The Expository Files

 Suffering and the Existence of God 

Sometimes, in the face of tragedy, some people will ask, "If God exists, why does He allow suffering to happen?" I have heard this question, or some form of it, asked several times. Sometimes it is asked with a kind of accusatory motive, but at other times out of perplexity.

First, such a statement recognizes the difference between right and wrong; good and evil. If God does not exist, then there is really no such thing as right and wrong. If we are here simply as a result of some blind cosmic accident, then right or wrong has no bearing at all; there is no such thing. It would be no more "wrong" for the innocent to suffer than for ice to melt, because there would really be no purpose or reason for either other than random chance. To acknowledge that human suffering is evil is to admit that humans are something special. The Bible affirms that we are; because we are not here by accident, but by plan. We bear within our spirits the image of God.

Second, suffering would prove the Bible false only if the Bible claimed that suffering does not happen, or taught that only the wicked would suffer, or something like that. But actually the Bible does tell us that suffering exists, and that sometimes the innocent suffer, and even further, it tells us why and how suffering entered the world. The existence of suffering is compatible with the Bible's teachings. And it is with thanksgiving that the Bible also speaks to us of ultimate victory over suffering, pain and even death that faith will win for those who walk by it.

Third, it is much easier to believe in God and explain why one thing - suffering - exists than not to believe in God and explain why everything else exists!

Speaking of suffering, the Scriptures say of Jesus, "Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things He suffered, and having been made perfect, he became to all those that obey Him the source of eternal life." (Heb. 5:8,9). Why did God allow that horrible suffering to take place on the cross? The answer: because He loves us He was willing to allow His Son to pay the price for our sins so we could be redeemed and He still maintain His absolute justice. There is no greater love than this.

By Jon W. Quinn
From Expository Files 8.11; November 2001