[An excerpt from Evangelism Explosion by D. James Kennedy]
Why Does God Allow Suffering?
Perhaps no other question has been asked more about God. It is not a hypothetical question but one that touches all of our families and friends--one that challenges the very character of God. Why do innocent people suffer? Why are babies born blind? Why is a promising young life suddenly snuffed out? Why are there earthquakes, tornados, wars in which thousands of harmless people are killed and children are burned beyond recognition or maimed for life? One-third of the world went to bed hungry last night; how does that square with God's love?
Why did God create a world in which there would be suffering?
The general tendency is to blame God for evil and suffering and to pass on all responsibility for it to Him. But we must never forget that when God created man, He created him innocent. Man was not created evil or with suffering as part of his lot on earth. Genesis 1:26-31 and 2:7-9 tell us that God put man in a beautiful garden with everything good. It was Paradise--heaven on earth--with no sin, pain, sorrow, or death. Then, through sin, man lost his trouble-free paradise. But God didn't leave man in this predicament forever. Revelation 21 and 22 describe for us a "paradise regained," which God is preparing for His redeemed people. Revelation 21:4 states, "God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away."
If God isn't responsible for all suffering, who is?
The Bible states clearly that man himself, because of his sin, is the cause of human suffering. God created man innocent. He gave him the ability to obey or disobey. Had man obeyed, there would never have been a problem. He would, no doubt, have lived an unending life of fellowship with God and enjoyment of Him and His creation. Genesis 3 tells us that as a result of man's sin, suffering entered the world--man laboring by the sweat of his brow, and woman giving birth in great pain. The point we must keep in mind is that man--not God--through sin and rebellion, was responsible for bringing suffering into the world.
Not only that, but man is directly the cause of 85 percent of all the suffering in the world today. that is, he inflicts it upon himself--lung cancer, murder, rape, drunken driving accidents, robbery, poverty that arises out of laziness. According to statistics from the American Lung Association, an average of 70,000 people die every ear from emphysema. Smokers make up 97 percent of those individuals. God doesn't inflict emphysema on smokers. It is a natural consequence of their bad choice.
While much of the suffering is caused directly by us or those around us, much suffering can only be explained by the fact that the world is in a fallen state. God's universe was without suffering until man sinned. Before that, babies would not have been born deformed, earthquakes and tidal waves would not have taken countless lives. But those tragedies occur because our world is in a fallen state. It is the result of man's sin.
Why did god create man with the ability to sin in the first place?
To be sure, God could have made us so we couldn't sin, but if He had done so, we would no longer be humans, we would be machines. How would you like to be married to a robot that says, when you push a button, "I love you," or to a life-sized doll that is programmed to hug you and say, "You're wonderful!" There would never be any conflict or harsh words, but there would never be any spontaneous love, either. Love, to be love, must be voluntary--that is, love must be the result of a person's own choice. Adam's bad choice led to consequences, and those consequences included suffering.
Why doesn't God stop all the suffering?
Because He is all-powerful, God could, in fact, stamp out all of the suffering in the world in a split second! But let's consider what he would have to do. He'd have to do away with the consequences of our sin, but then there would be no choice, for consequences make choices significant. Then He'd have to do away with indicators that something is wrong. Pain can be to us like a warning light on the dashboard of a car telling us that something is wrong. And God often provides those indicators to get people's attention. It wouldn't be fair for God to give no indication that something is wrong and let people head unwittingly for ultimate suffering in hell. God would also have to do away with the other benefits that result from suffering, such as personal growth, purity, and other virtues which can be brought about through suffering.
What is God doing about the world's suffering?
First, he sent His Son to suffer redemptively (Hebrews 2:18; 1 Peter 2:20-24). Second, He gives grace to us when we suffer (2 Corinthians 12:7-10). Third, He purifies through suffering when we mix it with faith (Romans 8:18, 28-29). Fourth, He uses us to help others face their suffering (James 1:27 and 5:14-16; 2 Cor 1:3,4). Pg. 173-174, Kennedy.