Why is there suffering in the world?
This is one of the most difficult questions to answer for any God fearing person.
We see suffering all around us – on one hand we have natural disasters like earthquakes, Sunamis whereas on the other hand we have man made disasters like ‘nine eleven’. Suffering strikes rich and poor, religious and non religious, small and great. In this life virtually everyone experiences it.
Suffering exacts its greatest toll on people in poorer, backward countries. In many countries people struggle simply to have enough to eat. Political lethargy, corrupt leadership, war and rapid population growth has overtaken food supplies causing hunger and starvation.
Why is suffering so indiscriminate? Why isn't it meted out only to those who deserve it? Why do the innocent suffer from actions and events over which they have no control and often cannot foresee?
Is God fair to let this happen? If God is all-powerful and all loving, then why does He permit evil and suffering in the world?
On the one hand the Word of God clearly teaches that ‘God is love’ (1 John 4:8); on the other hand the suffering that we see around us and perhaps even experience at a personal level seems so contradictory to our understanding of that love.
It will therefore be no surprise to know that there are no easy answers to this question.
Suffering and laws of universe
We need such things as gravity, weather, air and fire to survive in this world. They are governed by certain laws but can lead to tragedy.
Fire is good if it is in a kitchen stove. However an out-of-control fire can kill.
Suffering - a direct consequence of human choices
Much of the suffering in the world today is a direct consequence of personal human choices. Our lives are intertwined, so we sometimes suffer when the sin or foolishness of others spreads trouble (1 Corinthians 12:26).The person who injures himself or another person in a car accident because he was over the legal limit has to suffer the consequences of his own choices. Similarly a person of authority who chooses to ‘fix’ the books of account of a business and is then caught, causes financial sufferings for himself and others.
God has not made us immune from the consequences of our own choices. This is from where some of the suffering comes in our world.
Suffering and faith
You may think that suffering is an automatic barrier to belief in God. That’s not true. Word of God is full of people who endured tremendous misery and yet their faith remained firm. The Israelites, for example, suffered terrible slavery under Pharaoh, the Old Testament prophets suffered persecution at the hands of their own countrymen and early Christian believers suffered imprisonment and death for their faith under Emperor Nero. Yet these people did not give up their faith in God (2 Corinthians 11:23).
Suffering can often strengthen a person’s faith not weaken it! In fact many people have turned to God at the darkest moments of their lives and found him to be there. Perhaps it is only at our darkest times when no one else can help that we cry out to someone who can. As C. S. Lewis once said, ‘Pain is God’s megaphone to a deaf world.’
Suffering and God’s purpose in human life
God uses the suffering to do good i.e. He produces patience through tribulations (Rom. 5:3) Or He may desire to save someone through it.
Let’s take a look at the suffering of Joseph who was sold into slavery by His brothers. What they did was wrong and Joseph suffered greatly for it. But, later, God raised up Joseph in Egypt to make provisions for the people of that land during the coming drought of seven years. Not only was Egypt saved, but also was his family and brothers who originally sold him into slavery. Joseph finally said to them, "You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good" (Gen. 50:15-21).
Suffering and God’s glory
God sometimes lets evil run its course in order to prove that evil is evil and that suffering, which is the unfortunate product of evil, is further proof that anything contrary to God’s will is bad, harmful, painful, and leads to death.
God gave Adam dominion over the world. When he rebelled against God, He set in motion a series of events and changed the very nature of man and creation. Both were affected by sin. Creation was no longer a paradise but bore thorns and thistles (Gen. 3:17-18; Rom. 8:22). People became sinful (Rom. 5:12; Eph. 2:3), who were haters of God (Rom. 3:19-12).
But God has not left us alone in this fallen world. He continued to enter this world, pointing us to Himself, to truth, to morality, purity and love. He used the evil of the world to bring us to Himself so that we might have the opportunity of eternal life. God did not step away from fallen creation but has stepped into it to affect change and He uses fallen people to accomplish His will. In this, He is proving His sovereignty over evil, suffering and rebellious people, proving that sin and evil are utterly futile and that He is worthy of honor and glory.
Why won't God stop all the suffering and evil now?
If God loves us and that He is not distancing Himself from our suffering, then why doesn’t He stops it? The truth is, he has and he will. God could quite easily stop all the suffering and evil in the world, so there must be a very good reason why he doesn’t.
We don’t realise the consequences of asking God to stop all the suffering. Our standard of gauging evil is different from God’s because God is holy and we are not. The Word of God tells us that one day God will end all the evil and suffering in the world - He will end ALL the evil and suffering and not just the selective evils that bother us.
For example, we human regard murder, rape and theft as evil. But have we ever stopped to consider what God regards as being evil or sinful? What about being greedy, speaking behind someone’s back, having lustful thoughts, being selfish, sleeping around, getting drunk, telling lies, holding a grudge against someone, failing to live as God created us to live? That may not sound evil to us but to a holy God those things are evil and stand in complete opposition to his holiness. So, in order for God to remove all the suffering and evil in the world, He would first of all have to remove each and every one of us because we all contribute to the problem of suffering to varying degrees.
God will remove all the suffering and evil one day but before that great day comes there is another day that must come before it - the day of judgement! Few people are ready for that day because they are not in a right relationship with God and will, therefore, face his judgement. So it’s God’s mercy that Lord doesn’t return sooner to judge the world, for God wants as many people to be saved as possible.
In the end, I would like to close with sharing the sad story of a young Christian couple in America who lost their two year old daughter. On the gravestone of the little girl they had only two words inscribed after her name: ‘YES LORD!’ I am sure that young couple’s hearts were torn over the loss of their little girl, they may have asked the question, ‘Why?’ Yet, despite the darkness in their hearts, they knew that one day an answer would be given and they would see everything from God’s perspective because they know that ‘God works all things together for the good of those who love Him.’ (Romans 8:28) Even this tragedy will make sense one day. For now, they submitted to God’s sovereignty in all matters - including the tragic ones. Their hope remained in God and one day that hope will not disappoint them.
The world is not the way that God created it and because of that, we all are vulnerable to sufferings. But there will come a day when the Lord will return and cleanse this world of all the sin and all the suffering.
"And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away" (Rev. 21:4). ............. Previous Question