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 five 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 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 overcomes the effects of 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 diminished by sin, this native empathy prompts some of us to develop products and offer services that improve life generally and alleviate global suffering.
It motivates the rest of us to comfort the hurting people in our orbit and reduce their individual 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 to be 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 diligently we cultivate our relationship with God, 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, i.e., eternal life in heaven. He cleared the path to sheer bliss for those who comply with it on his terms.
Goodness From Affliction
The third facet of the answer is that God often uses suffering to produce the kinds and levels of goodness that might be unattainable if life were always easy.
For example, God routinely lets us endure affliction to diminish our self-sufficiency. He knows distress motivates us to seek his aid, which deepens our understanding of his excellence and makes us more usable in his service.
God may let us suffer to prepare us for the future. He knows we will eventually need the knowledge, wisdom, skills, and tenacity that can only be acquired by working through our adversity.
God may allow us to suffer so he can draw others to himself. He knows affliction helps us relate to the hurting people in our orbit and vice versa. As a result, they become receptive to the message he wants to convey to them through us.
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 him allowing evil to prevail momentarily for this purpose.
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 meant 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.
However, for reasons only he understands, God does not always intercede in these situations—at least from our earthly perspective.
This brings us to the last and least satisfying facet of the answer about suffering.
Sometimes God never discloses his complete rationale for why he allows us to suffer so intensely. 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.
But God goes on to describe the goodness he produced in and through these people as they walked in harmony with him amid affliction, including the insights they gained about his excellence.
Their experiences assure us that we can indeed trust God by faith when distress raises doubts about his character, compassion, and capabilities.