View Full Version : Why Does God Allow Suffering?

05-02-2010, 12:23 AM
I haven't been logged into Facebook much in the last couple of weeks, which is why I didn't get to read your post in the thread on "To Realize Happiness" until this morning. It opened a floodgate of questions to me that I hope you might be able to shed some light on.

What has gone wrong when a man has forsaken all (literally) and found his soul at the cost of his family, friends, and health but is still left in this world as a cracked and broken 'mirror'? A man to whom no one 'reaches out'. What purpose can a man such as this have in this world? Why would God choose to leave him trapped here, ignoring the many prayers to take him home into His loving arms?

You said "For what benefit will it be to you if you gain the whole world but never find your own soul? This is not a difficult teaching...". While it may not be a difficult teaching, it can be a difficult lesson for the student. Any clarification you have to offer would be greatly appreciated.

05-02-2010, 12:27 AM
Thanks Tom, seriously great to hear from you!

Your thoughts would require a lengthy discourse to properly address all the possible dynamics, but again, much cannot be answered because no one can possibly know. As you know, volumes have been written on the subject of “Why Does God Allow Suffering”. I recently added Bart Erhman’s new book “God’s Problem” to his website, which is a NYT best seller. It is an agnostics view on why God allows suffering.

I will speak from the cuff, and not try to validate all my points for lack of time and depth of subject. So please forgive me if my comments are somewhat vague.

God would not have us forsake family, friends, and health for His sake… that is in effect the path of the guru, whose intent is to deny one’s own life and health to attain Nirvana. This is man’s foolishness perfected, not God’s wisdom. Rather, when it is taught that we should forsake all for the betterment of the spirit, in spiritual terms, it is referring to placing God and the spiritual life so high on the sliding scale, our relationships are measured as if hate in comparison to our love for others and God. What causes spiritual babes to stumble on spiritual matters, they perceive literally, not spiritually. We would be poor stewards in life if we turned our backs on our family as Siddhartha Gautama (later called Buddha) did in his quest. He saw his new born son, and decided not to touch him as to strike a bond, but instead snuck off into the night on his steed, leaving his new child, wife and family behind in the quest for spiritual oneness. He experienced a transient manifestation called Nirvana in time, but in his aesthetic venture, he neglected all relationships for selfish intent. This is not of God. Finding self at the expense of others is the apex paradox of failing in truth.

The point of suffering, why would God not answer prayer and allow us to suffer in our situations? I remind people constantly, God has already made provisions for each person before they were born, since the foundations of time. The sun, the water, the air, the plant life, fellowship… the sum composite of all creation is one vast storehouse of provisions for the physical trek. Often when people are praying and waiting, they should be instead acting. Although, we cannot discount that timing plays in important role when acting. The provisions are already provided, we need to instead rid ourselves of the passive childlike mentality, that I must sit here until God moves. If we lack, do without or find ourselves at a loss for fellowship, we must never blame God as the one who cannot hear, He has provided already. The problem always rests upon ourselves and our potentially misguided learning.

The laws of the universe are self evident and are not in preference to anything within it. The ordering of the cosmos is a state of chaos or amorphousness, random selection without preference. We are self aware in our fight or flight condition, and are profoundly aware of lack and needs. One man is born into riches, while another into poverty. One is born without sight, while another is born as a prodigy. One child is reared in health and plenty, while another dies from starvation in Ethiopia. As the book of Ecclesiastes says (12:6), we are connected by little other than a delicate silver string, from this life to the ever after. Our life here is precious and precarious at the same time. We are subject to the laws of entropy, where mass is always depreciating, from complex to simple. Decay and death is the rule of our universe--immutable. The only part of us that has real value is that which is not subject to depreciation, our souls contained.

