Suffering is a huge issue in the world we live in. In the next hour 10 women will have been raped, 190 children abused and 60 people will have died from AIDS. And as many of us will know, suffering is very real in our personal experiences as well. It invades our lives, our families and our world with devastating affect.
In this post we shall have a look at some challenges we get with this question and some responses that we can have from the Bible.
Challenge 1: “Suffering proves that God doesn’t exist – if there is a God, wouldn’t He do something about the mess the world is in.”
This can be very challenging to think about, why doesn’t God just stop all the suffering and sort the world out? Well…
Response 1: Firstly suffering is a problem that Christians must think about and address, together and individually to be prepared to answer, but ultimately is doesn’t disprove the existence of God. Just denying His existence doesn’t help to get rid of the problem that suffering causes. It’s like telling a child to go outside the room after they have made a mess, the mess is still there. Much like saying God doesn’t exist doesn’t mean suffering has gone.
Richard Dawkins says this “In a universe of blind physical forces and genetic replications some people are going to get lucky and some people are going to get hurt, and we won’t find any rhyme or reason to it… DNA neither knows nor cares . DNA just is and we dance to the music.”
If everything just came by chance, why do we have an inbuilt knowledge of pain and suffering? From a tender age as a baby, we feel pain and know it is not good. Why do our hearts cry out for suffering in the world? Why is it that when we see a friend in hospital or a family member die, we know it to be wrong and not how life was intended to be. Suffering appears so wrong in our hearts and lives because we know that it is not meant to be this way.
Response 2: Who is ultimately to blame for suffering in the world? It is very easy to blame someone else for our suffering. It is very easy to blame God for suffering in the world when ultimately a lot of suffering is a direct reaction from human actions. This is not always the case, but often we can see a direct human cause for suffering.
As Christians we believe that God created us with the ability and choice to be able to distinguish between right and wrong. Therefore we have a decision to do what is right and what is wrong. So who is to blame: God or us?
If we look into the Bible we can see, how, when and who is to blame for a large majority of suffering in our world…
If we look into Genesis chapter 1 and 2 we can see that God created the world without pain and how he intended it to be, but then Genesis 3 shows how pain and suffering entered the world through humanity’s rebellion. All that God created has been broken. Our relationships with God, one another and creation have all been broken.
A vast majority of suffering and pain are a direct consequence of our rebellion and action. We are the people who should receive the blame for a huge amount of the worlds suffering.
Some suffering cannot be directly attributed to human action, things such as flooding and hurricanes but the Bible says in Romans 8:19-22,
“For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.
We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.”
Creation has also been affected by humans choice to rebel against God therefore sin is also an affect on creation.
Challenge 2: “Why doesn’t God end all the suffering now? If He cares, why doesn’t he just relieve people of their pain immediately?”
Response 1: Firstly God teaches us in 2 Peter 3 v 9 to be patient: “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance”. We are shown to be patient ourselves and that God is patient and wants everyone to come back to him. Realistically there are two ways to end suffering..
1. Get rid of the rebels
One way to deal with suffering is to get rid of all that causes suffering, to just annihilate rebels. If there are no more rebels there is no more rebellion and brokenness. This seems and extreme way to deal with suffering but is ultimately justice for all that is caused in the world. Lots of people I know, who I am close to are in the category of rebels so I am glad God is patient.
2. Save the rebels
This is a much more patient and loving way to deal with the situation and is exactly what Jesus came into the world to do. Instead of doing nothing about suffering God send his own Son into the world, to deal with all the pain, through Jesus on the cross.
Response 2: God knows of our suffering, he experiences suffering with us, he is not a distant God but he came to suffer for us. Isaiah 53 v 5-9 says
“But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed…Yet the Lord laid on him the sins of us all. He was oppressed and treated harshly, yet he never said a word. He was led like a lamb to the slaughter…But he was struck down for the rebellion of my people. He had done no wrong and had never deceived anyone. But he was buried like a criminal…”
God really knows and experiences and is with us through our suffering. People try to blame God for suffering when ultimately God and his son Jesus are the only comfort for us through times of pain.
There are many other side we could look at into suffering, why, how etc. But ultimately as we must remember and hold onto, as christians, that God has control of everything and is working for the good of those who love him.
“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to [his] purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
None of these are easy answers, and it is never a good idea to be too philosophical about the very real pain that we see in our world, but to argue God is absent or to blame is also not a good response.
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This post was written by Pete Oram, an intern at Gold Hill and one of the leaders in our youth ministry.
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