People sometimes wonder why God would allow so much suffering in our world.

despair

I often come across the view that God’s will is something that “will be done,” as in the future. We look out into the world and see misery and suffering and it’s clear that this can’t be “God’s will.” And so our way of maintaining a belief in the perfection of God and the imperfection of the world is to say that God will some day sort through it all and will ultimately somehow make everything okay. This idea is meant to help us swallow the bitter pill of the misery of the world because we surmise that at some later time everything will be worked out.

For a time I worked for and traveled the world with an international human rights agency, based out of Washington D.C. (IJM). I posed as a customer in brothels where girls as young as 12 years old are forced to provide sex to customers 4-6 times a day, six days a week. I also visited a slave labor camp, under the guise of being an investor, where boys that same age were chained to poles and worked around the clock rolling cigarettes to meet their quota or be beaten with electrical cords.

The theology that ultimately God’s will and all this horror will work out fine in the afterlife seemed to fall empty in the face of their daily torment. The violent violation of their most basic human rights is not God’s will – not then, not later, not ever. There is no later resolution as a theological rationale for their current reality.

There is only one cause of suffering in this world – our spiritual ignorance and what we rationalize out of it. The only solution is to see things as they truly are, and to begin living life by responding to situations as they require, which includes rescuing children out of brothels and slave camps.

The end of suffering is not something God does for everyone at some later point. This idea is appealing because it lets us off the hook of taking responsibility for our lives and the condition of the world. There is nothing left for God to do. Jesus said the Kingdom of God has already come.

People sometimes wonder why God would allow so much suffering in our world. Maybe instead we should be wondering why we do.

Latest Comments

  1. Albert Listy says:

    I’m always amazed that we ask this question as if God is unaware of what is going on. Those that don’t want to believe in God blame him all the same. Those that do believe some times just don’t know how to answer.

    What I think we fail to realize is that it is reasonable to expect an immaterial eternal God to value immaterial and transcendent realities over the physical and temporal comforts we often seek as humans.

    A good God values character over comfort. A transcendent God understand that ‘love’ is the perfect balance between mercy and justice. An eternal God provides humans with an existence beyond the grave.

    Where we desire for comfort, love, mercy and justice to be satisfied in this life, God says throughout the bible that those things can(and will) be satisfied in eternity. God, therefore, may allow some level of pain and suffering because he knows(and has communicated) the fleeting, short nature of our mortal experience.

    So how can a loving all-powerful God allow pain and suffering? The same way a loving father can allow his infant child to suffer the doctor’s needle. From the child’s perspective, the shot is terribly painful and unwanted, but the father knows that the pain of the injection will result in something beneficial to the infant. The father also knows he is acting in love, even though a painless day(from the child’s perspective) might seem like a more loving approach. The father knows that the pain of the injection is fleeting relative to the life of the child.
    For these reasons, it is reasonable to surmise that a good, loving God might allow pain and suffering in our own lives as well.

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