Therefore the question resides, why would God allow suffering? It has been the position of different faiths who hold to different variants of the creation account, that this was not always so. That the universe was not subject to the laws of entropy, but that we were in a spiritual/particle existence that did not know sorrow, pain or death. That we are in effect the cause of a breach of the perfect plan. Given access to the switchboard of life, but choosing the wrong selection. One might argue, how is it that God would allow man access to such power, as to make such a dire selection? Because God created us to be like him, to have the ability to chose, even if wrong. Otherwise, we would be mindless robots subject to a programs, which is not at all life. Or a step above, living, but like animals, given only to instinct. To be created in God’s image is not about our form, it is about our essence. We are like Him as to think, rationalize, conceive, plot, deduct… so many things the animal kingdom cannot. What does this have to do with God allowing suffering one might wonder? Well, that is where this conversation could become volumes. I don’t have all the answers, but I do have an assurance of why I am here and why life works they way it does and how God actually exists.

When we are in conflict, our life can retract into a sphere of defeat. We can no longer properly or objectively define our universe when in such a state. We become a victim, trapped, helpless, struggling, without answers… which leads to defeat. Why doesn’t God hear? Why do I have to go through this? Why is this world a mess and why am I in it? This is a view from the collapsed experience. We need help at that point, to crawl out from under our rubble, as to see life in its proper perspective. This is a small part of the reason I stay embedded in missions, with people of extreme want, hardship and loss. It helps keep my vision of life calibrated to reality, whereas it doesn’t take much for a person to slip into a living coma, losing all joy and purpose in life, for lack of direction in it.

Why did some holocaust prisoners stay positive and others give into defeat and die in misery? Why did some POW soldiers choose to never give up, while others in the same quarters, sat in the corner brooding over eminent death? Why are some cancer patients joyful to the end, and other’s get mad at God and reject His immanence? It’s about outlook, perspective, understanding the truth about life and reality. All wars are either lost or won in the mind. In conflict, we either become better or bitter, but rest assured, were are on one path or another. If defeated, depressed, overwhelmed, we are on the path toward bitterness at life, God and humankind. We can remain trapped in that prison until a revelation is given to make us realize our self-sabotaging behavior.

God created everything, we are living in its laws. Some will die normal, others will die horribly, but we all die. What the teacher, Jesus of Nazareth pointed out was, the soul is most important of all because it doesn’t die. The Egyptian culture understood this well, and was obsessed with preparation of the afterlife, only in grave error understanding the spiritual reality of death and eternity. What you do with your life now is the sum total of eternity, and what you choose to do with your life is how you think. Although that is not all that is involved in the process, whereas first we have to receive a renewal of the spirit and mind through a spiritual encounter provided by God’s Spirit. The soul within us is a living entity, being groomed daily for its passage into the everlasting. Rather you have cancer, a horrible marriage, a lonely life… that all pales in comparison to the sum value eternity holds. It becomes then, paramount to adjust our thinking and composure to reality, not to our emotions, and strive to submit to the truths presented through the teachings of Jesus Christ, the son of the living God. For from His words comes life, and in that life… direction, and that direction gives hope and purpose, no matter what our situation. This is not a royal platitude made in religious fanaticism, but can be a personal experience, if one choose to embrace it.

That is all I have time for, and I hope I didn’t chase too many rabbits when developing this brief response :p

05-02-2010, 01:12 AM
Hello! I am commenting only on the word 'agnostic'... :) just because I had read something recently and it has stayed with me. I am slowly reading the book by Charles Colson called The Faith..... and on page 36 & 37 he shares an experience that he had:

Few people actually think through these choices; rather, most are influenced by cultural prejudice, as I discovered a few years back when I attended an exclusive dinner the night before a governor's prayer breakfast.

The gentleman seated next to me greeted me with a blunt warning that he was an atheist. I looked at him for a moment--graying temples, a wise expression, handsomely attired--the very image of a community leader. I told him I was glad to sit next to him because "I've never really met an atheist."

As his eyebrows arched, I explained, "An atheist believes the existence of God can be disproved. So please, tell me how you've done that."

He looked momentarily uncomfortable. "Well, perhaps I should say I'm an agnostic."

"When did you give up studying about God?" I asked.

Now his neck began to redden. He admitted he'd really never tried.

"But an agnostic is one who says he doesn't think God can be known, and you can only be an agnostic if you've tried to know Him and exhausted the search." I'm not sure even now what made me so bold, but I added, "So I would say that while you appear to be a very well-educated person, you've made an unsupportable statement."

Not surprisingly, he was offended and rather quiet for the rest of the evening.

