SUFFERING AND EVIL
Life issues that challenge the possibility of God's existence,
and an evaluation of his actual role within them.
Firstly, I consider that the greatest error of
all is to
theorise that God himself creates suffering and evil, i.e. that they
are the ‘will
of God’. It just does
not make sense with what we are told of God’s
loving nature in the Bible. (The "Will of
God" is explained in the article of that
Even so, if there
is a God who is supposed
to be good, why is there so much suffering and evil in the world?
Without doubt, it is a difficult, difficult
this one. Many thoughts arise when assessing it. Is there any way God
could have designed things differently? Importantly, could the
world and we human beings be designed in ways that would minimise
suffering and evil?
Ultimately, this issue of suffering and evil does lead us to question God’s
role, and also what should be our response, in relation to
MY WISH LIST
A mere mortal like me can only
surmise what I would have done, if I had the responsibility for
way the world should be. Like anyone else I have the right to use my
Could I have left suffering and evil completely
If not, could I design a world where
no child would
suffer physical pain or, better still, everybody would live perfectly healthy
and joyous lives
at least one hundred years of age? The random effects of disease and genetic
disorders would be redundant.
And could I
horrendous accidents from happening? Could an invisible barrier be
between all people and objects of potential injury or death, no matter
they or others took
with their bodies?
What about stopping
natural disasters from harming humans?
I leave them –
earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, hurricanes, tornadoes, cyclones and even
tsunamis – out
of the grand design? There
would be no storms and the sea could look like a
millpond all the time ... yes!
Is there any way I could program
that nobody would be cruel to others ... short of turning everyone
biomechanical robots that have no freedom of choice at all?
everything else failed, and
we asked through ‘faith’,
God unleash miracles on all those who are suffering?
My wish list seems to cover
‘most of the angles’ doesn’t it?
But, if I did
a world where accidents, ill health and adverse environmental
absent, how could I expect it to look natural? Laws
of cause and effect must
in this world to make it appear real to us. We
would all concede that ‘reality’
must look real, by virtue of its title. If God continually muddled in
the space/ time continuum, to alter the outcome of all potentially
then we would have noticeable flow-on effects in our daily lives.
Resulting warps in the ‘continuum’ could
for example cause: moving objects to stop in their tracks;
landscape changes; people to recover overnight from serious illness or
any medical intervention. It would not matter what we ate or
drank or inhaled or
injected because our bodies would recover from all forms of abuse.
as we know it, would be so
different that we would have to acknowledge a considerable ‘force’ existing beneath reality. In fact, God’s existence
would become blatantly clear to us all. As explained in the article, “Why is God invisible?” that does not sit well with his actual needs.
above all else within my plan for humankind’s
nature would have to
be seen as running its own
course rather than the case as described above. If this is true,
then its unfortunate impact on our
health and the environment in which we live will
As a twenty first century human being, I also
many natural disasters are by-products of the underlying conditions
planet to support complex life forms, such as ourselves. To take them
give us less than the ideal planet that we require. An expansion of
this line of reasoning is included in the article, “Science and religion” (under the
sub-section, “Our Lucky Planet”).
As an example, the Earth’s molten
centre, and plate tectonics (moving continents), are
elements in the
amalgam of dynamic conditions required by our living planet.
Unfortunately, unavoidable side effects of these elements are
earthquakes and tsunamis.
From the human perspective too, our free will
more than likely continue to harm themselves and other people, no
matter what! Human
greed, hatred, uncontrolled anger and intolerance are major
contributors to evil. In
words, if we are to have free will, then we must all suffer the
consequences. Otherwise, as I have already written above, we would only
be programmed robots – not a good alternative at all. The
bottom line is there is not a lot that can be altered there by God
And what of miracles that might alleviate our
They still happen, don’t they? If we have faith, then surely ... ?
attest to the occurrence
of miracles – that
is the occasional overriding of the laws of cause
and effect by God, at our request – they will always be rare in the ‘scheme
of things’. Miracles are usually special ‘one
used by God to build up his Church and individuals within it. Sadly, we must remember that if
life was to be a
of roses’ for
all of us we would never become the mature spiritual beings intended by
God; beings who are to spend eternity with him after leaving our
physical existences behind us. (Present day miracles
are discussed in the article, “Gifts of the Spirit”.)
GOD'S ROLE IN SUFFERING AND EVIL
So, what of human suffering?
(as a cancer survivor) and emotional pain (loss of a son) in my life to
understand the concepts of this article. I recognise through my own
experiences that suffering and life are intertwined with each
other. I do not blame God for that pain in my life. As I have
already implied, it appears
and effect’, and
chance, are essential in the equation of existence – to make it all
real. Science can often
tell us how these things
However the actual
“why” seems to be beyond the
best of us
human beings a lot of the time. One
book of the Christian Bible, “Ecclesiastes”, points out the
of life: the
misery and obvious injustices that so many people suffer. It also
points out the
senselessness of us trying to understand why. The first chapter
futility within life.
says the Teacher.
Everything is meaningless.”
God is offered by the Book’s author as the one true
constant in our lives that we can rely on.
