Why Does God Allow Suffering?
Monday, 04 March 2013
It’s a tough question. The way I see it, each of us is a student in God’s gigantic classroom. We’ve each been given an intricate and powerful machine called “eternity”, and we’re all here to learn how it works so that one day, we can become like God and create our own worlds and children, just like him. Eternity functions when all eternal laws (i.e. physics, marriage, math, agency, families, etc.) are understood and are being used properly. Just like the with laws of motion, if the user of eternity doesn’t perfectly understand or obey all of those eternal laws, then the machine will crash, and the type and violence of the crash depends on the severity and type of the law overlooked/disobeyed. Because this life is a learning process and eternity is VERY complex, we can be great students of the laws and still experience crashes and explosions in our lives that lead to difficult and painful experiences.
While we are each dealing with our own crashes and explosions, there is another dynamic to this classroom. Every time a machine blows up or breaks down, there’s collateral damage. The really big explosions often severely injure those in close proximity. To us, it appears chaotic and brutal, but there’s one more thing to keep in mind. The Lord is omniscient. Since time and space do not bind his perception, he can know whose machine is going to explode, when, and why. With that knowledge, the Lord organizes his classroom.
The Lord knows which explosions would injure me in just the right way as to promote a better, more thorough and memorable understanding of eternal laws. Yes, I do believe that every injury from every indirect explosion (meaning, the consequence of someone else’s actions) or mistake is strategically meant to become an opportunity. It’s an opportunity to learn something more about eternity, to become more capable than you ever could have managed having gone unscathed. Whether it’s losing your ability to walk because someone was a careless driver, enduring sexual abuse, or experiencing the death of a loved one, every explosion, of all sizes and shapes, is an opportunity for growth and improvement that extends beyond our previous capabilities. Some will have longer, and perhaps more painful/involved, healing times. But I know even that process can be a refining one. Long story short, we need to accept that the equation below, though popular, is some very bad math:
Injuries = suffering = misery = bad (avoid at all costs)
I’m not saying we shouldn’t try to alleviate the suffering of others, or that we should seek out suffering, nor that suffering might somehow turn into a pleasant experience. I do believe suffering is inevitable and awful to endure, but is one of the most effective ways to teach love to selfish beings (and as we know love is a very big and very powerful eternal law). I don’t think any human would ever be able to prevent all suffering. I also don’t believe any God ever would.
To answer the question more directly, I think the reason God does not protect us from one another’s explosions is because the open proximity, connection, and communication with your peers is essential to our eternal education. That vulnerability is unquestionably necessary to really learn about love. Think about the outpouring of love for those families in Connecticut, or how much better we are about loving our neighbors when we know they are struggling. I think there’s a reason God creates circumstances that can result in suffering, and I believe those circumstances are intelligently designed to put us on the fast track to deeper, more truthful, understandings of eternity. Whether that be a hurricane, an election, or a school shooting, the Lord is wise and knows how to get the greatest investment out of choice and circumstance (good and bad) without interfering with our agency. Since agency is one of those laws God perfectly understands and wouldn’t revoke from his children, I figure the best way to deal with tragedy is rely on him to teach me what I can learn and how I can grow from it.
Bringing this back to my own life and experience with eternity, I do not, and will not doubt that the people in my life have been strategically placed there and that the experiences I’ve had were meant to augment my progression. I have a solid and strong testimony that the Lord knew which of my peers would be able to teach me the most about eternity at any given time. He also knew which of my peers I might be able to assist most effectively. This is probably where I’ve felt the most blessed in my life. Even though I have my fair share of scars from friendly (or maybe not so friendly) fire, I know that I’ve learned more about love, God, and his children from those experiences than many, perhaps more pleasant, memories.
Some might ask why God doesn’t just give us all the answers, or work eternity for us so that we can avoid explosions. First, I would refer them to the beginning of this post. Eternity is not something to be mastered by simple memorization. Just because you can recite the text doesn’t mean you have an understanding. We learn by doing, and like it or not, it’s a long, arduous process. Secondly, the Lord cannot choose for us because we are the one’s trying to figure out eternity, not him. Sure, he would get a lot of appreciation if he just did it for everyone, but he also wouldn’t produce very capable students. I’m pretty sure that’s the whole point of this chaotic earthly classroom.