God allowing people to suffer?

So I wrote a blog post called “sacrilegious thoughts about God…” a few weeks ago about some thoughts that I read from Desmond Tutu, and one of my friends responded with some questions that I had been thinking about while I was writing the post, so I’ll post those questions here along with some ideas that I have been thinking through.

“Why does God allow people to suffer for others to change?  You have people who need food or they will perish, yet the only way for this to change is for people to change their hearts to love them and help.  Is that fair to the sufferers?  With our free will, what if we choose to ignore what we know and not help?”

Rightly, this friend was concerned about where my line of thinking was going because it leads to some questions that limit God in the sense that he has to be waiting on his followers to actually do something in the world.  We have seen and heard from many people that God does act on his own in some instances such as healing or provision across history.  I think God is acting in us and through us all the time, but not necessarily in all of the ways that we think that he should.  Also, I wonder if God “allows” suffering because he wants us to realize that we are the cause of someone else’s suffering, and that we should be a part of helping those people rebuild from the effects of our decisions.  When I say “allows”, I mean that God lets us deal with the consequences of our collective decisions on a global scale, so while we do not always know each cause, God does know all of the causes as well as the effects.  We live in a global world, in which what we do effects people thousands of miles away, and we don’t realize it.

You’re probably asking now, “but how can we be the cause of so much suffering in the world?”  Especially as rich westerners, our decisions in the everyday have global effects when they’re compounded by how many people live in post-industrial societies.  Moreso, we don’t realize that our consumerism drives many different paths of suffering for people all over the world.  Because multinational corporations want a large profit margin, finding cheap labor in foreign countries helps them achieve that as well as helps us get cheap coffee here in the United States.  We often do not know that our 3 or 4 dollars is going toward something like this. For example, someone may look at the suffering in Somalia because of the famine and wonder why God does not intervene in the situation.  He should get them food right away is what we want to say, but that only gets us off the hook.  Little do we realize that the country that we swear allegiance to was part of a conflict in the early 1990s, in which we supported certain sides in the conflict with weapons and soldiers for a time.  Not only that, but that support was also a big part of the deconstructing of what little infrastructure was available to Somalians already.  This involvement only touches on American westerners though. We could also talk about the industrial nations that colonized this area 100 years or more ago.  Those people planted the seeds for this conflict, especially when they decided the boundaries for all of the African countries in the late 1800s or when they decided that a country with its geographical boundaries would have several different people groups with different customs and culture that could conflict.

What I tend to wonder more than why does God allow suffering is why do we expect God to come into the world and clean up our messes all the time.  I think God is so much more than a global janitor who waits for us to screw everything up, and then he flies in for the rescue and expects nothing from us in the cleaning process. This is the very thinking that I was working against in my prior blog post because I don’t know that any of this suffering has to do with God as much as it has to do with us denying that we had any share in the sufferings’ causes.  If we ignore the suffering of others, we are in denial of who is really to blame for what is happening around the world as well as at home.

We also must remember that because of the fall of Adam and Eve, our world is corrupted by sin and selfishness, so things don’t always go like they should because people are not always acting as they should.  In addition, I have a few thoughts on the suffering caused by natural disasters too and how we often blame God for those too.  I would love to hear your thoughts and questions on these ideas, so let me know through any of the contacts on my blog contact page.


~ by randallkoehler on August 22, 2011.

4 Responses to “God allowing people to suffer?”

  1. Wow, Randall. A very thoughtful and well stated answer to one of the most difficult questions. Thank you.

  2. I think it is important to remember, also, that everyone suffers.. not just the poor and physically hungry. The rich just suffer in other ways. Sometimes I honestly think I would rather be living in a shack somewhere starving to death than living a life in which possessions, ice cream, homework, and what someone else thinks of me matters so greatly to the point where it stresses me out or seems more important than another person or God. I guess what I am getting at is that not only does God allow us to see others suffering to get us to change, but He also allows us to suffer until we change.

  3. Excellent thoughts

  4. This made me laugh for an extended time.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: