So Much Suffering
“WHY is there all this terrible individual and collective suffering . . . ? God is supposed to be the embodiment of all meaning and yet there is so much that is pointless in this world, so much meaningless suffering and senseless sin. Is this God perhaps what Nietzsche accused him of being: a despot, impostor, swindler, executioner?”—On Being a Christian, by Hans Küng.
You can see that Catholic theologian Hans Küng is simply presenting a problem that perplexes many—why does an all-powerful, loving God allow so much suffering? Have you not heard people ask such a question? Anyone with compassion grieves at what Küng describes as “an endless stream of blood, sweat and tears, pain, sorrow and fear, loneliness and death.” It is, in fact, more like a torrent, a flood of horror and anguish that has blighted the lives of millions throughout history.—Job 14:1.
Filled With “Trouble and Hurtful Things”
Think of the suffering that results from war, the pain felt not only by the immediate victims but also by those left behind to grieve, such as the parents and relatives of child victims and others who have been brutalized. “Over the last 10 years,” said the Red Cross recently, “1.5 million children were killed in armed conflicts.” In Rwanda in 1994, the Red Cross reports, “hundreds of thousands of men, women and children had been brutally and systematically slaughtered.”
We also should not overlook the pain caused by pedophile perverts. Stated one grieving mother, who said her son committed suicide after being abused by a child-care worker: “The man who abused my son . . . destroyed him and a number of other boys in the most systematic, perverted way imaginable.” And what of the nightmare of pain felt by the victims of callous murderers or serial killers, like those caught in Britain who “abducted, raped, tortured and killed with impunity for 25 years”? Throughout history there seems to have been no limit to what men and women have inflicted on one another in the way of pain and suffering.—Ecclesiastes 4:1-3.
Add to this the suffering caused by emotional and physical illnesses and the terrible pain of grief that ravages families when loved ones die prematurely. There is also the anguish felt by the victims of famine or other so-called natural disasters. Few will argue with Moses’ statement that our 70 or 80 years are filled with “trouble and hurtful things.”—Psalm 90:10.
Part of God’s Design?
Might it be, as some have claimed, that this incessant suffering is part of some incomprehensible design of God? Must we suffer now to appreciate life ‘in the next world’? Is it true, as French philosopher Teilhard de Chardin believed, that the “suffering that kills and decomposes, is necessary to the being in order that it may live and become spirit”? (The Religion of Teilhard de Chardin; italics ours.) Surely not!
Would a considerate designer deliberately create a deadly environment and then claim to be compassionate when he rescued people from its effects? Hardly! Why would a loving God do such a thing? So why does God permit suffering? Will suffering ever end? The next article will discuss these questions.
[Picture Credit Line on page 3]
WHO photo by P. Almasy