Human Suffering—Due to Whose Failure to Care?
HUMAN suffering has been and still is a harsh reality of life. But is it evidence of a lack of caring on God’s part?
A reasonable person, before placing blame on anyone, seeks to have full information, to see ‘the whole picture.’ Considering the evidence, you will see that there is much that obviously contradicts the idea of God’s not caring.
A Contrasting Picture
It is true that today, through newspapers and television, you can see human suffering because of famine—starving children with bloated bellies and toothpick-like arms and legs; desperate parents on whose faces are written frustration and hopelessness.
And yet, in dramatic contrast to this, you can see that this earth produces an incredible variety of foods—fruits, grains, nuts and vegetables—with an amazing diversity in tastes and qualities for preparing delicious, nourishing meals. If we blame God for the suffering because of famine, whom do we credit for the loving thoughtfulness and care manifest in earth’s bounty of foods? Or, if we say that God is responsible for both, then how do we explain the apparent contradiction?
What about man’s own responsibility in the matter? How much care and neighbor love has he shown for fellow humans? The fact is that even now there is enough food to feed all the human family, world wide. A publication of the United Nations World Health Organization points to the real problem, saying:
“The world is rich but not making good use of the wealth within its reach. Millions live in the shadow of chronic hunger and malnutrition, while others eat too much and are thus malnourished in a different sense.”
After showing that some 100,000,000 children today suffer from serious malnutrition, the publication goes on to say:
“The tragic fact is that if all the food now available were distributed equitably in proportion to need among countries and socio-economic groups, not one single child would be suffering from malnutrition. There is enough food in the world today; it is just not distributed according to need.”—World Health, February-March 1974, pages 3, 6.
Even when distribution of food is made to famine-stricken areas, what often happens? Reporting on shipments to drought-affected nations in Africa, Time magazine says that inefficiency and corruption slow the distribution and divert some of the grain to commercial channels for sale at enormous profits. “Much of the donated food remains heaped high on the docks where it is prey to rats, locusts and thieves,” the report states. “The major problem, however, is logistics.” That is, governments have not been able to provide needed transportation to get the materials out to the hardest-hit areas on account of bad roads, lack of equipment, and so forth.
Strange, isn’t it? The world now spends some $200,000,000,000 a year on war equipment. Nations can efficiently deliver bombs to any point on earth and drop these by the tons, even send men to the moon. But food they find hard to handle.
So, too, today we can see huge, ugly slum areas in many places, people living in cramped, dark, foul-smelling buildings or occupying rude huts or shacks in barren regions. Often these sections become breeding grounds for disease and crime.
Yet at the same time we can see vast areas of this earth that are truly lovely, even breathtaking in their beauty—verdant woodlands, rich, rolling pastures and meadows, majestically rugged mountains, crystal-clear lakes and sparkling streams and waterfalls, sun-drenched beaches fringed with palm groves, cloud-decorated skies that are pastel pink and blue at sunrise, fiery-red, purple and gold at sunset.
Again, if we charge the first—the scenes of human misery and squalor—to God, then to whom do we credit the second? Who is the source of the beauty and grandeur that human eyes never tire of drinking in and that no human artist has ever matched?
In all fairness we must recognize the heavy responsibility that men themselves bear for so much of life’s unpleasantness and the ugliness that faces us today. Sheer greed, commercial exploitation and ruthlessness lie at the root of many of man’s problems, including poverty. Shoddy workmanship and employee dishonesty drive up costs for everyone. Even the most basic things of life are misused, abused and brought to the brink of ruin by human pollution. As Professor Donald R. Scoby observes in his book Environmental Ethics:
“Man, created to breathe clean air, drink and enjoy pure water, and enjoy the adventure of his natural surroundings, has changed his environment and finds he cannot adapt. He is preparing his own mass execution.”
Amazing Contrasts in Our Own Bodies
We see the same contrast in case after case. On the one hand, we see cancer, heart disease and other ailments afflicting mankind. On the other, we are faced with the human body’s marvelous abilities and makeup.
We rightly marvel at the heart’s capacity, in the course of one day, to pump the equivalent of 7,000 quarts of blood through a network of 60,000 miles of blood vessels and supply oxygen and nourishment to some 30,000,000,000,000 cells—each cell containing over a quarter of a million protein molecules, each molecule consisting of about 20,000 atoms.
We cannot help feeling amazement at the body’s natural defenses against disease and infection—the way that any penetration of germs triggers an unseen and immediate counterattack by the body: first, an increase of blood-flow to the site of the invasion; the arrival of antibodies that fasten on to the invading bacteria, in effect identifying them as enemies and causing white blood cells called neutrophils to surround the bacteria and break them down by digestive enzymes; accompanying this, an immediate speedup in production by the bone marrow of these defending antibodies and neutrophils; the activity of the blood plasma’s clotting agent (called fibrinogen) to form a network of strands around the infection and seal off the area; then the arrival of slower-moving lymphocytes and monocytes to feed on and clean up the debris resulting from the battle waged; and, finally, the growing of new cells and tissues to restore the damaged area.
So complex and numerous are the human body’s defenses that the late Harvard University physiologist Walter Cannon was moved to say: “When you understand a great deal about the human body and its resources for health, you wonder why anyone is ever sick.”
Yet people do get sick, and loved ones die. Why? Is it because God does not care? Then why all the provisions for maintaining health?
The Problem That Remains
Clearly, to attribute human suffering to a lack of God’s care raises as many questions as it answers, or more. It makes life on earth a paradox, full of contradictions. To say that God does not exist only makes the problem worse. Why are we here in the first place if there is no Creator? What purpose does life have in such a case?
When we see a house with its doors, windows, rooms and other features that are obviously designed for human use, we recognize that the house had a builder. This entire planet has many more features that fit it for human habitation than any house that man has ever made, for houses need outside sources to provide them with such things as food, water and fuel. With good reason, the inspired apostle Paul wrote: “Of course, every house is constructed by someone, but he that constructed all things is God.” (Heb. 3:4) If someone commits a crime in a house, or individuals in that house get sick, does that deny the existence of the builder?
The facts force us to recognize that man himself is responsible for so much of the suffering experienced on earth. Human selfishness, nationalistic and racial pride, prejudice and hatred, along with dishonesty, lust, impatience and anger are what cause the disagreeable things in life, bring oppression and poverty, wreck marriages and ruin family life, provoke violence and war. Man has seriously misused this planetary home, the earth.
You may recognize the truth of this. Yet you may still wonder: “Why is it, then, that God lets it keep on this way? Why does he not step in and put a stop to all the wrongdoing and oppression and violence? Why do the innocent often suffer along with the guilty? And what of the things that are clearly beyond mankind’s power to change, including the suffering of sickness that sooner or later hits us all?”
All of this points up the necessity of tracing the problem back to its very beginning, its initial source. Without this we can never know the answer to our questions. Fortunately for us, there is a means for doing this. Consider what the evidence reveals.
[Pictures on page 5]
If we blame God for suffering due to famine, whom do we credit for the loving thoughtfulness manifest in earth’s varieties of delicious foods?
[Pictures on page 6]
Men can go to the moon, yet in lands plagued by famine, food often sits on rat-infested docks because of the professed inability of the government to get it to the people
[Pictures on page 7]
If human squalor is to be charged to God, who is to be credited with earth’s grandeur and beauty?
[Pictures on page 8]
The earth is far more equipped for sustaining life than a house. If a house has an intelligent designer and maker, how much more so this planet?