Some weeks later I received a copy of the editorial page of the state's largest newspaper. It turned out my dinner companion was the publisher. His lead editorial was an explanation of how my visit had affected his view of life, how religion was indeed an important element of all of our lives and something we needed to pursue. What struck the publisher was that his own point of view proved unsupportable."


As for the subject of why God allows suffering.... I think what is of utmost importance is continuing to know HIM in the fullness that HE can be known. And Jesus is that example. (don't like to use the word example... cause that doesn't really say what I mean). In seeing and being in union with Christ we too can experience the reality of who God the Father truly is.

I am reading a study book of What The Bible Teaches About Mercy by Rex B Andrews.... and it is humbling my heart as I come to know HIM more in the reality of who HE is. If you are ever interested in the book I can give you a telephone number to call them at Faith Homes. If you go on Amazon they will sell you a book for $45.00 and up to $55.00 plus shipping and handling. I donated $10.00 for each book. plus paid their exact shipping charges to me and I am one happy camper. My heart is in the process of great change.

05-03-2010, 02:21 AM
Thank you for your counsel Steven, it's greatly appreciated, and refreshingly uplifting as well. I have been through 3 marriages, all of which were ended due to a lack of fidelity by my partners. The last of these ended a dozen or so years ago, and I have lived alone since then. At the end of each I found that previously close friends became distant aquaintances, not wanting to get caught in the middle of the disaster that is divorce. As a result, after each, I found myself withdrawing into a period of soul searching, research, philosophising, and learning from the 'teachers' who came in and out of my life at the times that they were needed.

My youngest daughter was the inspiration that kept me going through my final seperation, and cancer diagnosis and treatments. She was about 5 years old when her mother and I seperated, and I spent every weekend with her until she was about 11. She just turned 18 a week ago, and is now considered an adult by law, with all the privileges and independence that go with her new status. It is also the achievement of the goal that kept me going, which is something that has been very much on my mind for the last 6 months.

Now, had this been the only challenge to deal with I'm quite sure I would have found a purpose of some sort to pursue along with the now occasional visits I get with her. What has complicated matters is the now 4 month old test results and physical symptoms which indicate that my cancer is out of remission.

It's one of the less common forms, an incurable and slow growing brain tumor quite likely caused by workplace chemicals that I was exposed to while a technician in the telecom industry. As one of the side effects are partial seizures, I haven't been able to retain my driver's license, preventing any chance for me to continue working in the industry.

As several attempts at working in other fields fell flat, I now live on a small disability pension which gives me far too much time to think and not enough cash to get out and do things to otherwise distract my thoughts. As yet my doctors haven't indicated any particular options for treatment, wanting further tests to indicate which would be the best. As the usual treatment requires another craniotomy and follow-up chemo that could possibly leave me a wheelchair bound 'vegetable' for whatever years it would buy me, it's been a tough problem to deal with.

I have lost two very good friends to more common, aggressive types of cancer. They were both gone in under two years. As it's now almost seven years since my diagnosis and initial treatment I can only assume that there is some as yet unknown purpose for my still being here. Which brings us to the point of this thread, I suppose. As I've been thinking in circles under the "rubble" I've come to realize that I'm approaching what may be my final crossroads with no indication as yet of which direction to proceed in. A hellish kind of 'limbo' as it were, complete with the near daily speculation that I've been judged, found wanting, and have been rejected.

Not a very comfortable thought at all. :P

05-03-2010, 11:56 AM
Great question, Tom! In my path with the Lord, I have come to understand two things about suffering...

First thing, it is really important for us as followers of Christ to get familiar with suffering. We are used to comfort. When comfort is taking from our lives, then we see it as a problem, something we need to change as fast as possible. But then, the Lord didn't say we would have a cozy life, but instead that we were blessed to suffer for Him! And sure, no one wishes for suffering, that would be crazy. But I've found a great blessing to let the Spirit of the Lord help me see it the way God sees it - as a trial to purify our souls or as discipline necessary to grow in His path... Both things very possitive.
We will need prayer and seek the Lord's earnestly to discern where are we, and act accordingly...

