If God exists, why is there suffering?

Sharon Dirckx, OCCA



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?