I've been asked this question multiple times. Usually, when it is asked, it's driven by emotion. I've heard it phrased in these ways: "If God really loved me, then why would did he allow my father to pass away?" or "if God is so powerful, He could have stopped the terrorists that bombed Paris a couple of weeks ago". To be honest, this is a difficult question to answer because of the emotion that accompanies it. As Apologists, we should strive to not merely give the correct answer but to answer the questioner. I sympathize with those that have asked this question because I battled with it myself. On my page Crimson Chord, I explain this together with my story. I find it funny that years later I'm writing a blog post answering the question that nearly redefined my life.
This question seems bothersome at face value. But once I explain a few concepts, you will realize it isn't a difficult question. Because of how short the answer is, I will also do a quick FAQ of variations of this question asked about this subject at the end.
Before we get started
Please note that this question does not do away with God at all. It could be that God does exist but He is a mean and a horrible being. The fact that God is mean does not do away with the fact that God exists. Christians, therefore, have to explain why we think God is good despite suffering existing.
The answer to this question is actually found in Genesis. The Bible tells us that the reason we experience suffering is because of sin. Sin entered when the fall happened (Genesis 2:17). The only reason there is death, pain or sorrow of any kind is because of sin. "For the wages of sin is death..."(Romans 6:23).
I would have loved to expand on the concept of sin, but not to make this post too long I will leave a link of a brilliant article explaining sin and the consequences God says it causes. Click here to read more about sin.
This changes the question slightly. To understand why there's suffering, we have to find the answer to why God would allow humans to sin, knowing that suffering would occur.
Why God allows sin
The most commonly known attribute of God is that He is not merely just loving, but He is the very essence of what love is. Love, however, only exists in free will. In other words, love can only exist where someone has the ability to choose to love or not. For example, imagine if I pursued a lady hoping a relationship would develop and she rejected me multiple times. So I devise a plan to somehow control her mind so that she accepts me. When she accepts me, can we really say that love exists between us? We all have a strong feeling that love is something that should be given from people's free will. Outside of this free will, love cannot really exist.
So God gives us a choice to accept Him or not. Because we choose to reject Him, we find ourselves in sin. The consequences of sin is suffering (Romans 6:23).
In a similar way, if God really loves us, He has to give us a choice to choose Him or to reject Him without tampering with our free will. Rejecting God produces sin because sin can only be found outside of God. If ALL good things come from God (James 1:17), then by that logic all bad things should be found outside of God. The suffering we experience is a result of the sin problem we have.
Did God create evil?
If you understood what I wrote above, you should be able to answer this question. Evil is the absence of God because all good things come from God. This is like blindness is the lack of sight, cold is the lack of heat, hate the lack of love and darkness is a lack of light. God allows us to love Him or hate Him. When we do not choose to love God we choose evil. So God did not create evil. Evil is the absence of God and humans choose evil.
Quick fire questions
Why doesn’t God end all evil immediately?
Think about this. To end evil, God would have to destroy the cause of evil – human beings. This is not what you and I should be angry at God for. We should be grateful that He allows it. In God's good plan (see below), He tells us how He will get rid of it.
Why doesn’t God make people unable to cause suffering?
To do this, God would have to take away our ability to choose. As explained, in order to love, you must be able to choose to love. Forced love is not love. So to have a universe that includes love, God had to give us the ability to choose, which includes the choice not to love, which makes sin, evil, pain and suffering possible.
Why does God allow natural disaster and disease?
It is a part of a sinful world. God lowered the perfection of creation (from the perfect garden of Eden) to match the spiritual state of those who live here (Romans 8:20-22). God graciously has sustained people on this earth (allowing them to reproduce, to develop governments and systems to deal with the effects of sin). He has graciously sustained the fallen creation (providing sun and rain for food to sustain life – Colossians 1:17). But the natural effect of a fallen creation is that even good things can have evil byproducts (water can drown someone; gravity can kill someone; lightening can burn and kill).
Why doesn’t God stop evil acts that cause innocent people to suffer?
Why doesn’t God miraculously intervene to stop evil acts if He is all-loving and all-powerful? Why didn't God stop the Paris suicide bombers? Why doesn’t He catch the drunk driver’s car that is going to crash into a bus? Why doesn’t He deflect the murderer’s bullets? The person asking doesn’t actually want God to stop all their evil acts. They don’t want to be invisibly gagged every time they’re about to say something hurtful; they don’t want to stub their toe when they try to kick the dog. They just think it would be good if God stopped certain evil acts or just the evil acts of others. But that would make life impossible. There would be no freedoms, no regularity and no personal responsibility.
Why doesn’t God let us choose to get out of this suffering?
The answer is that He does. That is the gracious, loving response of God to the evil condition of this sinful world.
God has provided for personal salvation – the promise of eternal life in heaven where there is no suffering (Revelation 21:4). One must simply put his trust in the payment for sin God provided through Christ’s death on the cross (John 3:16-18; Acts 10:38-43: etc.).
God has provided for the earth’s redemption (Romans 8:18-23; 2 Peter 3:10,13; Revelation 21:1)
All these would require another blog post.
Why can’t we get out of this evil world of suffering immediately?
We don’t know why God’s timetable is what it is. We can see why He couldn’t deliver Adam and Eve immediately – God first had to provide redemption through Christ. The world carries on today because there are more people yet to hear about God and believe in Him.
Though we don't have an answer to this, we do know that God is causing all things to work together for good to those who love God (Romans 8:28).
What are some good reasons for suffering?
I used their answers mainly because of their accuracy.
My 2 cents
I have noticed that humans have this need to define morality. We have done away with God. We purposefully think our way is better than God's way. God implies in His Word, that either we will say to Him "Let your will be done" or He will say to us "Let your will be done". The latter to me, is a bit unnerving. if God is omniscient (all-knowing) and omnipotent (all-powerful) then He has to know what is best for us. He says, "This day, I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live." (Deuteronomy 30:19). My way doesn't always go as planned. There's always a probability of failure when I do things my way. Why would I try things my way? If God is telling me that I will be eternally happy if a choose him, I definitely want to be saying "Let your will be done".
What the Bible shares with us, is that God didn't just look at us suffering from the outside, but He, Himself, became a part of it! God sympathizes with us. The message of the cross teaches us that Christ was persecuted, despite doing nothing wrong. He was crucified on the cross for the sins that you and I committed. He shared in our suffering to give us hope that we may be reunited with the Father.
As long as we keep trying to define for ourselves what is moral and acceptable, we slip into a spiral of even worse things happening. Ravi Zacharias said to the leader of Hamas “Sheik, I just want you to hear this. Until you and I receive the Son God has provided, we’ll be offering our own sons and daughters on the battlefields of this world for many of the wrong reasons.”
Suffering is a result of sin. Solomon says, "Some people ruin themselves by their own stupid actions and then blame the Lord"(Proverbs 19:3). We cannot blame God for suffering. We have been given choices every day and we decide that we want to be gods over our own lives. God tells us that type of thinking is what produces suffering.
This will just be a platform where I express my opinions and impose my religious views on you! I will also post news on current affairs and things I find funny.