Friday, February 8, 2013

Random Suffering

If you think about it there are many examples of life or death consequences flowing from very small things. Car accidents are a common one. How often do people talk about a fraction of a second either way and this person would be alive or dead. Random gun fire is the same way. The bullet finds who it finds. Cancer and many other diseases seem pretty random yet they devastate many families.

So what are the choices? These things look random yet the impact on our lives is huge. We either accept that our lives can be devastated at any moment by random chance or we believe that these incidents are not random. They just look random from a scientific perspective.That is really a huge philosophical choice. Both options come with a lot of baggage. If you say these things are really meaningless, uncontrolled events then it becomes very difficult to find much meaning in life. We can try and fight the chaos but our chances are not good. Absolutely nothing is safe.

If we say that someone is capable of controlling all of it then that must be quite a someone. The sheer number of moving parts you would have to track is hard for a human to even estimate. Who can control them all and still remain anonymous? To work his will but still allow all the laws of physics and probability to hold? That requires an almost unimaginable intelligence. It requires God.

Even if you believe is God in some sense we still have to believe that absolutely nothing is safe. You or your loved ones still might die suddenly. You are not immune from any pains life might bring. What you are immune from is useless pain. Every struggle, every loss, every senseless tragedy is there for a reason. But you have to remember the unimaginable intelligence. We only see a small fraction of what is going on. So it ends up being a matter of faith seeking understanding. The understanding might never arrive.

One of the things we tend to miss is that pain is not the problem. Often suffering is the solution. Sin is the problem. Not even so much the actual sin but the sinful heart. So God has to deal with billions of sinful hearts and turn them into loving hearts. How does He do that? He lets them sin. Then he lets the suffering flow from that sin. He does not let them sin once or twice. He lets them live a life of sin. He lets them create a mountain of pain and suffering. Why? So some of them might someday see the folly of their ways and open themselves up to grace.

So the pain is suffered first and foremost by God. The more we love the more we suffer when those we love are in pain. We suffer even more when those we love are causing pain. God loves us more than we can imagine. God knows the pain we suffer. He also knows the pain we cause. It would be so much easier for Him to just wipe out the human race. Yet He does not. He suffers immensely so that some may be saved.

So pain is not just not the problem. It is actually expected. We want to love like God. That makes us more sensitive to pain. Jesus is our model. He didn't exactly avoid pain. Quite the opposite. God is good but the greatest good is not the absence of pain and suffering. The greatest good is love. Love is most beautiful when it suffers.


  1. So are you saying you believe that God causes suffering based on sin rather than randomly? Or is this a God causes suffering in mysterious ways type deal?

  2. He does not do it randomly. Mysterious is a good word. Not that we can understand none of the reasons. What it means is our understanding is always going to be partial.

    Sin is one big reason. God allows sin so He must allow the consequences of sin. So he gives us the choice to murder or to refrain from murder. If we choose murder then pain results. The murderer suffers the pain of guilt. The victim suffers death and perhaps much pain before death. The victim's family suffers too. So one sin can create a whole pile of suffering. Of course God does not just allow one sin. He allows all of us the freedom to sin in many ways. So we should expect suffering to be common in this world just from that source.