Again, in the ‘scheme
of things’, it is necessary to
look at God’s
role in our pain and suffering (physical and emotional). He is not there to continually
interfere with the ‘rolling dice’ of chance, that is
evident as nature runs its course, i.e. so that we can
for what it is, and lead lives based on rational decisions. Indeed, God’s
primary role is one of support and
comfort; helping us to ‘grow’ to successfully face
adversity – and indirectly
to encourage us to strengthen our relationship with him as the
“the one true
constant” mentioned above.
In fact, God is closer to us in our suffering
might first think. We must not take the Biblical statement [Acts 17:28] lightly
in him we live and move and
have our being.” How can God not know
suffer? Additionally, God is inextricably linked to
our suffering in an extraordinary way, i.e. at the very causation of
our own being’s existence (see the article “So,
what is God”).
He therefore knows of
our pain from
whatever source, physical
or emotional. Most importantly too, in
God experienced extreme physical and emotional pain as a human being for
himself. Of course I am referring to Jesus’ torture and eventual death by crucifixion. Yes, God knows exactly what we are going through.
God is literally there to enfold us with his
loving support and
deliberately open ourselves to him. God is always ready and
waiting! Please also read the article, “God during hard times” for an explanation of how he is actually ready to assist us when we are in that position.
relation to evil, in my view at least, it is wrong to blame God for its
creation. Rather, evil is born in the minds of humankind. It is
fanned by the ‘dark power’ that opposes God’s goodness. (A subject that
has great authenticity in my
mind, but is outside the scope of this website.)
OUR RESPONSE TO SUFFERING AND EVIL
Bible encourages us to make the most of our
lives: that is accept misfortune when it occurs,
but also ensure that we fully appreciate joy
comes our way. It is also
find that ideal balance
– ensuring that
along with being faithful to God and contributing positively towards our families and the greater human community on Earth, we also find
time for joy; appreciating the so-called simple things of life.
It is not wise to work, work, work for example, to later find when life
turns a ‘hard corner’ that we have not enjoyed our opportunities. (Note
however, that I am not suggesting an empty life of party, party, party
But when suffering does actually occur in our
lives, Christianity offers us the concept of “Hope” (Romans
Through hope we can approach suffering differently. As I have already advised, God will be there during hard times! Hope for Christians
is itself perfectly exemplified in the knowledge
that although God in the person
of Jesus died after suffering on the cross, he was
resurrected after that death. (Christians believe that they will
eventually have life with God after death, through God’s power of love, as in Jesus’
Christian hope is effectively enabled by God’s
transforming power of love. Christian hope is not a ‘wishy
something. It is about opening one’s
situation to God in full
trust. Love, support, guidance, personal inner strength are
available. Actually, hope can
be applied by us to any serious issue in everyday life. As
far as this article is concerned, hope
fuels the present and resists the despair that often arises with
most importantly, has the ability to give us
rest, even if nothing more is available today! Hope can in
fact ease the weight of whatever faces us right now, tomorrow
whilst I have had some experience of
pain and suffering, I certainly know that others have a far harder road
to travel than me. Unlike
others, I have not endured years of quadriplegia or suffered from a
disease or injury that causes ongoing excruciating pain,
or serious brain dysfunction, and can only begin to understand what despair these events and
afflictions can cause. Really sad stuff happens to some people.
can add with regards to these circumstances is that I
have come across Christians who seem to ‘weather’
terrible life situations well. The usefulness of Christian hope, when suffering,
was brought home to me by a woman very special to my
and me. She suffers from advanced Motor Neuron
Disease and successfully
utilises Christian ‘hope’ to
face each new day of that suffering; to get through it with still some
quality of life. The woman’s
husband is incidentally
also a guiding light to me, such is the unending
loving care and support that he devotes to her. I can absolutely assure
you that this woman, further along the road of life than my wife and
me, does not apportion any blame for her life situation upon God!
Remember also that our
present physical lives are minuscule in length when compared
with Heaven’s eternity, which is
Biblical promise to the faithful (at a minimum) at life’s end. That is the ultimate reward for our Christian
finally what should our response to evil be? Christians are called to
in peaceful protest to resist the evil that is directed by our fellow
human beings towards those vulnerable in society, both in our own countries
and throughout the world.
As I have already alluded, I do
know that God’s presence can become both more needed, and
obvious, during times of suffering than when ‘the
good times roll’
as it were. From my own experience, these hard times will draw us
believers closer to the Lord and encourage us to mature
something positive can occur out of suffering.
Despite all the facts though, I must
be honest here and say that I do still find the question
“why?”, in regard to
human suffering, hard to
also admit that the
suffering of others can strain my relationship with God
at times ... And I do complain to him. But it never throws my faith
doubt. I have experienced too much of his
presence in my life, and witnessed it in the lives of others, for that
happen. (Even then, I
know that doubt is not
always a bad thing anyway.) I know too that I will never come
close to having God’s level
of wisdom, when it comes to human suffering.
must remember that hope sits at the core of our ability to endure the
suffering that comes our way in life. Hope transforms! It can
be applied through prayer and human involvement to combat evil in this
wish to know more about ‘what’ God actually is,
then access the article, “So, what is God?”. The final section of
the website explains
Christianity and presents an understanding of ‘who’
God is. Christianity offers a whole-of-life philosophy that certainly deals
effectively with suffering and evil. Finally, if you would like guidance on how to know whether God actually
exists, then access the article, “How to Believe in God”.