Why is there so much suffering?
This is the most frequently asked question concerning the existence of God. We are all familiar with pain and suffering and the Bible says in a Job 5:7;
" Man is born to trouble as surely as sparks fly upward. "
At the tomb of Lazarus, the dead man's sister, Martha, says to Jesus in John 11:21,
" Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died " with the unspoken question of " Why didn't you come sooner? "
This question has been echoed down through the ages and there is no single, easy answer.
But there are some guiding principles.
God is good but man rebelled against God.
The Bible says in 1 John 4:8 that God is love and in Genesis 1:31 that He made everything good, including man, so that man would not suffer or die.
But the devil turned away from God’s love and tempted man to do the same resulting in sin, selfishness and suffering entering the world.
The account of this in Genesis 3:1-19 shows that guilt v10, pain v17 and trouble v18 result from this separation from God. God did not plan or want it to be this way. It is the result of man's free choice.
Creation and man are fallen.
The second law of thermodynamics, which governs all physical and chemical reactions in the universe, states that everything tends towards increased entropy which is disorder or decay. This is an empirical law formulated solely by observation without any known explanation as to why it should be so. It just is.
The Bible refers to this when it talks about the fallen state of creation " being in bondage to decay " in Romans :21, which God will one day change through Jesus’ salvation in a new universe.
The very laws of nature that cause earthquakes, floods, droughts, disease and death are there as a result of the fall of man, not God's original design.
Man himself is fallen and has an evil nature causing more than ninety five per cent of human suffering through greed, selfishness, lust, pride and hatred which lead to spoilt family, friend and neighbour relationships, world-wide inequality of wealth so that millions suffer poverty and malnutrition and an estimated forty thousand children die every day from preventable diseases, wars between ethnic groups, religious groups and nations, accidents through negligence, loneliness through neglect and selfish misuse of the environment leading to so-called " natural disasters " like global warming and its consequences.
If given to God, suffering can be turned to good.
Romans 5:3-5 says " We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. "
Suffering deepens our character and gives us a chance to express a greater love by doing good when it is difficult for us or when we have nothing to gain from it except suffering, for example it requires greater love to carry on doing good when we feel bad than when we feel good.
11 Corinthians 1:3-4 says " The God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. "
By experiencing suffering, we are able to share with those who suffer as we are able to understand how they feel a share how we have coped with it.
Hebrews 12:10-11 says " God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. "
Suffering and hardship can be a means of disciplining us away from pride and worldly desires by God allowing them to come when we do wrong. It also keeps us humble. Paul had a " thorn in the flesh " to stop him from becoming proud by keeping him aware of his weakness.
God hates human suffering.
In Lamentations 3:33 its says " God does not willingly bring affliction or grief to the children of men. "
Jesus said in Luke 13:34 " O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! Look, your house is left to you desolate. "
And in Luke 19:41-42 it says " As He approached Jerusalem and saw the city, He wept over it and said " If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace, but now it is hidden from your eyes. "
No vengeful or indifferent God here!
In Revelation 21:1-4, the Bible says that God will ultimately end all pain, suffering and death for all those who trust in Him.