Why the Innocent Suffer

Why do the innocent suffer? If God is so loving and powerful, why doesn’t He end suffering?

This is one of the fundamental objections to Christianity. When people ask it, we have an opportunity to present the gospel to them. We don’t need to be afraid of objections like these. Instead, we should think through them carefully and walk with others through them.

As we address the question of suffering, we need to keep in mind two parts: causation and cessation. In other words, what causes this suffering, and when will it end?

No Simple Answer

In addressing the question of why the innocent suffer, we need to be clear: there is no simple answer. We do not know the mind of the Maker, and His ways are not our ways. As much as we would love a simple, easy answer, we cannot have one. Jesus makes this clear in Luke 13:1–5:

Now on the same occasion there were some present who reported to Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. And Jesus said to them, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were greater sinners than all other Galileans because they suffered this fate? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or do you suppose that those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them were worse culprits than all the men who live in Jerusalem? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”

Asking “why” is not the best question, because we cannot comprehend the majesty of the One who made all things. We can’t even understand nature and the material world, let along spiritual things! But as we wrestle with the question of why the innocent suffer, we can take steps to trusting God.

Two Types of Evil

The first part of the answer to why the innocent suffer comes from distinguishing between two types of evil. The first is moral evil, which is caused by us—by our rebellion against God and our atrocities against others. Our sin is at the root of this evil—our hatred, our overindulgence, our greed, everything we do wrong.

The second type is natural evil, which refers to things that go wrong in the natural world. Think of the destruction caused by natural disasters—tsunamis, tornados, wildfires, the collapses of buildings. These seem to us to be senseless and purposeless, and they form part of our struggle with God.

Scripture tells us that these two evils come about because we live in a fallen world. We are not as God created us. But this is not the way things will continue forever. Even though we wrestle with evil now, one day God will redeem everything, including creation. When we are raised from the dead, so will creation be raised into a new, perfect order of things.

Related Reading: Prayers for Strength based on the Bible

Why the Innocent Suffer

There are three basic options to answer the question of why the innocent suffer or why evil exists:

  • Option 1: Evil exists; God doesn’t (atheism)
  • Option 2: God exists; evil doesn’t (pantheism; panentheism)
  • Option 3: God exists; evil exists (theism)

The key as we answer the question is finding a worldview that is thick enough to sustain an answer to the question of evil. Spoiler alert: only the Bible and Christianity give an explanation of evil that provides us with hope for the future.

Are you wrestling with the question of suffering? Ken Boa and Jenny Abel’s Shaped by Suffering is a good resource for you.

Want to learn more about the Christian faith and how to defend it? Check out Ken Boa’s apologetics archives.

Why the Innocent Suffer

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