Recently I was contacted by a university student writing a paper for a Philosophy 102 course. The topic is the interconnectedness of time and suffering (fascinating!). Finding that I created a course called The Beginning and End of Suffering, she asked for my perspective. I’m sharing these ideas here as a series. I welcome your feedback and questions.
Does God play a part in our suffering? Yes.
God created humanity with free will. The first humans exercised that will by choosing to rebel against God, operating on the belief that He can’t be trusted. Rebellion against God resulted, naturally, in a relational disconnection from Him — the source of all life, love, and goodness. When you are disconnected from the source of all life, love, and goodness, you suffer. That’s how human suffering began.
God’s role in all of this? Speaker and pastor David Asscherick puts it this way: In giving humans free will, God authorized suffering, but He didn’t author it; He made it possible, but not actual; He permitted it, but never promoted it.
WHY IS THERE SUFFERING?
Humanity is in the middle of a big experiment. Lucifer aka the devil has brought God’s character into question and claims that He can’t be trusted (that’s what he told Eve and the rest of us). Because God respects our free will, He allows an alternative to trusting Him. Where there is no trust, there is no relationship. Thus, the God-alternative broke the pure relationship between us and God, the source of all life, love, and goodness. The natural result is suffering, which we also call evil. As the devil has been limited to the earth, humans are smack dab in the middle of the experiment of the God-alternative. As we have free will, we may choose to trust God or not.
WHY DOES GOD ALLOW SUFFERING?
The experiment of the God-alternative is playing out. Evidence is piling up. When there’s enough evidence — when everyone in the universe is clear about the true nature of God and the true nature of the alternative (suffering/evil) — God will put an end to the experiment. Only then will suffering/evil be unmasked and never chosen again. Allowing suffering now is the only way God can keep the universe safe from suffering in the long run.
THE END OF SUFFERING
God is playing fair, putting limits on both the devil and Himself. If He intervened now and didn’t allow the true nature of evil (suffering) to be experienced, how would we ever know that it’s not the better choice? When everyone is convinced that it’s not, He will intervene. He will put an end to the experiment, an end to the rebellion, an end to evil, an end to suffering. Only at that point will every knee bow and every tongue confess that He is Lord, that He is fair, that He is right, that He is love, that He is life.
We’re not there yet, but it’s one of these days. In the meantime, while we are in the midst of suffering, God plays another role: He Is With Us. He is companionship, comfort, perspective, strength, and hope.
The Bible often uses the expression it came to pass when it talks about things that happened. It came, and it went. It began, and it ended. As comedian Mark Lowry says, “It came to pass; it didn’t come to stay.” I’m so grateful that we can apply that expression to everything that God didn’t intend. Suffering came to pass; it didn’t come to stay.
Note: Let me know if you want the Bible texts associated with these concepts (most of them are introduced in the earlier posts in this series). To understand what the Bible teaches about any topic, we must look at all of the passages on that topic. Every puzzle piece must be in place to see the whole picture. To learn more, please ask me by commenting below or contacting me privately, and/or do your own study with the help of BibleGateway or a Bible concordance such as Blue Letter Bible.