Suffering: Does God Care?1
Question: "If your God is real why doesn’t He cure everyone from terrible, terminal illnesses? Even if He is real, He sounds pretty evil to me, allowing children to die slow painful deaths when He could just make them better. So tell me why He would allow children, babies even, to die in pain? What about the ones who spend days, months, years in agony before they die? Why would a God who loves everyone allow that to happen?"
Thank you for the question. Man has been trying to reconcile how a holy all powerful God could allow suffering on the innocent, the righteous - or good - people. To answer the question we must begin at the beginning. When God created the world and everything in it in six days he pronounced it “very good:” Gen. 1:31: "And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day." Moses would later say that God’s work was perfect (Deut. 32:4).
Please note, God’s creation was perfect, no suffering or death. But something happened, not on God’s part, but on man’s. He sinned and violated God’s instruction not to eat of the forbidden tree (Gen. 2:17), and with the sin came all sorts of painful reminders of our fallen state. Because man has a fallen nature we dismiss the horror of sin, but God cannot. Adam tried to hide himself from the sight of God and to cover his nakedness of which he was now ashamed with fig leaves (Gen 3:7-10), but God showed him the horror of his sin by slaying animals and clothing them with their skins. Death, the shedding of blood from beautiful perfect animals was a reality and a shock to Adam who had never witnessed death or the shedding of blood. Why? The writer of Hebrews tells us: Heb. 9:22 "…without shedding of blood is no remission (or forgiveness) of sin." Sin separates us from God, and God required the blood of his Son Jesus to pay for our sins so we could one day live with him in another perfect place forever.
Adam was expelled from the Garden (Gen. 3:20-24), the perfect place God had created for him, and began to have children to which was passed his Adamic (fallen) nature and its consequences (Romans 5:12). With Adam's sin came suffering and death (Romans 8:22). Because of our fallen nature, we sin (Romans 3:23, 3:10). However, some will say, as your question states, "there are innocent children who suffer." But can we say that there is anyone who is untouched by sin? Consider Psalm 58:3.
Man’s great problem is not the suffering we face in this life, although we don’t like it. For believers, it serves the purpose of helping us to grow. It can be preventative (2 Cor. 12:7-10), keep us from becoming unusable through pride, or can be used as a discipline in our life to get us back on track (Heb. 12:5b-11). I can personally testify that each of these things has been true in my own life.
For the unsaved it can be used to draw them to faith. Many in Scripture and in life have come to Jesus having been motivated by some type of problem, even suffering.
We must remember there are two kinds of suffering. One is temporary: anything that takes place in this life that we call suffering is temporary. But there is an eternal suffering as well. God wants to help us through the suffering today (1 Peter 5:7), but far more importantly, it’s the eternal suffering that He wants most for us to avoid (Rev. 20:15). The only way we can avoid eternal anguish is to trust in Jesus as our Savior and receive eternal life. Living this life in eternity will not include any suffering at all, and the troubles of this life on the grand scale will be as nothing.
God created a perfect place, man broke it, and in his brokenness he then blames God for creating it. The most remarkable thing to me is not that he doesn’t fix all my problems along the way, but that he sent his Son to fix my eternity.
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