If you notice a similarity between this article’s title and the title of so many articles, books, and conversations, “Why is there so much suffering in the world,” then you are on track with my thinking.
Recently I heard about a pastor who decided to live a “year without God” and feed his doubts for that year. One of the biggest things bothering him was the question of suffering—why a good God would allow it.
But as he turned to skepticism and eventually atheism, an opposite and far bigger question arises—“why is there so much pleasure in the world?”
Belief in a universe, world, and life without a Creator is an immense (and I believe insurmountable) barrier to atheism. If you doubt this statement, I suggest you see an article by Eric Metaxas in the Wall Street Journal, “Science Increasingly Makes the Case for God.” (Apparently it is the most read and commented on article in the history of the WSJ online.)
As Metaxas points out, the odds of a creation without a Creator are astronomically impossible.
But atheism also begs the question, “Why is there so much pleasure in the world?” If the universe is simply a colossal accident, or more accurately the result of an astronomical number of colossal accidents, then why is there so much pleasure?:
The amazing beauty of nature
The joy of human relationships and love
The pleasures of humor and laughter
The ecstasy of sex and reproduction
The thrill of accomplishments
And on and on
Where did all this pleasure come from? Atheists never give God credit for all the pleasure; they only want to complain about the suffering. Talk about seeing the glass half empty!
Many atheists apparently insist that there should be all of these and many more pleasures, with never any pain or suffering, in order for them to believe in God.
Ironically, these skeptics don’t account for the fact that physical pain is what protects us from harm, for instance when we come close to something too hot that would burn us.
(See my article, What if God Eliminated all Suffering?) Without physical pain, I wonder if life could even continue to exist since it is the warning system that keeps us from destroying our bodies.
They also don’t consider the fact that human beings account for the majority of the suffering in the world and to eliminate that would require eliminating human beings!
The pastor deciding to live a year without God and turning to atheism is like a foolish child who decides that if his parents won’t give him everything he wants, he will run away from home.
You might be wondering, “But doesn’t suffering bother you Mark?” The answer is, “Yes, of course! It bothers me immensely, especially the suffering of those I love.”
Over the years our family has experienced our share of suffering:
The death of my infant brother
Family members suffering for years with Alzheimer’s disease
Another nephew who committed suicide at age 27
A sister-in-law who died of cancer at 57
Other family members who suffered from mental illness
My wife Carolyn suffers from terrible migraines (and is in bed with one right now as I write)
I could go on with more of our sufferings, but you get the idea. And my list is probably not that different from most people’s list of sufferings.
Here’s the point—each of us has two options:
We can say that life is ultimately meaningless because God would not allow suffering, therefore there must not be a God. OR,
The Bible is very clear that this world was originally a paradise and that suffering came as a result of sin—disobedience to God. Suffering is NOT God’s optimal plan for this world.
Until that paradise comes to all who believe, Christians can take great comfort in the fact that God loves us, that He has a loving plan for our lives and that He is working “all things together for good!”