Why is there pain and suffering in the world?

Why is there pain and suffering in the world?

Currently we are working through a series of tough questions submitted by members of our congregation. We have chosen six topics to address on Sunday mornings. However, we received many more than six questions! We will be answering several additional questions here on the website in a blog format.

Why is there pain and suffering in the world?

Pastor Dave Hyatt

One of the hardest and most profound questions I’ve ever received is “Why is there evil in the world?” or stated a little more pointedly, “If God is good, why is there pain and suffering in the world?” This is such a vexing question that it has its own term: theodicy. How can a perfect God allow suffering and evil?

While I can’t definitively answer the question, I would like to share a couple of things that I have found helpful in this regard. These are not to diminish the reality of suffering. I realize that the very posing of this question is almost never just an academic musing, but the result of real pain and loss. But I believe as Christ-followers we have some important things to say about this topic.

Firstly, the fact that we even have a category of “evil” or “suffering” assumes that there is a violation of a norm or standard. If human beings are simply an interesting collection of unfortunately self-aware atoms, then to talk about why these atoms do “bad” things to other atoms, or why these atoms experience certain things, hardly seems like a question worth asking. The very question assumes that something is wrong or disordered. Something is different than it should be! Where would we ever get such an idea or standard if there is no God? Romans 2:15 talks about God’s law being written on our hearts. We judge things to be unjust based on a standard that is outside of ourselves.

Secondly, most suffering and pain is caused by people. War, famine, poverty, murder…most of the pain that exists in the world is evil perpetuated by people on other people. In the fall of humanity (Genesis 3) we see the introduction of enmity between people, creation, and God. Our own experience of death, suffering, evil, sickness, and calamity can all be traced to an alienation of people from God and the curse that lies over all of creation due to sin (Genesis 3:17, Romans 8:20-23). Sin often directly results in pain and suffering; it also can result in judgment from God that brings pain and suffering (Amos 3:6).

Lastly, it is important to remember that God works even in the midst of pain and suffering. While we naturally want to avoid pain and suffering, God’s work of redemption in Christ through the cross shows that suffering can lead to life and hope (Romans 5:3-8, James 1:2-4). There is something particularly redemptive about the suffering of the righteous when borne well (1 Peter 2 and 3).

There is a lot more that could be said about this topic; but if you are experiencing suffering just now, let me encourage you not to bear it alone (Galatians 6:2). Share the burden with others; share the burden with Jesus Christ, who suffered for you. Ask God for strength and grace to reflect his glorious image well, even in the midst of your suffering.

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