After the Florida school shooting, there must be people, especially those most close to the event, asking the question, if there is a God why does he permit evil, pain, and suffering. While the question inclines toward the philosophical and relates not directly to one’s personal health care, it can be an annoying thought that can challenge one’s faith, perhaps even be a cause for anxiety.
Why does God allow small children to get and suffer from cancer? For me, this is most difficult to understand. Or, to allow young mothers, with young children, to die from cancer. To allow random, senseless, murders? Many people know in there heart that, as mystifying as it might seem, there must be a good reason for this to be. But, still, they may be subject to having their faith challenged in these circumstances. Evil, pain, and suffering are universal.
There are no quick, sufficient, answers to this mystifying question that can be a cause for anxiety. But from a Christian perspective, there are some answers which really at heart offers the only decent and rational answers to the question why God permits evil and suffering. And, while during times of acute grief give little solace to those grieving, can at least bring some understanding to those who might ponder the problem during a less emotional time.
Evil is a mystery.
Evil, like some other things, is a mystery. There are things the human mind cannot grasp. Our brains are not calibrated nor big enough to comprehend some things. An analogy of sorts is the brain of a canary. It is so tiny that it cannot grasp the concept of its image in a mirror. A larger brain like ours of course can do so, though in like fashion, the human mind, as brilliant or diabolical as it can be, is limited in what it can understand. Solace can be taken in knowing it’s okay not to know or be able to understand.
God could have his reasons.
Because God is all powerful and all-knowing, he can certainly have reasons for allowing evil despite our not understanding what those reasons are. (I don’t believe in God!) And if you happen to not believe in God then your take on evil is dark and bleak indeed – as is, probably, your world view with respect to what comes at the end. Just because we don’t understand something doesn’t mean there is no just reason for it.
Pain and suffering can be helpful.
Sometimes pain and suffering can be helpful. The simplest example is a child suffering through a vaccination shot in order to receive a greater good. It’s hard to imagine how anything good might come out of a slaughtering of teenagers attending a high school, but pain and suffering can motivate us to behave differently than we otherwise would. In the case of the Florida shootings, there are many parents and students, and others who traveled to the capital and lobbied for better laws, stirring the debate, to try to avoid the same disaster in the future, something they would not necessarily have been motivated to do barring the deaths of 17 people. As a result, better legislation and other changes may result that may prevent others from a similar premature death.
No love without free will, or free choice.
Being forced to love, and being allowed to love by choice are totally different things with different outcomes. Without free will there could be no love. An event like this school shooting raises the importance of love to a higher level, discriminating between a world in which we are forced to love versus one in which we are free to love. In order for there to be love there must be free will. God must allow all, even those who act in a deranged way, to love freely, or not.
Death is not the end.
Death is not the end. Pain and suffering is not the end. There is a limit. Paul of Tarsus listed in one of his letters to the people in Corinth a very long litany of the sufferings he had and goes on to say that his sufferings, as well as ours, are not worth comparing to the glory that is to be revealed to us. These sufferings are a slight momentary affliction compared to the eternal weight of glory that will come in eternal life.
God brings good out of evil.
Probably everyone can point to something in their lives where the trials and troubles eventually ended up turning into a much more favorable situation. In the same way that iron must be put through fire in order to become steel, so too there are some things, challenges that move us to become better people. Faith gives us the certainty that God would not permit an evil if he did not cause a good to come from that very evil, by ways that we shall fully know only in eternal life.
Pain and suffering prods us to look beyond this life.
Finally, the Christian view, in contrast to the atheist view, is the one that allows hope and meaning and love that reaches beyond this life. From an atheist perspective, death is the end, that no one will be compensated. From a Christian view, this is not the end. There is more.
Our sufferings are a slight momentary affliction compared to the eternal weight of glory that will come in eternal life. We are all journeying toward our own and ultimate destinies and we do so by the free choices we make and preferential love we employ. Some of us go astray, but we have the choice to do so or not.