It is a question that many people, Christian and non-Christian alike, struggle with. It is a question that I myself have struggled with for many years. Even after seminary and almost 10 years as a pastor, I find no easy answers.
What is the question, you ask?
Why does a loving God allow suffering?
Some of you are nodding your heads. You know what I’m talking about. Maybe you’ve asked, wondered or agonized over this issue yourself. If God loves us as much as he claims to, why does he allow things like disease, famine, war and death?
Some people will tell you that God doesn’t cause suffering. I would agree. I’ve never known God to start a war. People do. I’ve never known God to kill someone over turf. Gang members do. I’ve never known God to commit genocide. Dictators do.
But if God isn’t the cause of suffering, couldn’t he at least do a little something to stop it?
Some people say God uses suffering for his purposes. They say he uses it to draw people to him as they go through difficult circumstances. They say he uses it in the lives of believers to show unbelievers the power of Christ in times of adversity.
Well,forgive me for saying this, but that doesn’t cast God in a very good light, does it? I mean, people are suffering, and he’s capitalizing on it?
Now before you break out the tar and feathers, let me say that I understand what these people are saying. I understand that God can bring good out of even the worst of circumstances (Romans 8:28).
But I have to be honest: that knowledge does me very little good when it’s my loved one who’s suffering. It brings me very little comfort when I have to watch someone I love waste away from cancer, Alzheimer’s or some other awful condition.
Unfortunately, I’ve got no better answer than anyone else. I don’t know why God allows so much suffering in our world today. I don’t know why God doesn’t do something to stop the suffering or lessen it in some way. And even if God chose to explain it to me, my puny little human mind wouldn’t be able to comprehend it, anyway.
So what am I to do? What are any of us to do?
Trust him. Trust God even when we don’t understand him.
Every morning, Chloe sees me leave for work. Every evening, Chloe sees me return home. In between those two times she has no idea what I do, where I go or who I talk to. All she knows is that Daddy has been at work. Now, I could sit her down and tell her about my day, going over it in minute detail, but her little child’s mind wouldn’t know what to make of any of it.
So it is with God and the issue of suffering. I may not understand what’s happening, I may not understand why it’s happening, I may not understand God’s role in it. But one thing I must do is realize that my heavenly father is at work.
And as hard as it may be to do, I have to trust him.
Parrish Myers is pastor of Pine Crest Baptist Church in Gainesville.