Certain answers about God’s role during suffering can alienate or draw us closer to the great Comforter. It is suggested it cannot be understood how an all powerful, caring God can co-exist with evil and suffering. It is a mystery! This makes God more incomprehensible when in fact God came in the flesh so we might better understand Him. Questions dismissed as unanswerable may be answerable. It may be suggested to simply trust God. It is defiant to think we know better than the Creator of the Universe what is best, but I suspect God does not mind being questioned and like a loving parent may think “please just don’t ignore me for your own good.”
Many find it easier to accept or understand evil and suffering that comes through immoral choices. C.S Lewis suggested that wars, crimes, and injustices – evils that come through bad choices make by cruel and lawless people – account for at least 80% of humankind suffering. The reality is that much of suffering is either self-inflicted or inflicted by others. This includes accidents caused by drinking and driving and maybe even some natural disasters indirectly. It has been said in Haiti that when tectonic plates under the earth collided, atop them was a densely populated, poorly constructed city in a country which had been badly governed for centuries. Was good housing not possible partly because of social injustices?
The truth is God is a tremendous respecter of freedom and willingly gave up control for the sake of freedom. The potential for evil exists because God created humans with freedom of choice, but we humans choose to hate or do good. God is not responsible for choices His children make any more than human parents are responsible for the decisions of their offspring. God’s risk for intimacy is no more insane than a parent who chooses to have a child born in an already corrupt world where freedoms exist. God and human parents can attest that love without true freedom is neither authentic nor desirable. God never forces Himself on others; not even God can force someone to love Him. Evil is not some grand scheme by God!
Personal tragedies do not seem to always have a direct cause, such as a rider suffering a paralyzing fall from their horse. Recently, my wife suffered a terrible bicycling accident. She was being safe but an animal darted out in front of her. The brakes were tighter than they should have been and caused her to flip over the front of her bike. She shattered her elbow and her mouth took the blunt of the fall. Fortunately, medical personnel were quick to the scene and surgeries have begun the healing process. I could ask “God, why didn’t You change Janet’s mind to ask me to ride that morning or help me to notice the brake situation.” Whose freedom is violated? Are there far-sighted reasons for God to not always intervene with personal tragedies?
Why doesn’t God intervene more? There seems to be so much more evil, suffering, and personal tragedies because of lack of God’s interference. God certainly intervenes miraculously sometimes or one’s peaceful reaction to suffering is a miracle, but it is fair to say God doesn’t intervene miraculously most of the time. We must ask though if miracles and God’s constant intervention makes for a better world in the long-run? If God only interfered some of the times and not all the time, wouldn’t we still ask why God doesn’t interfere in certain instances?
The truth is instant healing or richness only leaves us wanting to be healthier or richer. Many will agree suffering rather than prosperity is what changed them for the better. Total dependence on God than ourselves or circumstances can be in our best interest in the long-run. Should have God interfered with Jesus’ suffering? God’s constant interference would make a mockery out of freedom. Relationships without true freedom are neither authentic nor desirable. If God did not create freedom, we would simply accuse Him of creating robots. It is true God ultimately allows evil for He created the potential for evil by creating humans with the freedom to love or hate. But, not even God can create and guarantee life without death, violence, suffering, and struggle and yet there be genuine free will.
God changes individuals and the world through their own volition, just as parents attempt to persuade their children to choose to reciprocate their love for their own benefit. Suffering had to become a part of God’s story if He was to allow freedom. What is more evil than torturing and killing millions of people simply because of their nationality? What is more horrific than an adult sexually abusing a young child for years, threatening them if they tell anyone of their dirty little secret? Evil is evil regardless of the magnitude or how many humans are impacted. There would be no freedom if God intervened according to His or even our own standards. Justice delayed does not mean justice is not served. The Flood proved evil just grows back when destroying evil and starting over. God’s ultimate response to evil is the slow, necessary way of the Incarnation. Jesus’ life and death was an attempt to persuade and empower others to love as Jesus did.
It is not always wise to prevent our children from suffering consequences, whether self-inflicted or the result of a fallen world. Suffering enables us to not fall in love with temporal existence and love what the world offers. We look to God more often during adversity than prosperity. Jesus’ sufferings than miracles is what really changed hearts. Our sufferings than healings can do the same in the lives of others. Personal tragedies or undeserved suffering can make us more sensitive to others and enable us to be trusted because we have “walked in their shoes.” We can trust Jesus because He has faced and conquered all the adversities we face. God allows suffering as a megaphone to distract us from our own selfishness. God allows suffering as a megaphone to enable us to better serve others.