If anything in the world that people do not want apart from death might be pain and suffering. Atheist, secular/natural humanists raise provocative and wrongheaded questions against the existence of God on the basis of the existence of evil and suffering. People around the world are agonizing due to diseases, hunger, global food crises, war, terrorism, and natural disaster – earthquake, tsunami, and tornado. The pain and suffering due to these problems have given some notions for atheists to develop their arguments against the supremacy of God. The ultimate arguments skeptics have are about benevolent God allowing suffering: 1. Why is there so much evil, pain, and suffering in the world if God exist? 2. If God is all-powerful, all-good, and all-knowing, why would man have to suffer? 3. Therefore, God does not exist, or God is not all-good, or God is not-all powerful.
Christians, of course, have appropriate answer but not accurate for those who are going through pain and suffering. First, we have to deal with the issue in two levels – philosophically, and practically. We must speak truth in integrity, as people are going through pain. C.S. Lewis also had to deal with his intellectual and emotional problem regarding pain and suffering in his life. Basically, we suffer from moral evil and natural evil. Even today when we remember the Holocaust, our hair bristles. We remember Adolf Hitler behind killing six million Jews during World War II. We line up Joseph Stalin, and Pol Pot of Cambodia with Hitler who were morally corrupted and evil in their deeds. In these cases, the argument whether God is all-good or not is not valid, since the outcome was the lack of absolute moral standard in a evil doer. Therefore, the moral evil proves that human beings are fallen creatures who inherited sinful nature from the Garden of Eden. This is a clear picture of human depravity.
On the other hand, the natural evil is the natural forces that cause suffering. It seems like evil has no part in the natural disaster. Lately, around 14,000 have been killed in China in 7.9 rector scale earthquake. Recent tornadoes in the US killed hundreds of people and left others homeless. On 24th December 2004, Indian Ocean Tsunami killed nearly 300,000 people. What is God doing when hundreds of thousands of people were swept away by the ocean? Has God no control over nature, or has God allowed nature to destroy people? It is reported that approximately 1500 people die each day in the United States due to cancer. HIV/AIDS have swallowed all adults in Africa. Can God not stop these painful suffering in the lives of those children who are left orphaned? These questions are laid before us to ponder. Neither can we avoid these questions simply ignoring the fact.
To some extent, the natural disasters are the consequences of our freewill. Art Lindsley writes that, “God did not create evil, but he did create within human being the capacity to choose evil” (55). HIV/AIDS is the result of sexual immorality. Gradually, we have to cope with the global warming due to our unaccountability to the earth that God has created. We have no way to blame God for the possible consequences from these natural disasters, because we are responsible for what is happening at present and what is going to happen.
Some godly people suffer pains and have lost lives due to incurable diseases. What shall we say about these people? They feel abandoned, afflicted, and angry at God. He seems far away and hiding in the secret place. Sometimes, question after question arises in the mind, “Why I, not others?” Truly, we cannot understand divine purpose by our limited human mind. Lewis claims that we have no answer for all these questions except trusting God.
Eventually, we have to just trust and depend on God who we know that he is real. We may never get the answer of our suffering, or understand his divine weaving to share his glory with us. Though, we can comfort people who are going through lots of difficult situation, demise of loved one, struggling with incurable diseases, seeking for the truth, or suffering pain for what he does not deserve. Our logical arguments and truths of the world become incomplete and worthless for them who are suffering, unless we demonstrate the benevolence of God through our lives.
If I would have to visit anyone who is suffering from incurable disease, I would sit close to him. I would listen to him, and just pray for comfort. In the midst of all anguish and pain, many words from my mouth could become a bitter gall in his wound, as Job experienced more pain from his three friends’ continual talking. So, it is better be a good listener than a idle babbler when you sit close to someone who is bereaving. Many times we try to philosophize things of the world but our well-reasoned answers do not help when people are suffering. People have broken marriage, lose their jobs, sickness etc. and our shallow head knowledge becomes more superficial if we open our mouth wide. Thus, we better listen to them, cry and mourn with them, stand with them and pray with them. God has not made the mountain which he cannot move. God will bind the bandage to the wound of his children.
Fayed, Lisa. How Many People Die of Cancer Each Day? 14 Jan. 2006. Medical Review Board. 15 May 2008 <http://cancer.about.com/od/cancerfactsandstatistics/f/dailydeaths.htm>.
Lindsley, Art. “The Problem of Evil.” C.W. Lewis’s Case for Christ. Illinois: IVP Books, 2005.