Can We Make Any Sense Out Of Suffering?
We understand deserved suffering. Drink and drive and you may end up in the hospital. Betraying others leads to lose of relationships. One may only stop drinking, drugging, or cheating after they hit bottom so suffering can be a good thing. Underserved suffering is more complicated. Some don’t need answers to “Why, God” as knowing God didn’t avoid suffering through Jesus is enough to trust God. I am hoping to be better prepared by understanding God’s role in suffering so to feel comfort than alienation from God.
We can attempt to understand suffering on a logical, intellectual level. Most find it easier to worship a God who doesn’t control everything as opposed to a God who accepts no resistance. The truth is not even an all-powerful God can create and guarantee life without death, violence, suffering, and struggle and yet there be free will necessary for genuine relationships. Authentic relationships are only possible if freely chosen. Since a great deal of suffering results from immoral choices to inflict pain on others, God would have to make a total mockery out of freedom to stop undeserved suffering. We may never be totally satisfied until God stopped all of our suffering, whether self-inflicted or inflicted by others.
Freedom can explain major atrocities at the hands of ruthless dictators. Evil can begin with one person and others doing nothing in the beginning. I can understand, because of my own lack of courage, self-preservation by not challenging a ruthless dictator as they grow in power. Evil is evil though, regardless of the magnitude. One person murdered or abused is tragic. The numbers of children sexually abused outnumber the millions of lives lost at the hands of dictators. Natural atrocities such as tsunamis cannot be fully explained because of freedom, but human evil is often a factor. In Haiti when tectonic plates under the earth collided, atop them was a densely populated, poorly constructed city partly because of social injustices. Is God to blame for that?
Many believe God has the power to intervene. He is the Creator! We may possible begin to understand logically why God doesn’t intervene during wrongdoing according to God’s standards much less human standards. There would be no freedom to speak of. Are there though possibly humane and godly reasons for not intervening more? God could either not create at all or accept the risk involved in creating as do human parents, knowing their child may not return their love and do harm to others. God decided to value mercy and forgiveness more than instant justice despite the cost to God and others who face undeserved suffering. Most though give their own wayward children chances to change no matter the harmed caused to themselves or others.
Freedom is necessary relationally to obtain the highest good here on earth and beyond. Sufferings, though not hoped for, became a part of God’s story to lead as many as possible of their own volition to a future paradise intended from the beginning. Miracles may prevent a superior world from developing as a result of the moral improvement of free creatures. Loving parents desire patience over instant justice to persuade their children to reciprocate their love for their good and others. Our suffering, a possibility when freedom is allowed, can serve others in similar situations. One abused is better able to help others heal from such injustices inevitable in a free world. Also, the truth is that suffering, more than prosperity, helps me become more aware of my character flaws. God didn’t avoid the potential consequences of freedom either. God sent Jesus to win over as many as possible to love others as they wish to be loved.