How can God permit Suffering? Consider this…

 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


6 Responses

  1. Your words, with a few modifications:
    “It isn’t that the school Principal wills my children to experience injury, but that these injuries are merely the consequence of attending the school I am paid to manage. Every day, loving people make the decision to send their children to my school, knowing that it is a school filled with risk and injury. The Principal is no less competent for having created the school my children attend. But one may ask, “Why doesn’t the Principal do what he can to prevent these injuries, as any responsible manager would?”

    I have just one question: where do I serve the legal papers?

  2. I agree. Nice post.

  3. Good points. There are lots of sound theological reasons that God permits suffering.

    But when that question is raised, I encourage people to probe a little to see why it is being asked. It is usually one of three categories.

    If someone asks it for the theological reasons, there are lots of answers.

    If someone asks it as a smokescreen, then expose the motive. Many times people find that to be a convenient excuse for not believing in God and no answers will suffice.

    If people are asking because they are going through suffering, then console them and point out how Jesus – who is God – was not indifferent to suffering. He suffered in countless physical and emotional ways.

  4. If we but ponder and are willing, we would discover that by the Christian code, suffering is worshipped. It is through the coin of suffering that many believe buys entrance to Heaven. To worship suffering, is to ask for it.

    We reap, as we sow.

  5. Hi Essenceofgrace,
    I wouldn’t go as far to say that we worship suffering. Instead, Christians recognize the suffering that Jesus went through for humanity.

    Consider this: a soilder covers the body of a young child getting shot and in the process is torn up by bullets and explosives, yet the child lives. We don’t worship his suffering, we praise his sacrifice.

    When examined, it is quite apparent that suffering is not was is being worshipped in Christianity.

  6. Brian T good points and also there is an explanation. It’s known as faith even if we can’t understand. Maybe God decreed from the beginning the directive and permissive will would stop or allow this or that or whatever. Maybe we lack the wisdom as created beings to see it all. Again that is where faith comes in. The prinicpal is managing according to rules, and wouldn’t be just or immutable if he altered them along the way. I’ll try to blog about this stuff someday because the issues are very tough but need to be talked about more. For now I commend Justin on another quality blog!

    – Michael Erik
    Quality Blog Critic
    “The Best Things In Life Are Free”

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