Whose Fault is Suffering?
Most of the suffering in our world today is because of the way individuals, governments or nations treat each other or treat themselves. Here are some examples:
Much of the starvation in the world is caused by the unequal distribution of the world’s resources and the corruption of governments distributing money and aid.
“Poverty is not an accident. Like slavery and apartheid, it is manmade and can be removed by the actions of human beings” Nelson Mandela
The richest 20% of the world’s population holds 86% of the world’s wealth.
The poorest 20% of the world’s population hold less than 1% of the world’s wealth
Terrorism, Murder, Rape, Theft, Abuse
People make decisions or react on the spur of the moment to deliberately hurt or kill other people.
Some of the suffering in our world is not deliberate but is because of human error or being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Sometimes sickness is an individual’s own fault because they do not look after their health.
Deaths from potentially avoidable causes account for approximately 23% of all deaths registered in England and Wales
The leading cause of avoidable death was ischaemic heart disease in males and lung cancer in females. These conditions represented 22% and 15% of all avoidable male and female deaths respectively in England and Wales.
We understand the whole cause and effect of sickness. If we do not look after ourselves, and we smoke, drink etc. we can find ourselves with health complications. And we find that easier to bear and to understand because we can answer the question why am I sick?
The big problem comes when sickness is not an individual’s fault, and we can’t answer the ‘why am I sick?’ questions and it is then that lots of things fly around our heads to do with God:
- Is this God’s judgment and punishment upon me?
- Does God hate me?
- What have I done wrong?
- Why me?
The answer to these questions are no, this is not God’s judgment upon us. We know that because of an encounter Jesus had with a blind man which shows us that Jesus and the bible make it very clear that illness is not a judgment from God. John 9:1-3
As he (Jesus) went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents that he was born blind?’ ‘Neither this man not his parents sinned’ said Jesus.
It was not the blind man’s fault, neither was it his parent’s fault that he was blind. They had not done anything wrong. Sometimes we just get ill. There is no other explanation for it, it is nobody’s fault, and it is not God’s judgment. God doesn’t work like that.
Why Doesn’t God Stop Suffering?
When God created human beings, he created us with freedom of choice, the freedom to act however we choose. He did not create robots, or clones or beings that were pre-programmed to respond to his every command or were made to only behave in ways they were programmed to.
In creating us with free will, God did so, knowing that there was a risk. The problem with freedom of choice is that we can choose to do absolutely anything we want, whether that is good, helpful, and loving or aggressive, bad and unhelpful.
As we have seen, a tremendous amount, not all, but a great deal of the suffering in our world today is caused by the decisions made by one person or a group of people, and the knock on effect and consequences that decision has on someone else.
God gave us free will, because he did not want to create a world of robots that automatically did what he said. He wanted to create human beings that were capable of knowing him and having a relationship with him – where he is part of our lives and we are able to interact with and know him.
To have a proper and close relationship with anyone whether it is a marriage, a friendship, or any other kind of relationship, it requires a choice; it requires us choosing to love someone and to pursue the relationship. Love is not something that can be pre-programmed into us; it is a choice and a conscious decision.
God wants people to freely choose to know him and want him to be part of their lives because they want to, not because they are forced to or pre-programmed to. To do that, he had to make humans with the ability to choose to live our lives with or without him, to make our own decisions and to be and do whatever we want so that it was and is completely our choice as to whether or not we respond to him and have him as part of our lives.
In doing that, he gave us the opportunity to make good decisions, but also to do bad things. With freedom there comes the ability to love, to be peaceful, and to make good choices. But alongside that there is also the freedom to hate, to not be nice and make terrible and harmful decisions.
What is God’s Response to Suffering?
To Bring Comfort and Help
“Praise be to the God and father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of Compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in our troubles” 2 Cor 1:3-4
God does not promise freedom from pain in this life, he does not promise to heal every sickness, although sometimes he does miraculously heal people, and he does heal damaged relationships and damaged emotions. He does not promise to remove us from difficult circumstances that we find ourselves in, but he does promise to help us, encourage us, and love us in the midst of everything we go through. He promises to offer support, love, and the comfort to know that he is with us, and that anything we face, we do not have to do so alone.
God’s final response to suffering and death is to provide a place where there will be no more suffering, no more pain, no more sadness, but a place of joy, celebration, being reunited with those who have died, and to live with God in peace and harmony for ever – for those who believe in him and invite him to be part of their lives.
The bible gives us a picture of what heaven will be like in the last book, the book of Revelation:
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away… And I heard a voice from the throne saying “now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people and God himself will be with them and be their God.
He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said “I am making everything new! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To him who is thirsty I will give drink, without cost from the spring of the water of life. He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son”. Rev 21:1-7.
We see from this that there will be:
- A new Heaven and a new Earth
No longer a decaying and damaged world, a new and perfect one without abuse and defects
- God will live with us
Unlike now – he is in heaven and we are on earth – certain limitations to our relationship – we will live together, side by side, all of the believers with God and Jesus.
- An End to Pain, Suffering and Mourning
We will live forever, with joy, peace, and happiness – there will never be tears of pain, but only joy, there will never be death or mourning, but an everlasting life without an end.