The Problem of Suffering
27 January 2010 Hits:2899
The problem of suffering is the subject of the most frequently raised question concerning the Christian faith: “If there’s a loving God why is there so much suffering in the world?”
Suffering is something that touches everyone. From large-scale events such as wars and natural disasters to suffering on an individual level like bereavement, sickness, broken relationships, involuntary singleness, depression, loneliness, poverty, persecution, rejection, and disappointment. Suffering can come in an endless variety of forms and no human being is immune from it – not even Christians.
But what causes suffering? Many people blame God because He claims ultimate control in the world and so He has the power to change all things. Blame is nothing new. The first humans excelled at it. Adam blamed both his wife and God – “The woman YOU put here with me.” Eve blamed the devil and hence started a popular Christian pastime! No one took personal responsibility and little has changed.
The main cause of suffering though has more to do with us, not God. People doing bad things, or not doing good things, causes most suffering.
People doing bad things cause about 95% of suffering in this world. Watch the television news sometime and note the amount of suffering that results in this way. People are the main cause of suffering, not God. There is a propensity for evil in all of us. If God decided to get rid of all evil in the world He would have to destroy the entire human race! The Bible records that things got so bad in times gone by that God did take this kind of drastic action – with Noah’s Flood and Sodom & Gomorrah. God has also made a promise that this level of judgment would not occur again until the final judgment. Until that time suffering will be a part of the human experience.
In 1998 I read a challenging quote from the United Nations. It said that if everyone in the developed world gave the cost of a cappuccino each week to combat world poverty, there would be no poverty. How amazing is that? $4 a week could eradicate world poverty. Obviously, that has not happened and so we must conclude that most people in the wealthier nations don’t even give $4 a week to help others – a sad indictment indeed.
There are lots of great things being done around the world that are making a massive difference to those who are suffering, but there needs to be more. As Edmund Burke once said, “all that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”
Ultimately suffering is an alien intrusion into God’s world. Jesus fought against suffering wherever He came across it. He fed the hungry, healed the sick and preached Good News. He calls his people to do the same: to love and be compassionate to those who are suffering, not condemning. To rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn (Romans 12:15), and to help relieve human suffering whenever we have the opportunity.