Why do good people suffer? If God is so good, why does God allow the innocent to suffer?

The four of the most frequently made objections to Christianity part 4

by

        Jose de Carvalho

This is another common objection to faith in God. This issue also rocks the faith of Christian believers. How can an all-powerful, all-loving God allow evil to beset the world and His people. ‘Some believers have suffered so much I wonder how they remain Christian or still believe there is a God at all.’

My first contention is that the assumption in the question is faulty.

Good and innocent?

The starting point is to see the problem from God’s vantage point; (1) We are all sinners (Rom 3:23) (2) deserving nothing; therefore should expect nothing; (3) whatever we receive is by the grace of God alone. The ethical problem is to consolidate the three propositions mentioned above.  Accepting it is difficult, never mind accepting it as Christian Doctrine. Nevertheless I will provide the framework to deal with the topical objection that the Post is answering to – due to space constraints I will summarise only. God created the best possible world – a world that is good (Genesis 1:31), providing people with a free will, well able to choose to do good, obey and serve Him; this was His intention – a creation that was well able to live and function in the world He created. The current condition of the world was not intended; it is not His perfect will and the world is now under bondage to a rebellious human race  (Gen. 3:17). This ‘bondage’ with the “whole world groaning and travailing together in pain” (Romans 8:21-22) is universal, affecting all men and women and children everywhere. Thus suffering is a by-product of living among a depraved humanity, in a cursed world that is systematically being destroyed by greed. This is a real difficulty, but atheism is certainly not the answer, and neither is agnosticism.

Men’s free will

At this juncture I need to state that in making us this way, with a free will He allowed for the possibility of evil. The problem is that people choose to do evil, so evil is introduced, not by God, but by His disobedient rebellious creatures both human and angelic. Now, in order for God to change this, He would have to constrain humanity, but this will be incompatible to man’s free will. Evil cannot be destroyed without destroying freedom.  Even God could not create a free man, without at the same time creating a man who was free to rebel. Our anger regarding evil should be directed to rebellion and evil men, not to God.

Justice

At this point you may be contemplating what is the point of choosing to do good?

I concur with the writer of the Wisdom book Ecclesiastes, Solomon the Sage (wise man), could not find much value or justice on this earth.  He eventually contended that whatever we get we should receive it with thanks and joy (vs. 18-20); he also concluded that wisdom and money provide some protection and options (7:11-12,10:19), but since the only certainty is death, we should enjoy life while we can. Then, (9:11-12,11:7-10) the entire mood of the book changes in his summary.  He begins to conclude that since he had failed to find any value or justice in this life over and above enjoying life, value must then be found transcendent to this life, rooted in the justice of God (12: 9-14). The second summary states that although knowledge and wisdom yields value, it brings weariness and passes away (vs. 13).  In contrast reverence and obedience to God will stand on the Day of Judgment (vs. 14), therefore ones priorities should not lie in the things of this life, but in God.

But still, why do we have to wait until the afterlife to get justice for our suffering? Why doesn’t God do something about it here on earth?

Although God’s perfect love and  ‘pre-eminent grace’ for all is unconditional nevertheless there is the special gift of perseverance and comfort to those that have accepted this gift by faith in Jesus Christ and therefore inherited the seal of salvation, namely the Holy Sprit the comforter.

Quo Vadis

Perhaps you are thinking, ‘but what’s the point’ what does God accomplish by allowing us to suffer?

Very simple: He’s trying to tell us something. By allowing people to suffer, God is showing us that something is wrong. If everything were all right, then there would be no suffering or death – as it was in the beginning creation. God is showing us every day that man has been separated from Him, because of rebellion and that man is destined to an eternity of a worse faith, unless he comes to God for help. To those that seek Him in faith, He promises that one day He will set all things right again. In that day, “God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain” (Rev. 21:4)

For the Atheist these deliberations are all in vain ‘after all there is no God’

If any of this is interesting or enriches you, stay connected and travel with me to the next post “Does God exist?” as we migrate in this pilgrimage of life finding ‘what adds meaning to our lives’.

 

2 Responses to “Why do good people suffer? If God is so good, why does God allow the innocent to suffer?”

  • Jose Duarte:

    Hi Tony,

    Interesting post, but one that requires a lenghty reflection and discussion. While I respect your views and agree with some of what you have written, namely your point on Man’s free will, I get the impression that believing and obeying God, is a precondition to be free to do good and be just.

    You may also imply that accepting suffering, is our destiny and not much may be done about it, as it is imposed by God. This may be regarded as pessimim and runs counter to one of the basic human premises, that is to attempt at removing the factors that cause suffering, eg pain, sickness, unjustice etc. and which has been one of the main conditions for the positive human evolution and advancemente in science, social improvements, and many others, to date.

    Granted, there is still a long way to go to achieve a perfect society, but you may concur that there is, in general, a vast difference in the development of human behaviour and expectations throughout the ages. If one continues with your thought process, this in fact, may be regarded as a way for God to bring us closer to him now, rather than having to wait for the day of judgement.

    Please regard my notes as merely my thoughts and nothing more. Looking forward to your next post “Does God exist?”.

    In another note, it would be interesting to know how you would reconcile the views of science and that of the Bible on the topic of evolution of life as well as the role of God in celestial mechanics.

    Keep in touch.

    Tó Duarte

  • Jose:

    Duarte

    Q: “I get the impression that believing and obeying God is a precondition to be free to do good and be just.”
    A: Believing in God is not a prerequisite to be considered good and just. Having said that, we need to define what is just in the eyes of God and accepts that His standards are not our standards. It may well be that His criteria is different from that of humanity.

    Q: You may also imply that accepting suffering is our destiny and not much may be done about it, as it is imposed by God.
    A: Suffering is not imposed by God but a by-product of living without the presence of God – the by-product of man choosing to do evil and greed (destroying the planet).

    Q: In another note, it would be interesting to know how you would reconcile the views of science and that of the Bible on the topic of evolution of life as well as the role of God in celestial mechanics.
    A: Evolution versus creation “People have been killed over this one!” You must obviously realize that as a Christian I firmly believe that God is the Creator of everything; therefore this is what is referred to as a loaded question!! All I can say is that I am neither a traditional fundamentalist, nor so conservative that I ignore the properly interpreted findings of science. I believe that religion ignores the findings of science to their peril. Therefore I consider the evolutionary findings part of the creation process as authored by God.

    Jose

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