The Question of Suffering

Why does God allow bad stuff to happen? It’s a fair question. A lot of people have been asking it lately, with good reason. Why would a loving God let two airplanes full of people slam into the World Trade Center? And then let the buildings, full of emergency personnel and trapped survivors tumble to the ground, becoming a giant tomb of rubble?

It’s a question even the great Protestant evangelist Billy Graham has asked, and Graham himself admits to not having a good answer to the question. In some sense, there is no good answer. It’s one of those difficult facets of Christianity we often have to accept with a good dose of faith.

The Bible addresses the question in the book of Job, and in the end the answer seems to be that God is God, and who are you to question what he does? This is a point few people realize today. They forget who they’re talking about, and assume they can challenge God and expect a perfectly good answer that suits them. And if the answer doesn’t suit them, they become atheists with renewed fervor.

I do think that it’s good to remember that God is God, and he’s not bound to give us an answer. But I also think that God understands our questioning and doubtful nature and does want us to struggle with questions like this.

I think part of the answer involves the concept of choice. God didn’t make us a people required to worship him. He gave us the choice. And in that choice lies risk. If we don’t choose God, we make bad choices and pain and evil enters the world. We see this when Adam and Eve ate the fruit in the garden. But if we do choose God, there is the potential for all the love our Father has lavished upon us.

Some may wish God would just lavish that love upon us anyway. But God wants our love in return. And programmed love isn’t love. It’s a joke. So God gave us the choice to love him, and thus took the risk to ensure that our love would be genuine. The result is we didn’t choose God, and the world became a painful place. Thankfully God gave us a second chance, through Jesus, and we can still choose God.

That’s how I answer the question. It doesn’t always seem like the best answer, and I’m sure it’s not the final answer. But it does seem to give some semblance of sense when bad stuff happens.

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