How can God allow such pain in the world?
The problem of pain is a wide and mysterious topic that we don’t have all of the answers to. It’s hard to understand from our perspective how God can be both infinitely powerful and loving, yet allow the suffering we see... but we do know that things look very different from his infinite viewpoint.
God does not want us to suffer, and he is not distant or passive in our suffering. He left his throne in heaven to come to earth and suffer with us and for us. He walked the earth, sharing our tears and weeping in our pain (look in the Bible at John 11:32–35, Luke 19:41–44). He reduced himself to the level of his creation and endured the worst of human oppression in order to set all people free – including the ones who hated and rejected him (which is all of us). He took on himself our physical and emotional pain so that he could destroy its power (Isaiah 53:4–6). He sends his Holy Spirit, called the Comforter, to live inside us (John 14:26).
God is not far away. He is very, very near. And he cares.
Why is there suffering?
We have been given real freedom to choose in our lives. We are free to choose God and his ways that lead to life, wholeness, wonder and joy. Or we can refuse God’s generosity and choose our own ways that will end in hurting ourselves and others. God doesn’t force us to obey him: he wants us to choose to love him. Pain is possible because God refuses to keep his children in moral straightjackets – he wants us to be free. Suffering is a result of humanity's misuse of the dangerous freedom we've been given.
At its simplest, sin (the turning away from God and his good ways) causes suffering. It’s a cause and effect that we can see in our lives. But we aren’t the only players in this game: we live with the choices of seven billion living humans and more than five thousand years of human choice. We carry the consequences of many before us who have chosen their own way instead of God’s, starting with the first humans. This doesn't mean that people who suffer more have sinned more – we all pay the price for a world separated from God's perfect design.
Suffering and death are not part of God’s design. This world has been corrupted; it was not created this way. We’ve inherited a broken world through the sin of Adam and Eve. Death entered the world through their sin, a curse that every human has been born into. People became alienated from God, out of kilter with each other and at odds with creation. We’ve excluded ourselves from the abundant life God made us for.
Is there hope beyond suffering?
The good news is that death and suffering are not part of God’s future. Jesus came and died to release us from the power of sin, in both our lives on earth as well as a future completely removed from sin and suffering.
Everybody who accepts God’s outrageously generous offer can have abundant eternal life with him. Suffering and corruption will be banished from God’s kingdom. Sin will have no home in God’s restored world, and neither will anybody who chooses to cling to sin, because God won’t compromise the beautiful future he has for us. God’s kingdom will not be replanted with the seeds of suffering.
So we are left with a choice, like we always have been: we can choose God, and trust him through the suffering in this broken world to bring us into a future more glorious than we can imagine. Or we can choose our own ways, and live with the consequences in this world and beyond.
The God who was broken for you longs for you to choose his life. What will you choose?
Some of the ideas in this section come from the episode ‘Suffering’ in the Towards Belief series by Olive Tree Media. To watch the related video, go to: https://ssl.olivetreemedia.com.au/products/towards-belief-episode-1-suffering/