Why Would God Permit Suffering?
The fact that there is suffering in the world is one of the main causes of rejecting a belief in God as well as the cause of a lot of consternation from believers.
It appears strange to skeptics to accept that God is love on one hand yet allows suffering of innocent people on the other. As noted earlier it seems to skeptics that if there is a God he must be uncaring, negligent or just plain mean.
So what is the real answer to this dilemma?
Here are several that have been given:
(1) God has given us free will so if some crazy guy chooses to abuse and torture an innocent child then no one is going to stop him. The big picture is that we learn from our mistakes.
Comment: This answer fails to satisfy because it looks like God could have set something up where we could still learn our lessons while the innocent were protected from extreme abuse.
(2) There has to be opposition in all things. Without pain there can be no opportunity for joy.
Comment: True, but some characters who were truly evil go though life healthy, pretty much pain free and die in their sleep. Why didn’t these characters get their share of the painful opposition so they could have lots of joy? Then we all know loving and wonderful people who have had very painful lives.
Duality is indeed a reality but this alone does not satisfy the soul for it is far from the complete answer.
(3) God wants to show us how fallible we are so we will realize how much we need him.
Comment: This view makes no sense to the thinking person.
(4) All things that happen, even great suffering is part of a great plan if we could just understand it.
Comment: This is just another way of saying that you do not have a clue as to what is going on.
After considering all the orthodox answers available to this question the sincere seeker has to ask what the real answer could be. After all, whatever the truth is has to make sense because in the end all truth is logical and satisfying.
The reason that the answers about why God allows suffering make no sense is the foundation beliefs from which they spring is based on pure illusion. The answers are based on a belief in a God who is all-powerful and could, with a snap of a finger, save all the innocent from suffering and right all the wrongs that transpire on earth.
If God indeed had such power then all the explanations to why he allows suffering make little sense. On the other hand, when we realize that even God has limitations in this physical reality then the fact that there is suffering makes perfect sense.
Remember, we are in the image of God so we can understand God by looking at ourselves. Your life is omnipresent in your body and sometimes a part of your body will experience a lot of pain. You may discover that you have no instant remedy but after a lot of trial and error you finally find something that works.
Even so, in God’s body, which we call the universe, there is a planet called earth that is experiencing pain for which there is no instant cure. God cannot just snap his fingers and make everything all right for us but he is working on helping us alleviate the pain and suffering. It’s only a matter of time before humanity tunes into the mind of God and learns to live much higher quality lives and eliminate most of the suffering that many now have to endure.
It is time for humanity to stop being angry with an all-powerful God who just sits on a throne and does nothing to help the innocent enduring pain and suffering. God, and powerful beings that are in tune with him, do have a lot of power, but even they are limited in how much help they can deliver to 7,000,000,000 individuals on this planet as well as numerous other planets.
Here is a story that illustrates the fact that God often depends on common people to accomplish his work on earth.
The Hands and Heart of God.
Don had been a believer in God and accepted Jesus as his Son. He had always tried to speak positive of living the good Christian life, which would lead to peace and happiness in this world and the next.
Now, for the first time in his life he doubted everything. He was on the verge of totally rejecting God, Christ, sacrifice, salvation, love – the whole works – anything associated with all that he embraced in the past.
Here it was Christmas Eve and he was all alone reflecting on the terrible year it had been. January was a shock because he didn’t get the promotion that he deserved. Then in April when he was expecting a raise he received a cut in salary, In June he had a car accident that laid him in the hospital with the insurance only paying part of the expenses. In September he realized he was hooked on painkillers. In November his wife had an affair and when confronted she asked for a divorce. It didn’t help that she pointed out that she had now found a real man.
Now to top it all off, on this day, Christmas Eve, he was fired from his job where he had been a faithful employee for 20 years. Yes, reflecting on this terrible year filled him with unspeakable rage. He felt like cursing God with such language that would make hell itself shutter. He raised his fist, looked to the sky and was about to lash out at God for being so unloving, uncaring and basically one mean SOB for not giving a damn about him. He was thinking that since God couldn’t possibly be this negligent that he must not exist at all.
Just as he was about to utter the most destructive words of his life he hesitated and could not bring himself to curse his Lord. Instead, he fell to the floor crying like a baby with great sorrow speaking these desperate words:
“Oh, Lord my God! Are you really there? Are you the God of love or just a tormentor laughing at my misery? If you love me, then where is it, because I feel nothing.”
Don just lay on the floor sobbing and feeling sorry for himself until it seemed that he fell asleep. In that place of twilight where he was not sure if he was asleep or awake he heard a gentle voice speaking his name. He looked up and to his amazement his Lord stood in front of him. This beautiful being grabbed Don’s hand and said, “Arise,” as he lifted him up. “What can I do for you?” he asked.
