Many people around the globe, regardless of their particular faith, have asked, “why does God allow suffering”. It seems like a pretty logical question to ask. As religious scholars point out, if we were gods of a creation, would we allow suffering? Probably not. So why does God? A loving parent wouldn’t allow their child to suffer. Well, first of all, if “suffering” refers to physical pain, we must admit that parents allow this to happen to some degree. For instance, parents will allow their children to have immunization shots, undergo chemotherapy, or teach them how to ride a bike, knowing that there is a good chance they will fall off and get hurt. Therefore, a loving parent does permit his child to suffer physically, but only if the suffering is considered to be insignificant compared to the greater good.
As humans, we are only aware of the physical suffering and pain in the world. However, God is aware of both spiritual and physical reality. God knows that physical suffering cannot harm our eternal souls. He knows that our physical destruction is not an end to our existence. The question then becomes: what greater good can be gained by suffering? God sees the greater good being accomplished in the transformation that will allow us to live eternally in heaven, a transformation that can only take place in the physical world. As one apologetic writer puts it, “Spiritual lessons can’t take place in the garden [of Eden]; they have to take place in the desert.”
It isn’t that God wills us to experience misfortune, but that these misfortunes are merely the consequence of living in a physical world within our physical bodies. Every day, loving people make the decision to bring children into this world, knowing that it is a world filled with risk and injury. God is no less loving for having created the world in which we all live. But one may ask, “Why doesn’t God do what He can to prevent these injuries, as any good parent would?”
The argument quickly reduces itself into absurdity. At what point should God cease to prevent suffering? Should He suspend gravity for every trip of the foot? Should He suspend the properties of heat for every finger that touches a lit stove? In short, we would be asking God to suspend the physical laws that allow our very existence. We are saying, “Surely, God, there had to be a better way than all of this!” For all we know, the existence that we are experiencing now may well be the only logical possibility of existence.
One could contend that a loving God does not exist because a loving God would not permit suffering. However, given the example of loving parents provided above, we find the following:
1) We consider parents to be loving when they permit their child to suffer insignificantly for a greater good.
2) Our greater good is salvation.
3) Our earthly suffering is insignificant when examined in the scope of eternity.
4) Therefore, we can experience suffering and still believe in the existence of a loving God.
Those are just some initial thoughts regarding the “problem” of suffering on the planet. I have heard countless explanations, some better than others. Hopefully this will give you an insight to the concept, or at least it encourages you to examine the issue a bit more closely. (picture from blogs.indiewire.com)
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