Why is there suffering in a world created by a good and loving God?
When people go through difficult times in their lives, they often ask, “Why is there suffering in a world created by a good and loving God?” Let me suggest one reason.
The world God originally created did not include suffering. It was perfect in every way. The first two chapters of the first book of the Bible, Genesis, describe this idyllic situation.
But then that all changed. We are told that Adam and Eve chose to disobey God and sin entered the world. And as result of that, that once perfect world became a world full of all sorts of suffering. As result we today live in a world that’s still good but far from perfect. As you look at it, it seems like it’s off kilter just a bit – not functioning as it was intended to.
The cause for that goes back to the way everything was created by God. When God created people, He placed within them the ability to make free will choices. They could choose to obey Him or choose to reject Him. That’s why, when He placed Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, He placed there a tree called the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.
He told them they could eat of any fruit in the garden except that one. Now really the tree (and the kind of fruit it had) are quite inconsequential; it’s the choice that it represented (it could have just as easily been “Don’t climb this mountain” or “Don’t cross this stream”.) The point is humankind needed to be able to make a choice.
You see, in a choice-less creation, you also have love-less situation. We cannot love until we are first able to not love, even to hate. Then, when we choose to not hate and instead choose to love, that love takes on meaning. Let me illustrate: if the only reason my wife says she loves me is because there is a computer chip implanted behind her ear telling her, “Say ‘I love you’ to Henry”, how do you think it makes me feel when she says, “Henry I love you”? Not very good. What kind of love can a robot give?
The same would be true of my children. If they can never be bad, they can never be good, either. If nothing they ever do could be called wrong, then I can’t come home in the evening and say, “Kids, you’ve been good!” But if I tell them, “Clean your room by the time I get home” and they do, then when I say, “You’ve been good”, that means something.
God’s initial desire was for humankind to use their free will to love Him and to love others, to be kind and good, and so on. And when we do use our free will in that manner, the world is great. But when we don’t, we end up living in a world that is filled with all sorts of sorrow and pain.
If, for example, I use my free will and sneak up behind you at night and hit you with a bat, you will be hurt and suffer – because I used that free will against you. If you use your free will to slander me and publicly smear my integrity, I will be hurt and suffer – because you used your free will against me.
That is why there suffering in a world created by a good and loving God. It’s created by His people who use their free will in a sinful way.