If God exists, why is there suffering?
Sharon Dirckx, OCCA
Share this video:
Download this video
Why is there so much suffering in life? Every day, we are inundated with news of wars, knife crime, bullying, traffic accidents, deadly diseases and the list goes on and on. Our very natural response is to ask, ‘Why?’ ‘Why do these things happen?’ And if God exists, why would he let them happen?
But the question of suffering is also very REAL to us all. We have all encountered suffering one way or another. We might be facing illness, financial pressure, depression, relationship breakdown or be caring for an ageing parent.
Whatever the particular struggle we face, the question of suffering is one of the hardest of all and one of the biggest barriers to faith in God. Some of us may even have written God off because of the things we have been through. If God existed, He surely would not have let THAT happen.
There are no easy answers to this question. But here’s the thing. If you have ever found yourself asking ‘Why?’, to whom are you addressing the question? You see, if God doesn’t exist, is there really anyone to ask in an ultimate sense? Surely, this is just the way the world IS. Accidents happen, molecules make mistakes leading to diseases, and biology drives human behaviour.
The problem with this view is that it doesn’t really help us make sense of the grittiness of life. We get ANGRY at suffering. But where does that come from if this is just the way the world is?
The Christian faith makes sense of the rawness we feel in the face of suffering because it says there is something WRONG with the world. Things are not as they should be. We live in a world in which good and evil are at play on the world stage and in every human being. God is good but evil is also real and has influence in the world for now. So, at first glance it seems that suffering gives us good reason to rule out God. But actually, the opposite is true. It is only IF God exists that our outrage at suffering finds a home.
Could it be that we ask ‘Why?’ because God is real?
If God exists, does he care about my suffering?
Sharon Dirckx, OCCA
Share this video:
Download this video
I don’t know about you but when I’m going through a difficult time, I am most at home around people who have been through something similar. They just GET IT – especially when words are not enough. If God exists, what is he like? What is his response to my suffering? At the heart of the Christian faith is a God who knows what it is to suffer. Jesus ended his days on earth nailed to a cross. He suffered brutality at the hands of Roman soldiers. He was abandoned by his closest friends in his hour of deepest need. Jesus is described in the Bible as, ‘… a man of sorrows and familiar with suffering’ [53:3]. If we bring our suffering to Him today – we don’t come to a God who is aloof or indifferent or distant. We come to someone who really KNOWS and CARES. He GETS IT because He has been there.
But more than suffer LIKE US, God has also suffered FOR US. Jesus has suffered in ways that go beyond anything we can imagine. Somehow, on the cross, all the world’s evil was being directed at one pure, clean target in order to defeat it once and for all. Jesus absorbed the world’s evil, took it to the grave, left it there and rose to life again. He did this to give us life, so that the evils we face need not absorb and overwhelm us. Suffering does not have to have the last word in our lives. God has not left us alone in our suffering. If we turn to Him, there is strength we never thought we had. There is comfort we never thought was possible. And there is hope for today and tomorrow.
But some people ask, why doesn’t God just get rid of evil once and for all? Well, one day he will. Evil was defeated on that first Easter, and one day it will be removed altogether. How do you fix a story that is broken? We all have our stories. Some of them seem beyond fixing. The Christian faith says you fix a broken story by embedding it in a much bigger story in which good wins, and evil loses. One day there will be justice. One day all suffering will end. One day there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain and God will wipe away every tear from our eyes. This is an extraordinary description of the tenderness of God and of his plans to put right all the wrongs in this world. But this day hasn’t yet arrived to give us all time to get our choices right before God.
God does not always offer us answers. In this life, we might never really understand why some things have happened. But God always offers us himself. He offers us friendship. He longs for us to come to him, talk to him, bring our suffering to him. Whatever you face, you can choose to go through it without God or with him.
What will you choose?
This is a very emotive issue, and a very difficult one. There may well be many more questions and objections in your mind and we’d encourage you to:
Find a church or Christianity Explored course near you
You can find a good local church where there will be people you can trust who will listen to you and try to help you by using our 'Find a course' feature. You can also attend a Christianity Explored course, an informal and relaxed seven-week course looking at Mark's Gospel run by churches around the world, where you can ask any question you have.
Find a church or course
Read more on this subject
John Dickson has written a book on this subject called If I were God, I'd end all the pain - struggling with evil, suffering and faith which explores this topic in more depth.
Get a copy
Watch a related video
Kristi Mair answers the question: 'Isn't the chaos in the world a sign of God's absence?'
Check it out
<< BROWSE ALL TOUGH QUESTIONS