Secondly, I always need to remind myself that I have a friend who's the greatest example of how suffering can be conquered - our Lord Jesus Christ suffered, and suffered to death, only out of love and obedience... Oh if I could keep this in mind at all times! Only His love toward me and only my humiliation before His throne can keep me going when I suffer, and when I can't even pray, He knows my thoughts... What God is like our God?

Our Christ conquered suffering with an outstanding victory over death, which also reminds me that my God is more powerful that any difficult situation I am going through. He will always see me through if I choose to leave everything in His loving hands... What an eternal source of joy I have in Him!

I pray you can come to see that there is nothing that our God doesn't know about you... He's just been waiting for a moment to show you His great love and I am sure you are about to find out that truth!

Will be praying for you!

05-03-2010, 04:01 PM
Tom... You seem to be really searching and at a low point in life. Let me give you some hope. You said that you feel as though you are, "weighed in the balance and found wanting." I can't remove that if it is from the Holy Spirit but I can share with you hope beyond the curse.

Wicked and flawed as you may be, God has set a very high price on you. Only the owner of an item can determine it's worth. Only the owner can set the price. You are a creation of the Living God and He has set your price and paid it in full through His Son Jesus Christ. Let me share with you what I mean.

God told Adam that the day he ate from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil "you will surely die". And die He did - both spiritually (immediately) and physically (years later). So the debt owed for eating of the tree was spiritual separation from God and physical separation from the body. This debt is owed by all mankind and we will all pay the price. In essence we are all "found wanting".

But God so loved His creation that He sent His only Son to pay our debt for us. We were never able to pay it as we were "damaged goods". Jesus Christ lived a sinless life and then suffered and died to pay the debt that all mankind owes to the Father. Look at what happened on the cross, Jesus died physically, paying that part of our debt. But what about spiritually? Was Christ separated from the Father to pay the 1st and most vital portion of our debt?

Jesus cried out in a loud voice, "My God, My God! Why have you forsaken me?" It is my opinion that when Christ took all of our sins upon Himself that the Father who is Holy, Holy, Holy and will not abide sin had to turn away from His son. Even in bearing our sin Christ was still within the perfect will of the Father, still gazing at the face of the one Jesus loved and honored above all others, only to see the Father turn away.

You have a daughter that you love dearly. I'm sure that you would even dare to die in her place so that she might have a more abundant life. But could you - while she was dying, and calling out to you, turn away for the benefit of another? I could not. But the Father did - why? Because He loves His creation personally (you) and would do what He could to ensure that you would not have to be forever separated from the Himself. He placed a high value on you, Tom. Jesus also, as He knew what death on a cross would mean. Jesus most certainly paid what you owed the Father on the cross.

The Bible talks about "forsaking all others". This is true but many times taken in an incorrect way. I will "forsake" all others because I will cleave to the One who has redeemed my soul and has paid my price. I am to be His radiant bride when He returns. I am a Son of the living God by adoption through the blood of Jesus Christ. It is all about relationship and the Bible uses some of the most beautiful and emotional images to describe the new relationship those who have accepted His grace, through the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We can rest on him as a weaned child rests against a mothers breast. He will come in and dine with us. He is making a place for us so that we might be with Him where He is. God loves us this much - not because we are worthy, but because He chose to do so. He knows we are sinful yet still offered a way to restore the relationship by faith in God's Word that Jesus is the Christ the Son of the Living God. If we will confess our sins, He is faithful and true to cleanse us of all unrighteousness. Peter's sermon on the day of Pentecost showed that the listeners were, "weighed and found wanting". After Peter spoke they believed that Jesus was the Christ, and knew that they had brought about His death. In fear the cried, "What shall we do?" Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." Again - God promises not only forgiveness but an indwelling of Himself in the form of His Holy Spirit. "Behold what manner of love the Father has given to us that we may be called Sons of God.

Tom, you may feel "wanting" but God has made a way to remove that feeling and restore that relationship with Him. If you would accept His grace and be obedient to His Word you will be raised up to life everlasting - spiritually to be with Him forever and physically too! Romans Chapter 6 makes this connection pretty clear.

