When we watch TV and see images of devastation after natural disasters, children emaciated with hunger or people killed in bombings or attacks, even the most faithful may wonder: Why would a loving God allow innocent people to suffer?
God's perspective is not our perspective. He knows that our life is but a blink of an eye in the face of eternity. God would not allow suffering unless it was ultimately for our good.
Here are some reasons I believe pain and suffering exist in the world.
People are free to choose
God gives commandments to his children, rules of conduct that will bring them happiness if they choose to follow them and misery to those who ignore them. God's judgments would be null and void if he were to step in and stop evil people from acting.
Every person can either create sorrow or alleviate it. When evil acts occur, they are often followed by an outpouring of goodness. After the bombings at the Boston marathon, Patton Oswalt said,
“You watch the videos of the carnage and there are people running TOWARDS the destruction to help out. ... This is a giant planet and we're lucky to live on it, but there are prices and penalties incurred for the daily miracle of existence. One of them is, every once in a while, the wiring of a tiny sliver of the species gets snarled and they're pointed toward darkness.
“But the vast majority stands against that darkness and, like white blood cells attacking a virus, they dilute and weaken and eventually wash away the evil doers and, more importantly, the damage they wreak. This is beyond religion or creed or nation. We would not be here if humanity were inherently evil. We'd have eaten ourselves alive long ago.
“So when you spot violence, or bigotry, or intolerance or fear or just garden-variety misogyny, hatred or ignorance, just look it in the eye and think, 'the good outnumber you, and we always will.'"
God sends angels to help you
Angels are out there to help you through the times of suffering in your life. God knows what you need to get through your trials. Friends, family and even strangers can help carry your burdens.
Best-selling author David Farland announced to his fans that his son, Ben, had been in a serious accident. Ben was in a coma, and his medical expenses were expected to be several million dollars. His fans, friends and fellow authors worldwide came to his aid. They held a “book bomb” encouraging people to buy his books to support Ben. They also offered emotional support, prayers and donations.
Suffering helps us develop godly qualities. It makes us more compassionate. It helps us to see how we can reach out to others. It teaches us patience, long-suffering and reliance on God. It tests our faith. Like the refiner's fire spoken of in the Bible, suffering removes the impurities of the soul.
There can be no joy without sorrow
If you never knew unhappiness, would you recognize happiness? Think about times when you have been severely sick. When you recovered, I imagine that you were much more aware of and grateful for your good health. If you have lost a job and worried about providing for your family, then how much sweeter is it when you have obtained financial security? Those who have faced cancer often find a renewed vigor for life because they have faced the possibility of their own mortality.
Lois Lowry's book The Giver shows the consequences of a society that tried to alleviate all pain and suffering. By eliminating choice and individuality, the leaders of the community were able to achieve their goal. There was no pain and suffering, but neither could the people feel joy or love. Indeed, they could not even understand the concept of those words.
God will compensate
God promises an abundance of blessings in this life and the next to those who are faithful. When we have trials in one area of our lives, God often sends blessings in others. You may struggle financially but enjoy peace and love in your home. You might have poor health but have warm and supportive friends. God's blessings are always around us if we look for them.
The ultimate compensation will come not in this life but in the next. God will reward the faithful with unimaginable blessings. Those who seem to “get away with it” in this life will finally reap the consequences of their actions.
Pain and suffering will always exist, but so will the goodness of God and man.