That suffering is a consequence of sin is easy to understand. But why does God let us suffer so much? If he truly loves us, would it not please him to minimize our hardships?
The answer to these questions has six facets.
God Is Active
The first facet is that God does limit suffering, just not as much as we want. He works directly through his efforts and indirectly through his agents.
If we could see everything God was doing daily to restrain evil globally and curtail the consequences of sin in the lives of individuals around the world, we would realize that he is continuously active.
Life would be much harder for us and everyone else without his constant mitigation.
God Constrains Suffering
The second facet to the answer about suffering is that God has made several arrangements to reduce suffering in general and personally.
God set intensity limits. He makes sure that we never encounter afflictions we cannot endure if we walk in harmony with him.
The severity of our distress never surpasses the sufficiency of his aid.
God ordained temptation escapes. He provided the means for us to avoid or withstand every temptation.
God’s primary provision is the Holy Spirit, who illuminates the Bible, enlightens our mind, renews our heart, and augments our self-control.
God also gives us opportunities to physically or mentally remove ourselves from immoral situations.
If we utilize these resources, we avoid the suffering our moral failures would otherwise cause for us and others.
God restricted legacy damage. He limited the extent to which our moral failures harm our future generations.
This constraint minimizes the compounding effect of evil, which would ultimately destroy civilization if it were allowed to prevail unchecked.
God’s goodness eventually overcomes evil in the same way that new grass sprouts after a prairie fire. His intervention enables civilization to advance.
God equipped us with benevolence. He designed this feature into our nature to compel us to act on his behalf.
Although hampered by sin, this native empathy compels some of us to develop products and offer services that improve life generally and thereby alleviate global suffering.
It motivates the rest of us to help the hurting people in our orbit and reduce their personal suffering.
God dispensed moral guidance. He gave us a moral code, commonly called The Ten Commandments, to guide our relationships with him and each other.
His commandments and the principles inherent in them prioritize life, liberty, justice, honesty, equality, and dignity. Several of these precepts are so intuitively true that even unbelievers consider them natural laws.
Adherence to God’s moral code, individually and corporately, even for secular reasons, builds healthy relationships, strong families, just governments, and compassionate societies.
These outcomes reduce suffering in general.
God provided the means for us to be truly content. He enables us to experience and emit his natural contentment as we walk in harmony with him.
God’s contentment never modulates according to our circumstances. It is invariable and unalterable. Therefore, we can be truly content in any situation, even amid affliction.
The more we cultivate our relationship with God, and the longer we walk in harmony with him, the more consistently we experience and emit his natural contentment.
God made permanent relief available to everyone. He established a salvation plan that includes the end of all suffering. He cleared the path to sheer bliss for those who choose to comply with it.
Goodness From Affliction
The third facet to the answer about suffering is that God often allows it to persist so he can produce goodness through it, either in our lives, the lives of those within our sphere of influence, or both.
God routinely utilizes affliction to diminish our self-sufficiency. He knows it often motivates us to seek his aid, which can deepen our understanding of his excellence and make us more usable in his service.
God may let us suffer to prepare us for the future. He knows we will eventually need the wisdom, experience, and tenacity that can only be acquired by working through our adversity.
God may allow us to suffer so he can reach others through us. He may use our response to suffering to encourage our friends and family to walk in harmony with him.
Sometimes God lets us suffer while he produces a manifold good through the temporary ascendance of evil. The death of Jesus is the premier example of God allowing evil to prevail momentarily for this purpose.
God recycles our afflictions into outcomes he treasures as we walk in harmony with him, but his plans frequently encompass more than just our immediate concerns. Therefore, our suffering often lasts longer than we would like.
The fourth facet to the answer about suffering arises from the reality that many of our hardships are the unfortunate consequences of decisions made by us and others near and far.
God is unwilling to restrict our volitional freedom, even if doing so would mean we encountered less distress. He considers our will sacrosanct because we cannot be reborn spiritually without it.
Thus, God allows that which he dislikes—our suffering—to enable that which he cherishes—our decision to be reborn spiritually and thereby qualify for heaven.
We can hypothesize many scenarios in which God could intervene in world affairs to minimize suffering without jeopardizing our volitional freedom. For example, he could prevent natural disasters from occurring in populated areas.
For reasons only he understands, God does not always intercede in these situations, from our earthly perspective anyway.
This brings us to the fifth and least satisfying facet of the answer about suffering.
God does not always disclose his complete rationale for why he allows us to suffer so much. In these cases, we must wait until heaven for his personalized answer.
This is a deal-breaker for some of us.
In the absence of a satisfactory explanation for our distress, we infer that God is either mean, aloof, powerless, or non-existent. However, God has deemed his current level of disclosure sufficient for us to trust him amid every affliction.
For us to demand that God answer all our “why” questions before we agree to trust him is to suggest that his current revelation is inadequate, and his determination to the contrary is incorrect. This demand implies that our judgment is better than his.
If this were true, he would not be God. We would be God.
God Recognizes Our Dilemma
God understands our dissatisfaction with this answer about suffering. He is not offended by our dismay.
In his written argument for why we should trust him—the Bible—God highlights the bewilderment about suffering expressed by the saints he cites as our role models.
However, God goes on to describe what these people learned about his excellence as they walked in harmony with him during their distress.
Their experiences assure us that we can indeed trust God by faith when afflictions raise doubts about his character, compassion, and capabilities.