One last point. I may forsake all others for the sake of Him who saved me, but He also gives me others that I may also walk with on this earth as I journey towards my real home. My wife, children, and fellow believers are some of these. However, even those that I've "forsaken" are still creations of God and He has told me that I should "gently instruct them in the hope that God will also grant them eternal life" through His son Jesus. I don't forsake them, just the things in their life that will hinder my relationship with my Father. It really is all about the relationship. Tom, I want you to have the assurance that you do not have to be rejected but can be completely accepted by the God who called you into existence through belief and obedience in His son Jesus Christ.

I will pray for you Tom. I don't know what all your needs are, (spiritual, medical, relationship with daughter) but my Father does. I will lift you up to Him.

05-03-2010, 04:16 PM
Thanks for sharing Mr Colson's story Sandy, it's a great example of what I meant by "the 'teachers' who came in and out of my life at the times that they were needed...". Whether it's a brief encounter like the one you posted or someone who comes into our lives for a longer period we should be aware that everyone has some sort of benefit to give or truth to teach, even if it's only as an example of how not to live or what the consequences of a stupid decision (like drinking and driving for example) are.

Steven mentioned in his post "Because God created us to be like him, to have the ability to chose, even if wrong.". An excellent point when it comes to the subject of suffering. In order to make a choice we need two different options. Do I chose 'joy', or 'joy' makes for an easy decision, but the soul learns nothing lasting from the experience. Right and wrong, good and evil, joy and suffering, these choices are empty words without the examples that our world offers and the personal consequences that compose the lessons we learn from our own choices.

Johanna, thank you for your prayers, they are appreciated! I accepted Jesus a little over 30 years ago, praying for strength, wisdom, and the ability to be an instrument in his works. He responded by helping me through the difficulties I faced at the time, and the many I faced through the later years. Like yourself, I did need reminders from time to time, and still do, as my initial message to Steven shows.

In the beginning it didn't take long to realize that Spiritual growth is best served by hard times, as we then question 'why'. Suffering is much easier to bear when we know there is a productive purpose of some sort as a result. When the purpose is not there and cannot be seen then the suffering seems no more than a sadistic vengance. It is at this point that we need to find our next 'teacher' or withdraw into what Steven calls 'the sphere of defeat'.

Daniel, my friend, I have to log out for a while, but will be back to you soon...


05-03-2010, 05:59 PM

Thank you for the response. I must admit I came from the approach that you did not personally know Christ. I see I was in error based on your response to Johanna. That being the case let me go a little deeper in my response to you about why God allows suffering and also about those low points in your life.

It is interesting that you are a father as am I. In many ways we are earthly representations of our Heavenly Father. So why do we allow our children to suffer? I taught my children to ride bikes, rollerblade and play ball. I remember when I ran beside my daughter holding her bike and finally letting her go? Why did I let go - why give her the opportunity to fall and get hurt? It's love that compels us let go. Without that freedom a child could never "be" who they truly are or grow into the person they should become. A relationship based on not "letting go" is pretty anemic at best. I did not desire that she suffer, but there are always consequences for poor choices. She still has scars on her arms from where she fell on rough pavement. I wish I could have caught her. I wish she had listened to my warning and not skated there. But she did not and was truly free to "tempt fate". Fate won, as it usually does and Hannah learned to better trust my judgment. In fact the small "hurts" we allow them to suffer, teach them to trust us to avoid the big hurts that could kill. Not that we desire this, but we must allow it to happen so that when we do actually stop them they understand it is for their own good, not just because we want to kill their joy. This may not help but it is a close as I can come to understanding the whole concept of suffering. I struggle with knowing when to let go and when to hold on, so this analogy is certainly suspect. It helps me though.

Another aspect of this. Say, a child fell while riding a bike and scraped a knee. In pain and anger they lash out against the parent wanting to know, "why did you let me fall". There is no explanation we could offer that they would understand. Instead we just hold and comfort them, patch up their wounds and help them to have the courage to carry on. God does this for us. As a believer you may have felt like the relationship with the Father has failed at times. It has not. Your life is hidden in Christ. If my daughter becomes angry at me she never stops being my daughter. The relationship is intact - only the fellowship has been broken through her anger or disobedience. I never stop loving her. In fact, I will watch and be ready to help restore the fellowship/closeness when she is ready. Even as God has said, "I will never leave you or forsake you". Even in the story of the Prodigal Son the Father waited expectantly to restore the fellowship with His wayward son. He never disowned his him.

