Q: "Why does God allow suffering—for example, in Haiti?"
(from Daniela Holloway in Florida, formerly of Berlin, East Germany)
If there is a question asked about God more than any other, it is why a good God allows suffering. Volumes have been written in response. This article can't adequately address such a big question, but it may provide enough basis to reconcile the presence of suffering with the existence of a good God.
Foremost, suffering is a necessary element of free will.
There are those who believe we are no more than puppets upon the world’s stage, our every movement controlled by the sovereign God pulling our strings. If such were the case, suffering would indeed be a cruel element of the drama because it is forced upon us by God.
Because we really do have free will—to be exercised within the limits our sovereign God has set—our ability to choose between good and evil is real. God’s will is always good, but it is not forced upon us. It is right (or righteous) when we choose his will. It is evil (or sin) whenever we choose what is not His will. Sin will always result in suffering—to ourselves, to others, and to all creation.
Suffering does not exist because a good God causes it. Suffering exists because a good God allows mankind the freedom to choose the sin which causes suffering. And because He is good, God uses the suffering we choose for ourselves to achieve good anyway.
Here are some ways God uses suffering for good:
"The world owes you nothing; it was here first."
~ Mark Twain
• Suffering causes us to evaluate and determine what is most important in our lives.
• When suffering exists, and yet love, sacrifice, and compassion endure, these attributes of good and of God are shown to be more powerful than suffering.
• Common suffering draws people more tightly together in unity than does prosperity and ease.
• Suffering draws us to depend upon God, humble ourselves, and make peace with Him.
• Suffering proves what kind of person we are, which in turn brings us to discover our strengths and weaknesses.
• Suffering is not God’s judgment—yet. But suffering is a component of God’s discipline, to warn us to repent of sin before judgment is faced.
• Suffering compels us to rise to our potential to overcome it, and makes us strong to better contend with life’s challenges.
My plan is to discuss these last three points at more length on my blog "Building His Body" next week as follows:
Monday: The Test of Suffering
Wednesday: The Discipline of Suffering
Friday: The Overcoming of Suffering
I know, O LORD, that your rules are righteous,
and that in faithfulness you have afflicted me.
Psalms 119:75 (ESV)
© 2010 Anne Lang Bundy
Fire in Haiti street: komonews.com
Aid to boy in Haiti: guardian.co.uk
Katrina flood: faves.com
Katrina: Body Count swamppolitics.com