Why does God allow suffering?
This is a question I hear a lot. I recently shared my personal experience with suffering, and the perspective it has taught me, but in the grand scheme of things, my experiences don’t even begin to compare with what some people have witnessed or experienced.
I understand why someone might look at all the pain and suffering and cruelty in the world, and ask that question. If God is love, why would a loving Father allow His children to suffer? …Or, at the very least, why not stop some of the very worst attrocities?
When it comes to God allowing human suffering in general, there are three principles that make sense to me:
1. This life is temporary.
Therefore, all suffering in life is temporary… and therefore incredibly minute in view of eternity. We tend to view Heaven as this translucent kingdom in the clouds, when it’s actually our current life that is “but a mist.” As a result, we tend to view everything that happens here in our 80 years or so on Earth as concrete and permanent. Because it feels like it is right now. But in the light of eternity, it’s not. I can think of no tragedy so terrible that it won’t be but a distant speck after a billion years of joy. When God seems callous to human suffering, it’s because He, outside of time, has a much better perspective than we do.
2. Suffering cannot be separated from free will and growth.
You can not have freedom without risk. You cannot have safety without some loss of freedom. So, if God decided to create people with the ability to make moral decisions, then that means He had to allow for the possibility of suffering. He also knew that suffering is often the only way for people to grow. The pain of a hot stove builds caution. The pain of loss builds appreciation for what one has. The suffering of hard work builds persistence and fulfillment.
Yes, those are very mild examples. What about [worst imaginable thing]? Why would God allow THAT?
3. Injustice is a slippery slope.
If God were to at least stop the very worst thing imaginable, the question then becomes: where would you have God draw the line? At the SECOND worst imaginable thing? Third? If God stopped only the top most horrific things, He would be robbing us not only of free will, but of the knowledge of the repercussions of choices. Not only that, but whatever was next in line for “most horrific thing” would simply become the NEW subject of “God why do you allow THAT?”
Much like the infamous “first world problems” that can only come from an abundant and coddled society, I firmly believe that God could remove all suffering up to the point where the worst possible thing we could experience is a stubbed toe, and, much like a child who knows of no greater suffering, we would cry to God: “why do you allow this suffering?”