Why does God allow suffering?
If you believe in God and you believe that God is good you have some exlaining to do.
You've probably run into this argument before:
God created everything
and Evil exists
God created evil
God cannot be good.
How do we respond to this?
How can God be good (just) in such a broken world?
We call this explanation a theodicy.
There are quite a few ways to answer this quesiton, some I have found more helpful than others.
Some of these answers highlight the sovereignty of God: God is God, so anything God does is good. To even question God's right to do anything is wrong. I think these kind of statements take what we understand to be good and make it include any action, no matter how evil it is, as long as a person has the power to do it. This confuses right for might.
Some answers redefine evil. Just as darkness is the absence of light, and not a "thing" in essence, so evil is the absence of good. God therefore did not create evil, but evil resides when there is an absence of good. This is helpful as a response to those worried about the metaphysical origin of evil, but I think the answer fails to grasp the reality of evil present today. Evil, suffering, etc is such a part of our lives, to deny it's existence seems irrational and insensitive.
Some answers focus on the choices of beings with free will. God wants to enter into loving relationships with his creation. Love requires a choice, and therefore the possibly of things going wrong. God is not responsible for evil, but is responsible for the chance for evil. I find this helpful, yet don't see all of our suffering resulting from bad choices. Hurricanes, earthquakes, accidents, ect. or so prevelant and desitructive, does place the blame on a choice have any
Just because these answers fall short, doesn't mean they are bad. We need to admit their shortcomings if we are going to use them effectively.
Here are some criteria for a good theodicy of a good God.
1. My answer may be helpful to me, but it doesn't have to be universally applied or accepted.
2. My answer may be helpful to the question of suffering, but it does not end suffering. The answer to suffering is the end to suffering, not a good explanation for it. Meaning can help us cope in our suffering, but meaning can also be manipulated to justify the suffering of others.
3. My answer does not require the condemnation of God or others
4. My answer does not absolve God or myself from action.
Many times our theodicies are an attempt to justify our actual apathy and God's apparent apathy.
The Gospel is not an explanation for evil. The Gospel is the response to evil. The Gospel is the story of God acting, taking the blame, suffering for our salvation.
While the world asks, "Why does God allow suffering?" there is another question the gospel demands we add.
"Why would God choose to suffer?"
If we believe that God is good, we have some explaining to do.