“For starters, you an answer some questions. How can God be looked upon as loving or even good when He allows so much suffering? My life over the past year has been a living hell and even though I have prayed regularly God has done nothing for me. I’ve felt completely abandoned.”
“Come let me show you something,” said the Master. He waved his hand in the direction of the wall and suddenly an image appeared. Don looked and saw a child in a hospital bed awaiting surgery to save his life. He was terrified. Then his mother entered the room and caressed him with love only a mother can give while speaking comforting words. The child was then at peace as he entered the operating room.
The physician looked at the child before him and thought that this could be his own in different circumstances and proceeded with all diligence and skill to save him. The child recovered to live a full life.
“Look again,” he said.
This time he saw a soldier in Afghanistan who had just survived a deadly firefight. He was wounded and dying with thoughts of meeting his Lord when villagers who didn’t even speak English came to assist him and saved his life at great peril to their own.
“One more time,” said the Master.
This time Don saw a man at the end of his rope on the edge of a bridge preparing to jump. He was given an insight into his life and Don had to admit that his life was in worse shape than his own. Just as he was about to jump he heard the soft voice of a young lady who approached him.
“Please don’t do this my friend. Life is good and there is much to live for.”
“I have nothing to live for. My life is horrible and no one cares.”
The lady reached out her hand, looked him in the eye and said, “I care. Now take my hand and come with me.”
The words, “I care,” touched the man’s soul and he realized that he could not jump. He took her hand and began life anew.
The Master looked at Don and spoke, what do these three accounts have in common?
Don replied, “They are all examples of the neglect of God. If humans hadn’t come to assist, the three people would have died.”
“Listen and learn the truth,” said the Master. “Humans are in the image of God and as reflections of Him they are his hands and vessels of love upon the earth. It is the responsibility of the Sons and Daughters of God to manifest the love of God on the earth. When the mother lovingly comforted her child, I was there. When the surgeon saved his life I was guiding his hands. When the villagers saved the soldier, I was in their hearts and when the lady stretched out her caring hand, I was stretching mine also.
“The Love of God cannot be comprehended except through caring and kindness from other humans who are instruments in the hands of God.”
“Well, the hands of God didn’t do much for me.”
“They did more than you realize,” said the Master. “Look again.”
Don looked and he saw a review of his life over the past year. He saw that when he was denied the promotion that his friend Jim reached out to him and spent time with him to lift his spirits.
When he didn’t get the promotion he was in a terrible mood and his wife did her best to comfort and assure him. Instead of appreciating it he lashed out and complained about everything. This led her to seek comfort from another man.
When Don had the accident he saw that he was operated on by the hands of a caring physician who saved his life. When he got hooked on painkillers friends and family counseled him. Then when his wife left him his friend Jim was there for him again.
The Master spoke, “The Love of God has been with you through the whole year, but you saw it not, neither did you understand.”
“I see your point,” said Don, “and am ready to change my attitude. The problem is that I am feeling terrible over losing my job, on top of everything else, and there is no one to cheer me up. Are you going to send me one of the helping hands?”
“I will send a helping hand,” said the Master. “Take one more look.”
The image of a young man caught Don’s attention. As he looked closely he realized it was his own son, lying in bed staring at the ceiling with tears in his eyes. Somehow Don understood his feelings. During this whole terrible year his son did his best to comfort his father and sought to spend time with him. Don was always too busy or preoccupied. He had heard that his Dad lost his job and was contemplating visiting him but was afraid Don would be drowning in sorrow and anger and brush him off.
Don saw that his son was thinking of happier times and was wishing he could share some happiness with his Dad again just one more time.
As the image faded Don spoke, “I didn’t realize the void my own child feels because of a lack of love and that this love must come from me. I must be the helping hand that you will send.”
“Correct,” said the Master. “It is now your turn to be the hands, head and heart of God. Go to your son and fill his heart with joy. Heal your son and you will heal yourself and once more you will believe in the reality of the love of God.”
Don went to his son and they embraced, shared old stories and touched each other’s hearts. Both were healed. Don began to take attention off himself and sought to bring comfort to others. As he did this he realized that he was one of the hands of God and the servants of God are continually nourished with the love of God.
Oh, and it wasn’t long before someone who he helped, assisted him in return and gave him a lead that led to a good job which also led to finding a wonderful woman as a companion.
Their happy home has this message stuck on their refrigerator: “We are the hands and the heart of God, seeking to manifest the Love of God.”
Copyright by J J Dewey 2014
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