Major life issues that challenge God’s existence.
Why does God allow human suffering and evil?
What is his role there?
Indeed, if there is a God who is supposed to be good, why is there so much suffering and evil in the world? Without doubt, it is a DIFFICULT question for beginner Christians, this one. Many thoughts arise when trying to come up with an answer. Is there any way God could have designed things differently? Importantly, could the world and we human beings be better designed to reduce or even prevent suffering and evil?
Ultimately, this issue of suffering and evil does lead us to question God’s role in relation to it. And also what should be our response?
(I am from a senior auditing background and the majority of my advisory team are Christian clergy. To glimpse the ‘who’, ‘how’ and ‘why’ of this website please click here.)
Well, I can say upfront that I did eventually manage to find answers to my own doubts, arising from the subject of suffering and evil. Maybe just a bit surprisingly, I did so through the Bible’s guidance and what was on offer there for Christians with regard to the subject. Please read on then …
2. MY WISH LIST
At first though, I did try to imagine what a ‘mere mortal’ like me might have done. That is, if I had the responsibility for planning the way the world should be. Like anyone else I have the right to use my imagination, eh?
I wondered could I have left suffering and evil completely out of the specifications? Better still, a world where everybody would live perfectly healthy and happy lives until at least one hundred years of age? The random effects of disease and genetic disorders would be no more.
And could I have prevented horrifying accidents from happening at all? Could an invisible barrier be placed between all people and objects of possible injury or death, no matter what risks they or others took with their bodies?
What about stopping natural disasters from harming humans? Could I leave them – heatwaves, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, cyclones, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and tsunamis – out of the grand design?
Is there any way I could program people so that nobody would be cruel to others?
If everything else failed, and we asked through ‘faith’, then could God unleash miracles on all those who are suffering?
My wish list seemed to cover ‘most of the angles’ didn’t it?
3. REALITY CHECK
But, you know, when I analysed my specifications above I did find faults with them. As I explained previously, I do come from an auditing background.
3.1 Would the world look fake?
Firstly, if God did continually muddle around in the space/ time continuum etc. to alter the outcome of all potentially harmful events, then we would have noticeable flow-on effects in our daily lives. Resulting warps in that ‘continuum’ could for example cause: moving objects to stop in their tracks; landscape changes; people to recover overnight from serious illness or disease without any medical help. It would not matter what we ate or drank or inhaled or injected because our bodies would recover from all forms of abuse.
Life would be so visibly different from what we have now. In fact, we would have to acknowledge a considerable ‘force’ existing beneath reality. In fact, God’s existence would become so very obvious to us all. As explained in the article, “Why is God invisible?” that does not sit well with his actual needs at all.
3.2 Outcome of our free will
From the human perspective too, our ‘free will’ means that people shall more than likely continue to harm themselves and other people, no matter what! Human greed, hatred, selfishness, bad habits, uncontrolled anger and intolerance are major contributors to self harm and evil to others.
In other words, if we are all to have free will, then each of us must suffer the consequences. Otherwise, we would only be programmed robots. Not a good alternative at all!
3.3 Drawbacks of everyday miracles
And what of miracles that might overcome our suffering? They still happen, don’t they? If we have faith, then surely … ?
Although, in fact, I DO KNOW that ‘healing miracles‘ still happen – that is the occasional overriding of the laws of cause and effect by God, at our request – they will always be rare in the ‘scheme of things’. And yes, I admit it, they absolutely rocked my socks ‘when I first witnessed them‘ in the Church.
You see, miracles are usually special ‘one offs’ used by God to build up his Church and individuals within it. Sadly, we must remember that if life was to be a continual ‘bed of roses’ for all of us we would never become the mature spiritual beings intended by God; beings who are to spend eternity with him after leaving their physical existences behind.
(Present day events, empowered by God in the Church, are discussed in the article, “Experiencing the Holy Spirit”.)
4. GOD’S ROLE IN SUFFERING AND EVIL
So then, what of God’s role in human suffering and evil during everyday life? I have experienced enough physical pain (including long term health issues) together with emotional pain (loss of a loved one) in my life to understand the concepts of this article. Through my own experiences I recognise that suffering and life are just ‘intertwined’ with each other. There can be no other way!
4.1 The one true constant in our lives
As I have already implied, it appears that ‘cause and effect’, and chance, are essential in the ‘equation’ of human existence – that is to make it all real. Science can often tell us ‘how’ these things happen.
