature by pollution of air, water, and other acts of destruction to soil and vegetation. Freedom gone awry, after God created a perfect world in the beginning, has cause progressive deterioration both of physical and human nature.
Obviously, many tragedies are not self-inflicted or inflicted by others. A person may become paralyzed after riding a horse just because of the way they fell. We need to have a clear understanding of God’s role in suffering, or we may be tempted to blame God rather than receive the comfort He can provide. Tragedy is hard enough without wondering if God is punishing us or “God, do you really love me?”
Many are comforted by believing that God is directing everything that happens, but many struggle with the thought that God is pulling strings in heaven as to what tragedy we may or may not experience? Do we really think God allows some children to be sexually abused but not others because of some grand purpose or scheme? Did God really select which people would escape the 911 terrorist attacks? God forbid disputable understandings of God’s role in suffering drive people to unbelief or despair.
Many are more comforted knowing that God does not cause or plan all their sufferings, that God grieves as He did not desire our suffering, that God will walk hand-in hand with us through any tragedy to bring good from it (though he does not orchestrate evil to accomplish this), and that God promises an end to suffering as He has conquered death. What kind of God allows His Son to be crucified for accusations He was innocent of in hopes of persuading us to trust in God rather than our own destructive ways?
Suffering, whether self-inflicted or inflicted upon others, had to become a part of God’s story if He was to allow freedom. God cannot just manufacture events so suffering only impacts those who deserve it. Even God cannot create and guarantee life without violence and suffering and yet there be genuine free will. Besides, when God interferes with one tragedy we would accuse Him of injustice until He prevented every single tragedy. God allows suffering as a megaphone to distract us from our selfishness. God allowing suffering may be the only way to love the greatest number of selfish people back to unselfishness while preserving freedom. The alternative is instant justice and no mercy. Suffering, even it not self-inflicted, can enable us to not fall in love with what the world offers. Significant changes often only happen during adversity than prosperous times.
God allows suffering as a megaphone to enable us to better serve others, as did Jesus’ suffering. Jesus’ sufferings, not miracles, is what turned hearts rather than heads. Personal sufferings enable us to be trusted by others, because we have “walked in their shoes.” We can trust Jesus because He has faced and conquered all the adversities we face. God can, and does, bring good out of terrible tragedies if we don’t allow a misunderstanding of God’s role in this world to prevent that.