This is one of the questions we are frequently asked by those who are more of a skeptic in the matter of faith in God or by those who do not pass over the church threshold very often. If God does exist, why doesn’t He put an end to evil? If God is almighty, why doesn’t He have the power to set things straight so that nobody would suffer anymore?
I would like to answer this question by telling you about what happens to me as a father in my relationship with my little girl, Sofia, who is almost 2. It is often good to compare our relationship with God to that with our parents, in order to understand more easily what happens to us.
Sofia is now at the age when she can walk very well, she can even run, she climbs everything, she talks, she pulls everything she can get her hands on, she disassembles, she dismantles, she explores everything inside and around the house. Sometimes she falls or gets hurt while playing and that is why I have to watch her most of the time. Sofia is a bit spoiled and she has a personality which becomes more prominent by the day, and that is why we come to “quarrel”. She wants to climb the chair in order to reach the window, she wants to climb the furniture, she wants to touch the stove, or play with the plug, hold her hands under the running water at the sink, etc.
I admonish her and tell her not to do that, otherwise she will get “a bump”. She stops for a little while, listens to me and a few moments later she tries to do it again. I admonish her once more. She stops again feeling a bit ashamed, listens to me carefully and then she tries to do it again. As my words don’t get through to her, I punish her by spanking her and then I emphasize once more that she is not allowed in that place, otherwise something bad will happen to her. It is only then that my admonishment takes effect… although sometimes it happens that she is not afraid even after that and she tries to do it again. That is how I understood that she is not conscious of the danger she exposes herself to, even if I try hard to explain to her.
But sometimes it is too late for me to help her and she falls, gets hurt, hurts herself and starts to cry. She touches the hot pan on the stove stealthily and she gets burned and then she really understands what her mother and I tell her about that place being “ouch” and that she is not allowed over there. She remembers where she got hurt and she no longer has the courage to play over there, moreover she even says all by herself “no, no, no…!” and then she walks away.
I love Sofia very much and I want all the best in the world for her and I wish she would never get hurt, but though I can’t tell her what’s wrong and right all the time, I can’t admonish her every second. I want her to do what’s right, not because I told her so, but because she realized that thing will harm her now or later. I don’t want her to do what’s right due to constraint, because I can see her, and do what’s wrong when she’s by herself. Based on the experience she has achieved until now by playing, on the advice I have been giving her until now and with my help, I want her to manage to keep away from bad and always do good and have a beautiful life.
Thus, the title question related to my relationship with Sofia would sound like this: “If I do exist as a father, then why does Sofia make mistakes?” if Sofia makes mistakes, it doesn’t mean that I want her to make mistakes, or that I don’t exist, but only that I want her to learn to do what’s right willingly.
It’s the same thing in our relationship with God. He wants us to do only good things, and He gives us His help in order for us to do that, but He can’t constraint us, because otherwise He would annul us as individuals, He would turn us into little robots which respond to orders, or into slaves who do what’s right unwillingly and not due to their own conscience. Although He could protect us from suffering all the time, God lets us fall and get hurt sometimes, in order for us to understand from our own experience that defying His Will brings suffering both to us and to those around us. God allows suffering in our lives so that we can see that sin (a wrong choice of our will) only brings us more torment, instead of joy.
But we have to make a clear specification: God allows us to suffer partially and not the way we should as a consequence of our sins….On the one hand we realize why God accepts suffering in the world, but on the other hand we don’t understand his entire plan.
Undoubtedly, God has a plan. As long as God knows everything, He is not surprised by the presence of sin and evil in the world, which bring so much suffering. But if God knows everything since eternity, then He is perfectly capable of using the suffering in the world in order to accomplish His salvation plan. The best and simplest example is Christ, Who suffered in the hands of some evil people. Through His suffering on the Cross and through His Resurrection, we have the certainty of victory over death. It was God’s plan since eternity for Christ to die for our sins, although He was crucified by some people just like us. This means that God included evil and suffering into his salvation plan as a reality in order to fulfill His Will. This doesn’t mean that God is the author of evil, but only that He is above all things and He can even use suffering in order to accomplish a greater good.
If God must stop all evil in the world, then He must put an end to all evil. This means that the killer must be prevented from killing and the thief must be prevented from stealing. But evil firstly begins from the thought and then it would mean that God should prevent us even from thinking sinfully. Thus, in order for God to put an end to evil and suffering, it means He should annul people’s ability to choose and to do what they want. So if God put an end to all evil, would we be free anymore?
Here is in brief why God allows us to suffer:
- God accepts for evil to happen for reasons that we partially know and on the other hand that we don’t fully understand
- He uses suffering to teach and discipline people
- If God chose there were no more suffering in the world, then He would eliminate people’s power to choose according to their will and nature, and thus He would degrade or minimize them, by not trusting them that at some moment they will be able to do the good by themselves
- He allows suffering in order to prevent even greater future suffering
- Suffering is a consequence of sin and sin is a choice of our free will
- Suffering works as a warning for those who intend to do more evil in the future
- The suffering caused by our bad deeds shows how good God’s commandments are, if we abide by them
- Suffering breaks us apart from our body and lifts our mind to God. It reminds us that we are as material as the created world and as spiritual as the Uncreated God
- Suffering reminds us of death, death of the Heavenly Kingdom, the Heavenly Kingdom of our sins, and the sins urge us to repentance, and repentance urges us to change and to good deeds
- Suffering reminds us that we can’t do anything by ourselves, but only together with the others and with God.
Translated by Claudia