If it helps you to know, you are in good company. Job was plagued by essentially the same question - "why do the righteous suffer." He never got an answer. The way I see the book of Job is that God actually came and asked Job a series of question at the end just to help Job understand that even if God did explained it, Job would not be capable of understanding. I mean, if one does not even know the way to the dwelling of darkness, how is he going to grasp the really cosmic question of why a righteous, holy, all powerful God allows suffering in His creation. Not that that helps knowing we can't fully understand either. What is important to know is that God cares about our suffering. He does not even take pleasure in the death of the wicked. He knows and cares and does not leave us as orphans.

I hope this helps a little more. Know that you are loved with an everlasting love, Daniel

05-03-2010, 11:20 PM
Thank you Daniel, your words help a lot. It would seem that my years of being a father, made me forget the child's point of view as it applies to being one of 'God's children'. I found it quite surprising to come to this realization as this 'child's point of view' was instrumental to me in explaining much about the world around us.

In your first post you said "Jesus Christ lived a sinless life and then suffered and died to pay the debt that all mankind owes to the Father." It was suffering with a purpose. My problem is that I no longer see a purpose for the trials that I face in the near future.

It is a great comfort to me to know that I am in the thoughts and prayers of my 'brothers and sisters in Christ'. I thank you all for this, and expect that He will in due time, make His purpose clear to me.

05-03-2010, 11:21 PM
What I have learned in my faith is there must be opposition in all things.

Imagine your favorite food. Now imagine that is the only thing you ever ate. You never ate anything disgusting. You only ate this favorite food. You would never really know how good it taste, because you have nothing to compare it too. it would be normal. there would be no such thing as a favorite. it would be just another everyday experience. You wouldn't be grateful for it because you never knew a time when you didn't have it. You wouldn't have a favorite.

You wouldn't be happy, because you never knew sad. Without sin there can be no righteousness. Without darkness there can be no light. You can't be thankful because you never knew anything any different. Without thanks there can be no love. Without righteousness, light, and love their can be no God. But there is a God, and therefore there must be good and evil.

05-04-2010, 09:43 PM
Excellent point Duncan, but we must also keep in mind that opposition is not an 'on-off' thing. Everything in our physical universe works in scales of varying amounts between the two extremes. It is these graduated scales that enable us to forgive and live in harmony with each other as we don't immediately hate someone due to a single minor flaw in their character or behavior. Suffering with purpose is a teacher, without purpose it is only a mindless torture. It is the purpose that is the lesson to be learned and unfortunately, as in my case, that purpose is not always readily seen.

08-21-2012, 11:24 PM
I think in essense, the question of “Why Would God Allow Suffering?” is a tangent subject of a bigger question, “Why Does the Dichotomy of Good and Evil Exist?”

Suffering is a part, a result of the “evil” so called as some might morally classify it. The problem of evil rests on two eminently plausible background assumptions: that if God exists then he is all knowing, all powerful, and perfectly good, and that evil exists in the world. It is on the remaining premise, which states that if God existed then evil would not exist, that most discussion of the problem of evil focuses. Of course, there are two responses to the problem of evil that do not grant the eminently plausible background assumptions. The first is the denial that God is morally good. The second is the denial that evil exists.

I think to many of us, the existence of evil appears to be undeniable. There is widespread suffering in the world. We have all experienced some amount of pain, both physical and emotional; any large range of vexations in life confront us all. Some, however, have sought to deny the concept of evil (thinking of Mary Baker Eddy and the Christian Scientists), and so to eliminate the problem of explaining how evil can exist in a world governed by God.

I find that far more promising than the dismissal of evil as illusory is the Augustinian and Thomism view that it is nothing more than a privation of good. According to this view, evil is not a substance within its own sense, but merely an absence of good. Even if this account of evil were accepted, however, it would not completely resolve the problem of evil. For it may still be asked why God neglected to create those goods that are found to be lacking in the world. Even if evil is simply an absence of good, there is a tension between this absence of good and the existence of a Creator that knows how to, is able to, and wants to create all goods.

The problem of evil and thus suffering in some form at least persists.