St John's Q&A

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Why God allows suffering

When God created the world, it was a natural paradise. Everything he made was good and beautiful. There was no suffering or pain. There was no death. The creatures, plants, and trees were full of life; "it was good" (Gen 1:4). When God created man (male and female), He saw that "it was very good". God created man to be like Himself - good, beautiful, intelligent, etc. - in His own image. God Himself is free, so he created man to be free.

The free will that God has given man means that man is truly free. God gave him free will so that he would choose to love God and be in friendship with Him. This was His Plan for man...that he would be with God in this life and for all eternity, and He gave him much help to choose good. But, like any good parent or friend, God couldn't force man to love Him. God knew that man could reject Him, and thus do evil.

When man rejected God for the first time and committed Original Sin (Adam and Eve), suffering and death entered the world. Suffering is a natural result of sin, whether through individual sin or another's sin. It is in and of itself not good; it is a natural evil. God never wills suffering, death or evil: "God did not make death, he takes no pleasure in destroying the living" (Wis 1:13).

Rather, God allows suffering; it's part of His permissive will. God allows suffering because He allows us to choose to reject Him. He has given us free will, and truly respects our freedom. He is no less God and doesn't lose any of omnipotence if we choose evil. He is, always has been, and always will be an all-powerful God. He has created us so that we will choose Him, but knows that we can abuse the freedom He has given us.

On a natural level, then, suffering is not good because it is not from God. God most likely feels the way the prophet Jeremiah did when He sees His people suffer: “my eyes stream with tears… over the great destruction which overwhelms… my people…" (Jer 14: 17-18). Because of His great love for us, however, God will bring a supernatural component to suffering that will bring good out of evil. He will win victory over suffering, death, and evil through his Son, Jesus Christ. As we will see in an upcoming post, the suffering of Christ and anyone who follows Him leads to glory...(to be continued)
Here's a question that is still debated among theologians:
If man didn't commit Original Sin, would Christ still have become one of us?


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