Mark Alan Williams
What If God Eliminated All Suffering?
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Recently I was listening to a prominent scientist who said he has a hard time believing in God because if there is a God, he can’t understand why He allows pain and suffering. If God is God wouldn’t He just get rid of it? So the scientist figured.
CC Image courtesy of Tony Alter on Flickr
He wasn’t mocking God, but it was clear that he thought he knew much better than God what was right for the universe!
He got me thinking a little differently about the question of suffering.
It is not unusual for people to struggle with this issue. It is probably the biggest struggle that people have with God. My former classmate at Moody Bible Institute, Bart Ehrman, says that this issue caused him to lose his faith.
So in this article, I would like to imagine with you what things would be like if God did what that scientist suggested—what if God eliminated all suffering? What would be the implications?
First, let’s consider where pain and suffering come from. If we are to think of eliminating it, we should think about where it is coming from.
Suffering seems to come from 3 sources:
01. Accidents: vehicle collisions, people falling, injuries from knives, electrocutions, swallowing toxic substances, fires, etc.
02. Natural causes or “acts of God”: earthquakes, tsunamis, lightening, storms, hurricanes, tornadoes, diseases, ageing, viruses, plagues, etc.
03. People on people: By this I mean suffering that is intentionally inflicted on other people (and sometimes even inflicted on themselves). This includes wars, genocide, pogroms, murders, assaults, abuse (emotional, verbal, mental, physical, spiritual), rape, infidelity, divorce, molestation, torture and so on.
Though hard to quantify, and I cannot find any research on this subject, my estimate would be that causes of suffering are:
01. Accidents: 10%
02. Natural causes or “acts of God”: 40%
03. People on people: 50%
These are just my estimates—you can estimate whatever you like. (If you can find any research, I would love to see it.)
Now, let’s consider what it would take to eliminate each of these:
In order to eliminate suffering via accidents, God would have to suspend laws of physics and nature—no gravity so that no one could fall out a window or down a staircase, no laws of inertia so that if cars hit head-on there would be no harmful impact, no fire or heat that could burn, no electricity that could electrocute.
Of course a world without the laws of physics and nature would not be the world we live in—it would be a paradise, something like, well…heaven. Good News: God has already promised heaven for those who receive Salvation through Jesus Christ.
02. Natural causes or “Acts of God”:
Again, God would have to suspend the laws and forces of nature—eliminate wind or air so there could be no storms, eliminate fire, eliminate tectonic plates that can grind and shake, and so on.
He would also have to eliminate diseases and ageing, which again He has already promised to eventually do. It might not be soon enough for our liking, but eventually He will do so.
Side note 1: Scripture tells us why He is waiting: “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise [to return] as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9 ESV)
Side Note 2: It is interesting that because some think suffering shouldn’t exist if there is a God, they retreat to Atheistic Naturalism which by implication says that all is natural and therefore there is nothing really bad about anything that happens. Thus there is no bad in a tsunami when humans are washed out to sea. In fact there is potentially great good, because the fish got lots of extra food from drowned humans. That’s warped, but it is the outgrowth of a purely naturalistic viewpoint.
03. People on people:
Of course to eliminate all the evil done by people on people God would have to make them into robots or eliminate people altogether.
But there are obvious problems with both of these:
Make us robots—This alternative would be to make us so that we only choose to do nice things. The problem with that is no one wants to be a zombie. Or, if you do, there are drugs you can take which will render you a vegetable.
Eliminate people—Well, I guess that would take care of the problem. But that is like cutting off your legs so you won’t run into anything or fall down.
So you see, it doesn’t make much sense to eliminate the causes of suffering in the world.
But someone might suggest that if God were good, He would just suspend pain. The problem with ending pain is the same as with the problem of leprosy: when people can’t feel pain because of leprosy, they lose digits and limbs because they injure them but cannot feel it.
What is the purpose of physical pain? To cause us to pull back; avoid injury by turning another way. Pain is actually our friend because it helps keep us from further injuring ourselves. Without physical pain we would be in serious danger of worse injury.
There is a similar purpose in all other pain: emotional and spiritual. What is the purpose of suffering? It can serve to turn us to the eternal spiritual healing that comes from God.
In salvation from our sins through the sacrifice of Christ, we have ultimate healing of our sins and the promise of heaven, which will be the end of all pain and suffering.
Unfortunately, many people waste their pain. Rather than turning to the Solution, they turn away from God and to their own devices, and thus live without ultimate and eternal hope. They reject the eventual healing of heaven that comes as a gift when we receive Jesus Christ as Savior from sins and Lord of our lives.
Unfortunately, many people waste their pain. | CLICK TO TWEET
The only way to overcome all the evil of this world, from all 3 sources, is to receive eternal healing through Jesus Christ.
If you’d like to receive him, read my article on Salvation to find out how. I sure hope that you will.
Here are some of my other articles that might help in this arena: