God Allows Suffering
by Maggie Geene
used with permission
When everything in our lives is going normally, it is easy to believe in a God that loves us and wants only the best for us. When things go wrong, though, we begin to struggle. Why would a God that loves us and wants the best for us allow bad things to happen in our lives.
This is one of the hardest concepts for people to understand. Many saints struggled with pain and suffering in their lives. Many theologians have tried to find the answers. Though we may never really know why God allows suffering, we may be able to understand where suffering fits into our relationship with a God who loves us completely.
In the book of Genesis we find that God created Adam and Eve, and gave them everything they could ever want or need so long as they followed His will for their lives and stayed away from the tree of knowledge of Good and Evil. We also know that Satan tricked them into eating of the fruit of this tree. Satan made them believe that their will was better for their lives than God's will would have been. Out of their own free will, they disobeyed God and were cast out of the garden to fend for themselves. Did God cause their suffering? No. Did God allow them to choose of their own free will to bring the suffering upon themselves? Yes.
In our lives then, some of the suffering which we face is because of our free will choices. If we put ourselves in situations in which we might get hurt, or cause harm to others, it wouldn't be right of us to say that God caused this suffering. We freely chose to place ourselves in harm's way. We must take responsibility for our own actions that cause the pain and suffering.
Sometimes the free will choices of others cause us pain and suffering through no fault of our own. If we are in an accident caused by a drunken or reckless driver, if we are injured by someone who is committing a crime, if someone attacks us without provocation, then even though we are blameless we bear the consequences of the gift of free will that God gives to all people. Should God restrict the free will of others in order to protect us? It is the nature of free will, that it has to be totally free for everyone or it is not free for anyone.
Often the free will choices of others can have great impact upon our lives. The greed and arrogance of some political leaders has caused war, massive famine, and much pain and suffering to the people not only of their country, but of wider regions of the world.
People who drive a car with impaired judgement due to alcohol or drug use, or lack of sleep endanger not only their own lives but the lives of everyone else they encounter along their way.
We cannot control the free will of others, but we can help to alleviate some of the pain and suffering that their choices cause. We can learn from the disastrous choices of others how not to make those same choices ourselves. We can also bring aid to those who are the innocent victims of the wrong choices of others.
If we learn to be a responsible, defensive driver, then we will be much safer when we are on the road. If we know what things can harm our health, then we can choose to live a healthier lifestyle. If we see the effect on other people's grades of their lazy attitude toward their school work, then we can make it a priority to get our work done on time.
Because God loves us and wants the best for us, we can know that even in our most troubling and pain filled times He will never leave us forsaken. We simply have to call out to him for help and he will come to our aide. Though throughout history there are many stories of miraculous events and healings that can be attributed to God, His plan for our lives may not include being healed or having our troubles removed.
We can take the difficult times and situations in our own lives, and with God's assistance and love we can learn great lessons from them. When we don't make a sports team, or don't get the kind of playing time that we would like, then we can work harder to develop our skills, and keep trying to prove that we deserve a spot on the team. When some accident or injury causes us to be handicapped we can learn to live our lives as fully as we are able. We can grow stronger through the difficult times in our lives
We can be an example to others in how we handle the difficult situations we encounter. If we continue on in faith that God loves us, and will strengthen us even in our suffering, others will see our faithfulness. We can rely upon the promise that Paul tells us in his letter to the Romans, that all things work for good for those who love the Lord and are called according to His purpose. (Rom. 8:28) We can find the grace in every situation. In our weakness we can grow strong with God's love..
The image at the top of this article is by Luca Signorelli. Entitled 'Calvary' it is in the collection of the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, USA