Why Does God Allow Suffering?

A Very Old Question

This is a very old question – possibly as old as man himself. This question has been confronted in the Book of Job, in the psalms such as Psalm 73, and in several other Biblical passages. This has also been a great topic of discussion in philosophy and literature. It is not the purpose of this article to answer all possible questions, nor to create a synopsis of what has already been written.

Allow vs. cause

It is important to remember that while God does allow suffering, He is not the author of suffering. When tragedy befalls man, it can be a natural response to blame God for the occurrence. This, however, is neither a fair nor a wise choice to make. There are many causes for suffering in this universe. Some are purely situational, such as the freak accident or natural disaster. While these occurrences are tragedies, they are also merely the consequence of natural law. Others are either caused directly by sinful choices, or are the indirect consequences of such action. In either case, it is not God who “directs” such suffering, but merely allows it to occur in keeping with His nature.

What does God not allow?

It is important to ask what God does not allow to occur. God does not allow man to become tempted beyond his ability to bear (1 Cor. 10:13), whereby placing the unfortunate result of sinful action squarely upon the sinful choice of man alone. God also does not suspend natural law (with the exception of miracles in an earlier time to fulfill a specific purpose). While this is tragic for the person who is caused harm by natural consequence, it would be far detrimental to an ordered universe to make countless exceptions daily to natural law. God also does not allow the unjust treatment of the soul of man. While man may suffer unjustly in this life, the fate of his soul before God is perfectly just, as is the penalty for sin.

What alternative is there?

It is important to ask what alternative could possibly exist to the natural state of things. Can God interfere in the choice of man to sin without destroying man’s free will? Who is worthy of such “special” treatment more than another? While it is true that God’s providential hand is seen in the workings of man, an overt demonstration of interference by God may very well cause more harm than good. God is eternally wise and therefore understands the ramifications of such choices more so than any man possibly could.

In considering the question of suffering, there are no easy answers. It is key however to remember that God does not delight in the suffering of man. This is proven by the sacrifice He made of His very own Son. God will not allow suffering to exist forever, but when that time of change comes, this world and all we know will be gone.

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