Why doesn’t God stop the suffering?

Once we have answered the question, “How can a good God allow so much suffering?”, the next question to consider is why doesn’t God stop the suffering? If he is loving then he would want to stop suffering, wouldn’t he? And if he really is a powerful God why doesn’t he stop the pain? It seems a fair enough question to ask.

The thing is, to expect God to stop suffering at a point at which we demand is highly inconsistent of us, as we do not ask him to intervene in other aspects of life. He is not some sort of genie to whom we can appeal when we have exhausted all other options. He is not a kind of heavenly butler whom we ask to fix something for us when we’ve worked out that we cannot fix it for ourselves. If we do not want God to be part and parcel of our lives at other times it is unfair and inconsistent of us to demand that he steps in at a point of our choosing.

Perhaps a bigger problem is that if God were to step in to stop the suffering he would need to stop us in the process. If God immediately intervened to rid the world of evil, he would need to rid the world of usbecause, as we discuss in other questions, humanity is responsible for so much evil. The fact that God doesn’t jump in to stop evil (and therefore us) shows us his patience and his desire for humans to turn back to him. This is precisely what Peter, Jesus’ right hand man, argues for in 2 Peter 3.

In Romans 1:18-32 the Apostle Paul reasons that part of human suffering (that part directly linked to human sin) is actually God’s judgment upon our desire to dishonour him and exchange the truth about God for a lie, and the way we worship created things rather than the Creator. Three times in just a few verses it says that God gives us over to our own desires as part of his judgment (Romans 1:18-32). This doesn’t mean that you can trace suffering to sin directly (see Luke 13:1-5, John 9) but it does mean that when humans say they want nothing to do with God, that he gives them what they want, and that often hurts.

There is a final reason why God doesn’t stop the suffering, and that is the way in which he works out his good purposes through suffering. Suffering is one way that God strengthens believers (Romans 5:3-5) and shapes them into mature believers (James 1:2-4). It is also the way that he speaks to a world that is so busy and noisy in its attempts to shut him out. CS Lewis, who wrote the Narnia Chronicles, said that suffering is God’s megaphone to rouse a deaf world. It is a great shame that it takes terrible suffering for people to stop and give attention to God, but that is the world we humans have made for ourselves.

For more information on this topic get yourself a copy of the Little Black Book on Suffering & Evil; more details are here.

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