Suffering, either as a result of personal or physical evil, only came into existence when we chose to rebel against God’s protection (Gen 3). Suffering is either deserved or undeserved, thus obviously not always retribution or correction by God according to one’s sins. Let’s not be like Job’s friends and offer unsolicited or erroneous advice to those in the midst of suffering. I have long suspected the best way to prepare for suffering, which is inevitable in the world we live in, is to understand God’s role in it so as to not feel abandoned.
The existence of evil does not prove there is no Deity, since we cannot prove there are no good, moral reasons for allowing evil. Doctors inflict pain for better health in the long-run. Once we accept that there is a Creator, we then must answer if God really cares and is unjust for allowing suffering. Job questioned God as to why He did not intervene sooner in in his undeserved suffering. God’s ways aren’t necessarily mysterious, or God would not have bothered to come in the flesh and communicated with words through Scriptures. To answer this question we need to consider where evil comes from that results in so much suffering, why God doesn’t intervene more in suffering, and what is God’s response to suffering.
Is God the Creator or Cause of Evil?
Evil is not something created but originates from the human heart. We have murderous thoughts but God doesn’t create or cause such desires. A Creator is not responsible for unintended choices of their Design. Many argue that God cannot be sovereign if anything happen outside His will. To suggest God foreordained evil ahead of time to accomplish His good purposes and declare His glory is morally indefensible. It suggests God grieves over His actions (Gen 6:6). It is nonsensical to suggest God hates evil but wills evil.
God knew the risks of freedom for the possibility of intimacy as do human parents. The majority of suffering happens because of freedom. God did once destroy the world and start over but evil grew back. Parents still bring children into a world knowing they might not reciprocate their love and knowing their children could cause suffering or suffer at the hands of others. God hates that rebellion has brought senseless suffering but apparently there is no other path to true intimacy, as not even God can force genuine love, or God would have chosen it. God’s alternative was to not create or override freedom. To destroy freedom is to destroy the higher good that results from free, moral decisions.
If God Doesn’t Cause Suffering, Why Doesn’t God At Least Intervene More?
We understand deserved suffering. Provoke your children unnecessarily and don’t expect them to visit when older. What about undeserved or senseless suffering? God would still be questioned unless God stopped all abuse not some abuse, all natural disasters not some natural disasters. God chose to be vulnerable and uncontrolling than invulnerable and controlling. Human parents nor God are sadistic just because they don’t squash freedom to avoid suffering. I, unlike God, may try to spare my children of any suffering though their pain may evolve into help for them and others. At least God walks the walk as He did not interfere in his Son’s suffering.
We must consider the big picture. God allowing suffering, inevitable in a free world, can enable us to not fall in love with temporal existence and love what the world offers. I benefit much more from my prayers not being answered than being answered. Suffering brings to light our defects so to examine and overcome our weaknesses. No pain no gain is true both physically and emotionally. Is it possible our joy will be greater in the long-run with suffering than without suffering? Profound trust in God during pain and suffering can lead to wisdom about life in general. Also, suffering enables us to be more sensitive and serve others in similar situations. Miracles turned heads but Jesus’ suffering turned the hearts of billions of followers. Martin Luther King suffering moved the scales from the eyes of many how they tolerated bigotry. Suffering, inevitable in a free world, is necessary if you are going to be of much use to others.
What Is God’s Response To Suffering?
God doesn’t impose His will on us. God values freedom. God doesn’t annihilate people at the first sign of opposition. God values forgiveness. God’s ultimate response to evil and resulting suffering is the slow, necessary way of the Incarnation. The Cross was to change our attitude about God, not God’s attitude toward us. When rebellion against God lead to suffering, deserved or undeserved, God chose to lead as many people as possible of their own volition to a paradise appropriate for free beings. Perhaps the only way to defeat evil in us, other than destruction, is for us to persevere and overcome evil. Jesus saved others by not saving Himself.
Our demands for an all-powerful, invulnerable God comes at the expense of trusting God knows best how to run the universe and change as many lives as possible through their own volition. If God did stop all suffering, a free world wouldn’t necessarily be better off. It would prevent moral choices that lead to a greater good. Being rich leads to wanting to be richer, often at the expense of others. God tolerates evil that God could stop in hopes many will come back to God before self-destructing. God is no stranger to undeserved suffering. God’s Son was killed for claiming to be Deity, but the tomb was empty! Ultimately, we may not know all the reasons for why God allows evil to continue or be so random, but we know one reason is not because God doesn’t love us as evidenced by sending Jesus.
One may ask why God didn’t create a heaven-like state in the first place when creating Adam and Eve. Apparently, not even God can force people to freely choose what is best for them. Ridding of evil may be an individual process. What I cannot explain is if freedom is the highest good, how will there not be pain in Heaven. Where there is a will, won’t there always be pain even in Heaven? I cannot explain why God chooses to intervene miraculously sometimes. I do know to intervene all the time is to make a mockery of freedom. Argue with God! Question God! He will never abandon you when you seek to understand and depend on Him. God promises good can come from our suffering and we have the hope of one day there not being suffering.