One of the most common arguments used against the concept of a perfect, divine entity is that there is so much evil and suffering in the world. You don’t have to look far away to see pain, anguish and horrific mistreatment and to many people this is conclusive evidence that if there is a God; He cannot be both good and omnipotent. I’ve heard responses to this point that have been awful, and have seen some that completely dodge around it, ignoring the object and instead feeding you a decoy lined with uncommon theological jargon.
I am not going to be able to produce the ultimate answer to a question that causes so much distress to so many people. It is impossible for me to know, just as it is for anyone else, why there is suffering in the world. I can only speculate using as much logic as I can manage and a healthy portion of gut instinct. So here are some of the points that I take into account when thinking about the issue of the coexistence of suffering and a powerful, loving, good God:
God is frequently depicted as a parental figure across hundreds of religions and denominations around the world. If we are going to look at the issue from this perspective then we have a relatively easy comparison to make. We have to ask ourselves whether a loving parent would let their child go through as much suffering as there is in the world. The answer to that question is ‘probably not,’ or at least it is in my opinion, but then the next obvious question is whether a loving parent would let their children go through any suffering at all. For me, the answer to this next question is ‘almost definitely’. In my experience, people who go through very little hardship in their life and are over-protected by their parents are often underdeveloped socially and aspirationally and have a rather warped idea of what their own priorities are. Such people so frequently place their value upon material wealth and the things around them that they forget about the importance of the people they love. Very few parents attempt to shield their children from any unhappiness, it is widely regarded as unhealthy. Furthermore, you often find that people who have experienced a great amount of pain and misfortune make the greatest impact on the world. Just type in Nick Vujicic into any search engine and you’ll soon see what I mean. The sooner we accept suffering as a circumstance that is exclusively negative, the easier it becomes to see the bigger picture.
From a Christian perspective, Jesus himself talks about suffering in a positive light. In Matthew 5, Jesus describes the poor in spirit, those who mourn and those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake as ‘blessed.’ And when you think about the idea of a perfect Heaven, a paradise where neither pain, nor suffering is felt, surely this is made all the better by the amount of pain you experience here, on Earth. People in the Western world find it very difficult to see a positive in being unemployed and living off of government-paid benefits, from my own personal perspective, this seems like an awful position to be in. But there are people in this world that have no money, or shelter and struggle to find food and drink. There are people stuck in the sex trafficking system unable to see a way out, and I can guarantee that these people would do anything to be in the situation of that unemployed individual.
It is true that some people go through more suffering than can ever be seen as fair from a human point of view. But some of the strongest and most world-changing individuals have come from backgrounds of pain and suffering like you’ve never experienced. The more we hurt, the more certain we can be of what’s important to us, the relationships with people we love and, in the case of a person with faith, the God that loves us. A God that allows this is not cruel, but understanding. He helps us to be who we need to be; who we were made to be.