One of the most compelling arguments for the absence of God is the presence of suffering. When we watch the news and see horrible natural disasters and self-inflicted tragedies, we find it hard to understand how a good God could allow these painful events to happen. If God is truly good, loving and all-powerful, wouldn’t He stop these things from happening? How should we think about suffering in light of what we believe as Christians?
According to James 1:16, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” When God created the world, His intention was for a perfect relationship between humankind and Himself, and among humans. However, when sin entered the world, all of that was twisted, resulting in the depraved world we see today.
Fundamentally, God is the giver of all that is good. The suffering that we go through is not produced by God, and God does not delight in it. We must remember that God did not intend for us suffer.
While sin is rife in our world today, it will not remain like this forever. Revelation 21:4 is a promise that brings us hope: “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” God’s desire is for us to be in perfect relationship with Him again, and when that day finally comes, suffering will be no more!
The mental picture that many conjure of God when it comes to suffering is of a deity sitting on His lofty throne, ignoring what‘s happening on earth. This is not true. God does not ignore suffering. The entire Bible is a narrative of redemption — our God saves. Thus, the question we should ask is not, “Why does God not stop suffering?”, but rather, “Why does God not stop suffering now?” This doesn’t make the question any easier to answer. After all, a human cannot answer on behalf of God. However, the Bible does give us its perspective; God is taking a while to restore the earth He created.
In 2 Peter 3:9, the apostle says, “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.” This suggests that God is waiting so that more people might be saved. While the Bible does not reveal the exact reasons why God has allowed pain and suffering to last this long (and for how long more), it tells us clearly that He desires all to be saved and restored to a right relationship with Him through repentance.
Justin Brierley of Premier Christianity magazine writes, “It is important to remember that people who are actually going through suffering need our love, not our logic.” We can deliberate about pain and suffering for a long time, but the most pressing need is not for us to find an answer, but for us to reach out in love to those who are hurting. While the Bible may not immediately seem like it provides all the answers to our deepest sorrows, it is a book which reminds us time and time again that our present suffering will not endure. The Scriptures reveal God’s redemption plan for humanity, and what we, as believers, should do in our lifetime. Let us persevere and continue to cling on to the hope we have in Jesus, and share this everlasting hope with those that are going through painful or difficult times.
Just as how the dangers of the wild will cause a frightened sheep to seek out its shepherd, suffering will draw humankind back to God. In The Problem Of Pain, C.S. Lewis writes, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” We may not always see and understand God’s ways, but we can always trust in Him — He is faithful and kind. If you find it hard to reconcile the two realities of a suffering world and a good God, look to the Cross. It is the greatest evidence of our good God joining the suffering of our world to save us from ourselves.