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Pain. Suffering. Evil.

How can a loving God exist when these things exist?

This is definitely one of the biggest objections to Christianity. Jesus is supposed to love us, adore us, supposed to want an intimate relationship with each person, and yet…he lets our children die of starvation? He lets them be sold into sex slavery? Disease, famine, depression, abusive environments, murder, rape…how can such a God possibly exist if these things are realities? This is the mentality of Richard Dawkins, who seems to hate the idea of a “loving” God, because he sees so much evil and suffering in the world. Which always raises these questions:

Maybe God doesn’t love us? Maybe God doesn’t even exist?

First of all, I’d like to point out that you even recognize these things are wrong. If you haven’t read my post about moral relativism then check it out, because the fact that you are even struggling over how a loving God can exist in light of these evils means that you are already on your way to acknowledging that a loving God exists!
Think about it this way:
You have notions of what is good and loving, right? This also means you have notions of what is bad and evil. In order for you to believe that starvation is wrong, and that rape is wrong, and that people are wrong for committing them, you have to accept some form of moral/ethical objectivism, otherwise you can’t condemn anything. In order for objective morality to exist, there must mean that something separate from us exists, something that transcends our dimensions…something like God, the ultimate moral being. Selah.

Ok. So maybe God exists. That does not explain why he allows pain and suffering. Well lets look at what pain and suffering really are, and their effects.

Pain: “an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage or described in terms of such damage.”
Pain is our body’s way of telling us that something is wrong. We need pain so that we can learn what is bad for us in the environment. What kind of life would we have if we didn’t have pain? A little girl was born without the ability to feel pain, and her disability has had disastrous consequences. Pain teaches us things about our environments, yes, but it also teaches us to be strong, it teaches us to be wise, it teaches us endurance. Have you ever struggled through something and came out better for it? Athletic development also requires pain, but pushing through it makes you feel stronger, accomplished, and GOOD. The pain is a GOOD thing here.

“Sure, that’s pain. A few reps on the workout bench is fine, but what about suffering? You can’t tell me that people being tortured helps them to be a better person. You can’t tell me slavery helps kids to feel accomplished.”

Well let’s consider some things. First of all, God created us to have free will. That means we have the ability to do great and wonderful things all the time right? Yes. It also means we have the ability to do mighty and terrible things as well (and don’t even get me started on free will, we’ll wait till next week for that can of worms). Then there is the big question of purpose. What’s the point? How could anything good possibly come from this meaningless suffering? Well let’s define it.

Suffering: agony; a state of acute pain; misery resulting from affliction; distress physically and/or mentally
Suffering is not just an instance of pain, it is the state of pain. It is not just physical, it is mental. It can start out mental and become so great it affects the physical.

So whats point of this meaningless suffering where people die or never get out of it? Before we answer that, let’s take the word meaningless out of the equation, because “meaningless” requires subjective and narrow-minded projections of what constitutes meaning; a lot of the time, we have a very limited amount of knowledge, and lack of a “big picture,” so we cannot always rule something out as “meaningless.” God can obviously use situations in ways that we cannot imagine in peoples’ lives. And that’s not merely a Christian perspective, Nietzsche (who wrote the infamous line “God is dead”) once wrote in Beyond Good and Evil,

‘The discipline of suffering, of great suffering – do you not know that only this discipline has created all enhancements of man so far? That tension of the soul in unhappiness which cultivates its strength, its shudders face to face with great ruin, its inventiveness and courage in enduring…was it not granted to it through suffering, through the discipline of great suffering?”

Nietzsche is speaking for the human species, true, not the individual. So what hope does the individual have? It is often through suffering that we learn the most valuable, personal lessons- things we could never learn or care to learn, were we always happy and comfortable. Would you ever truly appreciate the love of your parents or your partner were it not for the suffering you had to endure with each other? In the Christian context, this is the entire purpose of Jesus Christ. Only through His suffering, and the suffering we endure for Him, can we truly appreciate God’s eternal, unconditional, overflowing love for us! And once the suffering is done, and joy has finally returned to a person, how insignificant was that suffering in light of the newly found joy?! What happens to the Christian once he has passed away? He passes from death into life. (1 John 3:14). The suffering we endure here will seem like an insignificant speck compared to the eternal glory and joy awaiting us. Remember, this is only a brief synopsis. For more elaborate, proper answers check out The Problem of Pain, The Reason for God, or Without a Doubt.

But this is if you believe in Jesus Christ. I honestly don’t know what to tell you if you don’t, because…I can’t seem to find a real purpose otherwise


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