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What about suffering?

 

How can there be a loving God when there is huge suffering in the world?

That's a difficult question, and it's impossible to answer neatly or completely.  Whole libraries have been written on it.  So I offer just a few brief thoughts and something further to read in case that would be welcome.

I have found that when people are suffering they often cry out to God, and are often comforted by his presence, by his promises (for example never to leave us), and by the help that God or others provide, often apparently in answer to that prayer.  That help may be in the form of medical help, or kind friends, or inner peace, or a comforting assurance of God's love, or simply reassurance that God has got the whole situation ultimately under control.

Jesus was no stranger to suffering: he suffered supremely for us by dying on the cross.  He shared in suffering with us.  The Bible does not promise that we will be exempt from suffering, though it does say that God will provide all sorts of help as we go through it.  In other words God loves us in the midst of suffering.  Much suffering is caused by people (wars, selfishness, not taking care of each other) exercising the free will that God has given us.  So we can't lay the blame for that at the feet of God.  But it’s true that quite a lot of suffering is not caused by people (earthquakes, tsunamis, diseases).  Our duty is to help people avoid it where that's possible, and to look after each other when it isn't possible to avoid.

We will never fully understand (this side of heaven, at least) the mystery of suffering, which is extremely tough for many suffering people.  So I trust God with that question, while offering here just the beginnings of an answer which summarises what I dimly understand.

A helpful booklet on this is 'Why does God allow suffering?' by Nicky Gumbel, which I see is almost free second-hand on Amazon.

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