Can There Be a Loving God if Suffering Exists?
That is a good question. In his book The Case of Christ Lee Strobel does a great job of addressing the topic of suffering. The following are excerpts from a chapter in the book.
Since Evil and Suffering exist, a loving God cannot exist
If God is all powerful, he can do anything. If God is all good, he wants only good. If God is all wise, he knows what is good. So if all these are true – and Christians believe they are – then it would seem that the consequence is that no evil can exist. But evil does exist!
God is all powerful
- God chose to create people with free will
- God did not create evil – he created the possibility of evil
- The source of evil is not God’s power but mankind’s freedom
- Even an all powerful God could not create a world where people had genuine freedom and yet there was no potentiality for sin.
- You can’t have a world where there’s real choice while at the same time no possibility of choosing evil
- But – if God didn’t create human freedom – – -there would be no humans!
- If God didn’t create freedom of will – it would be a place without sin and a place without suffering – but it would also be a place without love, which is the highest value in the universe.
- Real love – our love of God and of others – involves real choice……but with the granting of that choice comes the possibility that people would instead choose to hate….
- Before the Jews introduced the world to 1 God there was paganism, which says if there’s evil in the world, then there must be many gods, each of them less than all powerful, some of them good, some of them evil….
- After God created the world – He said it is good – – – without sin and evil…. God did his part perfectly – – we messed it up!
God is all knowing
- If God knows all, then a loving God could deliberately tolerate horrible things, like starvation, because he foresees that in the long run, that more people will be better and happier than if he miraculously intervened.
- He has demonstrated how the very worst thing that has ever happened in the history of the world ended up resulting in the very best thing that has ever happened in the history of the world – – the death of God himself on the cross….
- At that time, no one saw how anything good could ever result from this tragedy and God foresaw the result would be the opening of heaven to human beings.
- So, the worst tragedy in history has bought about the most glorious event in history.
- and if the ultimate evil could result in the ultimate good – – it can happen elsewhere, even in our own individual lives.
- Here, God lifts the curtain and lets us see it — elsewhere, he simply says, “trust me”.
- Suppose you’re the devil – the enemy of God – and you want to kill him – but you can’t…..However, God has this ridiculous weakness of creating and loving humans, whom you can get at…..You’ve got hostages ! So – you simply come down into the world, corrupt humankind, and drag some of them to hell. When God sends prophets to enlighten them, you kill the prophets also………Then God does the most foolish thing of all – – he sends his own son and plays by the rules of the world. – – – and you say “A-ha I got him!”
- So – when we bleed and suffer, perhaps the same thing is happening ! Maybe this is God’s way of defeating the devil.
- Just as the disciples couldn’t see anything good from the cross at the time – – – we cannot see good emerging from struggles, trials and suffering in our own lives….
- we can see how good came from the suffering and death of Jesus – and we can trust that it will happen in our case too.
- The greatest Christians in history seem to say that their sufferings ended up bringing them the closest to God – – and this is the best thing that could happen, not the worst.
God is all good
- Dentists, athletic trainers, teachers, parents – they all know that sometimes to be good – – you cannot be kind…. Certainly there are times when God allows suffering and deprives us of the lesser good of pleasure in order to help us toward the greater good of moral and spiritual education.
- Moral character gets formed through hardship, through overcoming obstacles, through enduring despite difficulties.
- For example, courage would be impossible in a world without pain.
- The universe is a soul making machine, and part of that process is learning, maturing, and growing through difficult and challenging and painful experiences. The point of our lives in this world isn’t comfort, but training and preparation for eternity.
- Every time you use force to take away evil, you take away freedom……
- To prevent all evil, you must remove all freedom and reduce people to puppets, which means they would then lack the ability to freely choose love.
- If you did this – – you would lose the kind of world a Father would want…..
The megaphone of pain
- Evil people aren’t getting away with anything – – justice delayed is not justice denied.
- There will be a day when God will settle accounts and people will be held responsible for the evil they’ve perpetrated and the suffering they’ve caused.
- God is delaying the consummation of history out of his great love for them.
- Perhaps one can reason the purpose of suffering, but why the necessity of the excess, which seems so cruel?
- Because we’re not God we can’t say how much suffering is needed. Maybe every single element of pain in the universe is necessary. How can we know??
- We are made in God’s image – – but we are not morally good. Our good deeds are stained with self-interest and our demands for justice are mixed with lust for vengeance.
Bearing the pain
- Strobel believes all suffering contains at least the opportunity for good…. but not everyone actualizes that potential……Not all of us learn and benefit from suffering – thats where free will comes in…we choose how to respond!!
- Just about every human being can reflect on his past and say they’ve learned from that hardship.
The Evidence for Jesus for Skeptics