Can anyone really know if they are prepared for suffering until they meet it head on and see how they respond? I have suffered very little so I am not an authority on the subject, but I want to be prepared. Suffering is inevitable in this fallen world. Will my understanding of my Creator’s role in my suffering help or hinder me in difficult times?
My wife this past year did go through and heal from a bicycle accident. She will never be quite the same but it could have been worse. My beliefs about God and suffering helped me to not go certain places. I didn’t question God why He didn’t change her mind that morning to go for a bike ride. She debated whether to really go. A different decision was all it took to avoid an accident. Why didn’t God bring to my attention the brakes on the bike had been repaired to tight? Does God really sit in heaven yanking strings as to who does and doesn’t suffer? If God had prevented this accident, I would just ask Him to prevent all accidents. Our demands for God to manipulate a free world would never end.
Does our answer to suffering draw us closer to God or create distance? If you believe God controls all things, you may question why God doesn’t interfere more. If you believe God doesn’t control all things but is in control, than you may be better able to rely on the Creator during tough times and ask Him to empower you to bring something good out of a tragedy. Jesus asked God to intervene at the Cross, but God allowing Jesus to suffer and die changed billions of lives. Jesus’ miracles did not have a lasting impression. Miracles just cause us to be more dependent on difficult circumstances being made easier.
Much of suffering results from personal evil, whether self-inflicted or inflicted by others. 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. God doesn’t interfere most of the time because that would just make a mockery out of freedom. Natural evil is much harder to explain than personal evil but surely human accumulated mismanagement of the earth over thousands of years has brought destruction such as hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, droughts, and earthquakes.
God doesn’t cause suffering. Suffering results from either personal or natural evil. Where there is evil there is suffering. No amount of good resulting from evil justifies the evil actions of others, but was God’s risk in allowing freedom necessary to obtain the highest good in relationships? Most agree forced love is neither authentic nor desirable. Asking God to control all our circumstances is to ask God to negate or manipulate freedom. When evil was chosen suffering became part of God’s story to lead us of our own volition to a paradise appropriate for free beings. Jesus’ life and death was an attempt to persuade us of our own volition.
I have thought if I just could convince skeptics that God is a respecter of freedom and not a control freak, this may open their eyes to the loving Creator we have. But, the answer to suffering may be more important to Christians. Isn’t it important we understand God’s role in suffering, so we can receive His comfort in these times? Tragedy is hard enough without wondering “why is God doing this to me” or “why doesn’t God care about me to intervene.”
Jesus’ miracles attracted crowds but rarely encouraged long-term change. Humans have short attention spans. Constant miracles do not lead to changed lives. Suffering can enable me to depend on God more, which leads to greater character change. I am better off God not answering most of my prayers. Difficulties can grow us. This doesn’t mean God causes or desires I suffer. God just doesn’t think it is always wise to interfere in a free world for our own good. Isn’t it true if God interfered miraculously a lot more than He does, we would want God to interfere always!
If God is always immediately rewarding us or alleviating suffering, wouldn’t we always do good to get good? This doesn’t change us really when no one is looking. Doing good for the right reasons leads to our becoming more the person we secretly desire to be. The truth is since God can stop all suffering, God ultimately allows all suffering. We don’t have to be masochists, but suffering may be necessary to change the world for the better.
Suffering can serve as a megaphone to distract us from our own selfishness. Suffering enables us to not fall in love with temporal existence and love what the world offers. We are more likely to look to God, who desires our everlasting happiness, during adversity than prosperity. God allowing suffering can serve as a megaphone to enable us to better serve others. Did Martin Luther King have to suffer to move the scales from the eyes of many how they tolerated bigotry? Personal tragedies or undeserved suffering can make us more sensitive to others. Undeserved insults can allow us to help others in similar situations.
God doesn’t secretly will evil so good can be accomplished. He rather people from the beginning look to His ways. Do we really think God determines which women are raped or get breast cancer, which children are sexually abused or contact a fatal disease, which soldiers steps on an explosive device, or which people died from the fallen towers? God can be accused of not always intervening miraculously, but He does not provoke evil actions or pick and choose who may suffer more than others. God interferes by trying to change the souls and ways of people. God will hold our hand during difficult times and work to bring good from evil in us and for the world, if we desire and are able to receive His help.