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
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 to curtail the consequences of sin, in our lives, and the lives of others around the world, we would realize he is continuously active.
Life would be much harder for everyone without his constant mitigation.
God Constrains Suffering
God has made several arrangements that reduce suffering, personally and globally.
Intensity Limits. God never lets us encounter afflictions we cannot endure, if we walk in harmony with him. He always provides the spiritual resources we need to stay intact.
Temptation Escapes. God provides a way to escape every temptation.
When we utilize this provision, it prevents the suffering our moral failures would otherwise cause for us and others.
When we do yield to temptation, God limits the extent to which our moral failures harm our future generations.
Indirect Mitigation. God lessens suffering through the efforts of us and others.
He designed us with an empathy that compels many people to develop products and offer services that improve life for everyone and thereby alleviate global suffering.
This same intrinsic compassion motivates us to personally help hurting people in our orbit and thereby reduce their suffering.
Moral Guidance. God 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.
Permanent Relief. God ends all the suffering of reborn believers once they enter heaven.
Goodness From Affliction
God uses suffering to produce goodness in us, for us, and through us.
God routinely utilizes affliction to diminish our self-sufficiency. He knows this will humble us and motivate us to seek his aid, which in turn will help us understand his excellence at deeper levels and make us more usable in his service to others.
God may let us suffer intensely 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 unfairly so he can produce personal goodness in those we influence. He may use our response to suffering to draw our family and friends closer to him and to teach them how to be truly content in all circumstances.
Sometimes God lets us suffer severely 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.
Many hardships are the unfortunate consequences of decisions made by us and others.
God is unwilling to restrict our volitional freedom, even if doing so would mean we encountered fewer problems. 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 will have to 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 first answer all our “why” questions, before we trust him, is to suggest 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 through their adversities, despite their skepticism.
Their experiences assure us that we can indeed trust God by faith when afflictions raise doubts about his character, compassion, and capabilities.