July 2020 - Why does God allow suffering?
Why Does God Allow Suffering?
Down through the ages, mankind has this inbuilt desire to be happy, yet very rarely do things go ‘right’ for us. Our lives seem so unstable; things can go from great to terrible so quickly.
We have two options when it comes to a belief in God. If we say there is no God, then that’s it, life happens and much of it is out of our control.
However, if we say there is an all-powerful God, then why does He allow pain and suffering? Does He hate us?
The first option doesn’t give us much to discuss, so let’s go with the second option and try to answer the questions this raises.
In the Beginning
Back in the beginning, Adam and Eve were put into the ‘perfect’ environment and given only one command. They failed to keep this command and chose what they wanted rather than being content with what they already had.
Failure to keep this command had consequences attached to it. They became suffering creatures, subject to mortality. So, suffering did not enter the world by God, but because of the actions of man.
Why did God attach consequences? Because God is a moral being, sin could not go unpunished. Thus, God cannot and will not trivialise sin.
The Benefits of Suffering
This then brings the question, how is God’s love seen in consequences for sin?
Adam and Eve were not immediately killed after their disobedience; opportunity was given for them to repent and thus be part of God’s future plan.
In Hebrews 12:6,7 God shows that He disciplines those He loves. Discipline is part of sonship and its purpose is not destructive, but rather productive.
A key benefit of suffering and trial is the character development it causes. It’s when things go wrong that we learn. For example, patience is developed when we’re are put in situations where we are required to have it.
If we were completely content in life, then we would never ask questions. We would never be motivated to search for meaning, we would never turn to God.
In the middle of a pandemic, we can either ask “why has God allowed 500 000 people to die? Or we can be motivated to look harder at life and try to find a purpose in everything.
The Story of Three Men
About 2000 years ago, three men were killed on the same day. These three men died an extremely painful death by crucifixion, two were criminals, but the third was completely faultless and undeserving of death.
The first two men were thieves, but the third man was Jesus. The two thieves responded in very different ways, which had eternal consequences. One recognised that their suffering was just, but Christ was undeserving of his suffering. In essence, he declared “I see our suffering and recognise that I deserve it, but you (Jesus) don’t.”
The other thief railed on Christ and said “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” – In essence, his declaration was “you have the power to stop this suffering, but won’t, so I hate you!”
Here we have two classes of people. Those who question the purpose of their suffering and learn from it and those who question why God allows suffering and thus turn their back on Him. One receives a promise of life, while the other dies without hope. The choice is our – which thief will we be associated with?