However, the actual “why things happen as they do?” does seem to be beyond the best of us human beings a lot of the time. One book of the Christian Bible, “Ecclesiastes”, points out the irony of life: the misery and obvious injustices that so many people suffer. It also points out the senselessness of us trying to understand why. The first chapter introduces the flavour of ‘futility’ within life.
says the Teacher.
Everything is meaningless.”
God is offered by the Book’s author as the one true ‘constant’ in our lives that we CAN rely on.
4.2 He IS with us in our suffering
In fact, the Bible explains God is closer to us in our suffering than we might first think. We must not take the Biblical statement [Acts 17:28] lightly – “For in him we live and move and have our being.” How can God not know when we suffer? Additionally, God is absolutely and completely linked to our suffering in an incredible way, i.e. at the very ‘causation’ of our own being’s existence (see the article “So, what is God?”). He empowers nature to basically run its course as such. And God therefore clearly knows of our pain from whatever source: physical, emotional or spiritual.
Most importantly though, God in the ‘person’ of Jesus experienced extreme physical and emotional pain as a human being for himself. Of course I am referring to Jesus’ torture and eventual death by crucifixion. Yes, God knows exactly what we are going through during our personal pain and suffering in life.
4.3 All things work together for good
God also knows that pain and suffering really do ‘help us to grow’. In fact all those things, both good and bad, happening in our lives do ‘grow us’. All things! From the Bible:
And we know that in all things God works
for the good of those who love him,
who have been called according to his purpose.
We pass through them, as such, and can thereby study ourselves reacting there. We can as a result come to make positive changes to ourselves for the future. And we ‘just plain’ grow to face life’s seriously hard times because of our trust in God. Knowing he will lift us through them when we may not be able to do so on our own. And none of that stuff can happen until we are in that ‘place’. That is, hard or tough times!
So yes, as a result, we emotionally mature and grow spiritually. Of course we also grow ever closer in our relationship to the Lord as a result. From the Bible:
Consider it pure joy, my brothers,
whenever you face trials of many kinds,
because you know that the testing
of your faith develops perseverance.
Perseverance must finish its work
so that you may be mature and
complete, not lacking anything.
Bold words eh? And James says, “Consider it pure joy”. Wowzers, you may think! But I say from my own experiences in those kinds of places, it absolutely does change us positively if we follow that advice. The greatest potential outcome for us Christians is an ironclad relationship with God. So I say, trust him!
AND of course, as I hinted above, God is literally there to enfold us with his loving support/ comforting, if we deliberately open ourselves, and engage with him. He is always ready and waiting! Please also read the article, “God during hard times” for an explanation of how he is actually ready to assist us when we are in that position.
4.4 But God is not responsible for evil
In relation to evil though, in my view at least, it is wrong to blame God for its creation.
Rather, evil is born in the minds of humankind. It is encouraged/ fanned by the ‘dark power’, known as Satan, that opposes God’s goodness. (A subject that has great authenticity in my mind, but is outside the scope of this website.)
Even God, in the person of Jesus, suffered from evil during his life on Earth.
It is very, very complex, that one!
As I have already indicated, I do know that God’s presence can become both more needed, and obvious during times of suffering, than when ‘the good times roll’. From my own experience, these hard times will draw us believers closer to the Lord and encourage us to mature spiritually. So, something positive can definitely occur out of suffering. Again, please read that article, “God during hard times“.
Despite all the facts though, I must be honest here and say that I do still find the question “why?”, in regard to human suffering, hard to answer sometimes. I especially admit that the suffering of others can strain my relationship with God a bit at times … and I do complain to him! But it never throws my faith into doubt. I have experienced too much of his presence in my life, and witnessed it in the lives of others, for that to happen. (Even then, I know that ‘doubt is not always a bad thing‘ anyway.)
I know too that I will NEVER come close to having God’s level of wisdom, when it comes to human suffering. Yes, he completely understands both the negatives and positives of suffering for us human beings. That is in a way that we CANNOT as human beings.
Importantly, we must remember that the Christian concept of ‘hope’ sits at the core of our ability to handle the suffering that comes our way in life. Hope transforms! It can even be applied through prayer and human involvement to combat evil in this world.
If you wish to know more about ‘what’ God actually is, then access the article, “So, what is God?” The final section of the website ‘explains Christianity‘ and offers an understanding of ‘who’ God is. Christianity offers a whole-of-life philosophy that certainly deals effectively with suffering and evil. Finally, if you would like guidance on how to know whether God actually exists, then please access the article, “Can I really believe in God?”