Someone wrote a comment at one of my Christian blogs recently questioning God's love for man to permit suffering in the world.
The following are some thoughts and questions from the enquirer:
If God loves all His creation, as the Bible says He does, then He will help people even if they don't love Him, right?
If He loves us, then He will want the best for us, and will help us without having to receive the reward of being loved in return.
If He only helps people who go to Him, then he doesn't love atheists or agnostics, even though He created them, that is, if He is supposedly to love all the things He created, and knew all along they would be atheists or agnostics.
Why do perfectly nice religious people suffer from violence and hunger each day?
If God loves all his children, then why does he continue to let these bad things happen? Why does He allow suffering to continue when He has the power to stop it?
Why comfort us in our suffering instead of stopping it from happening? That way the atheists and agnostics who reject His love could feel His love, too.
Is your version of God about One that is not all-powerful to stop suffering, or just doesn't want to?
If God is the Creator of each and every one of us, why can't He make us into the people He wants us to be, instead of gradually changing us (molding us) into different people?
If God is all-powerful, surely He can make us into the people he wants to be without making us suffer, right?
If He loves us, He must not want us to suffer, right?
If God's plan is to bring people closer to Him by using suffering, the plan fails on a number of levels, because many people, when confronted with suffering, lose faith in God or abandon him altogether.
If the whole point is to make us closer to God, why not just keep us up in heaven to begin with? Why risk losing his precious, beloved children to the devil?
Why is it that what humans want for themselves is wrong? Surely God put our instincts into our design for a reason, right?
This article aims to provide beyond reasonable doubt what are all the implications and questions mentioned above are about, in the hope that readers and enquirers who have similar thoughts and questions will discover for themselves the truth about God's plan for our salvation and about the reasons why we must make our own decisions on our perspective of God and our free will.
Before we can understanding the reasons for the sufferings in the world, the first thing all of us must know is that God loves all His creation so much that He died on the Cross for us even while we were yet sinners (Romans 5:8), and that He does not need our praise to feel appreciated or rewarded (Luke 19:40). As man, it is us who needs God to fill the emptiness in our hearts. Unless our relationship with God is bridged, we can never be truly happy or satisfied. Man is given the free will to decide his or her own destiny to live life abundantly or to die in eternity (John 10:10; 3:16-21).
Why would a good God allow suffering? Four thousand years ago, a victim of personal, family, and financial reversals spoke to the silent heavens and pleaded, "Show me why You contend with me. Does it seem good to You that You should oppress, that You should despise the work of Your hands?" (Job 10:2, 3, 8). The questions are still being asked today. Does God hate me? Is this why He is allowing me to suffer like this? Why me and not others?
One of the many good articles providing biblical perspectives for reasons of the many painful experiences in life can be found at the web site of RBC Ministries on the topic of Why Would A Good God Allow Suffering?
We are all not alone in our sufferings, for Christ Himself suffered.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ. (2 Corinthians 1:3-5 NAS)
Therefore, since Christ has suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same purpose, because he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for the lusts of men, but for the will of God. (1 Peter 4:1-2 NAS)
but if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name. (1 Peter 4:16 NAS)
Suffering takes place since the fall of man, and the fall of man is the reason why man is sinful by nature. Without suffering, therefore, man will live lives as they deem fit. Our God is a holy God and His plan for man is to bring all of us back to a level of relationship in which we can be holy too (1 Peter 1:15-16). Suffering is one of the many ways in which man can be molded and be brought to the realization of a God who cares.
Molding, however, takes time, and to build a man to possess the desired qualities requires going through a process of learning to appreciate. No one with the free will to make decisions will change without resistance, especially with corrupted 'instincts' inherited after the fall of man. Our 'instincts' or sense of right and wrong therefore depend on our relationship with God. When we live in Christ and Christ lives in us, then through our sensitivity to the Holy Spirit, we shall know what is right. Man's instincts since the fall have been jeopardized, and without guidance by the Holy Spirit, we can be misled. We should therefore go back to the basics by returning to God and living in Him.
The question as to why God cannot make us into the beings He wants us to be without going through suffering questions the freedom of will. If God make us to do what He wants, then we are not free. While suffering may lead some to fail, suffering can also lead us to thrive. It's a matter of choice, and even if we fail a couple of times and return to God, we become stronger and we can then understand others better. Read Romans 3:3-12; 6:1-23 and 2 Corinthians 1:3-5 for details.
As to why God risks losing His children to be tested, it is again about free will. God can will stones to sing His praise (Luke 19:40), but it will not be free will. We are not stones. We are man. God created man to be in His own image and it is His intent for us to be creatures of free will, therefore the choice is for us to make.
Unless our hearts be willing, no amount of intellectual or rational discourse will help us understand God's purpose for us in our lives (Romans 8:28). My prayer therefore is for all of you who may come seeking for answers, to come before God with a humble and contrite heart to seek after Him and to understand His will (Psalm 51:17). Seek Him with all your heart and He will be found of you (Jeremiah 29:11-14a).
One thing is sure, if Christ had chosen to walk away from suffering on the Cross, our entire lives, our hope and our faith would have been in vain, and we would all be lost forever.
If the question is about God's love for man, therefore, it must be understood that love is not all about feeling. It is about action and demonstration. God demonstrated His love on the Cross, and man must in his own free will choose to return to Him. The world is not made up of agnostics and atheists alone. There are the 'anti' as well, people who are against the faith. Our Lord Jesus loves and died for all such as these, as well as believers, and we must by our own free will decide our eternity.
Regardless of our faith or belief, suffering will be prevalent so long as we are here on earth until the day comes when we shall see Jesus face to face as true believers in Him. Till then, suffering will not go away, and even then, suffering will either end or become eternity, depending on our decision.
'For I know the plans that I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. I will be found by you,' declares the LORD (Jeremiah 29:11-14a NAS)