Could God have made a world without suffering?

by Matt Slick

Yes, God could make a world without suffering. In fact, He already did when He made the world before it fell into sin. Adam and Eve were living in the Garden of Eden in a world where there was no suffering, no murder, and no lying. But when they rebelled against God, suffering entered into the world. So, God did not make a world with suffering in it. See also, Atheism, Adam and Eve, and Suffering

Why does God allow suffering to continue in the world?

But then, why does God continue to allow suffering in the world? The question is difficult to answer because there are several philosophical considerations worth addressing. First of all, are we asking if it's possible for God to have carried out His plan but not have allowed suffering? On the one hand, we could say yes because God is all-powerful and can do whatever He wants. On the other hand, if God always does what is best for His glory (Isaiah 43:7), then we could make the case that it was God's sovereign plan to allow suffering to occur in the world.

But if that is the case, are we saying that suffering is the best thing that could happen? This question also has ambiguity. We have to ask, "the best thing that could happen for whom?" In addition, how do we determine what the "best thing" is?

Is unnecessary suffering wrong?

Now, generally speaking, people think that unnecessary suffering is wrong. But this assumption has inherent problems. What is defined as unnecessary suffering? What makes it inherently wrong? Is it wrong because people don't like it? If that is the case, then it becomes right if people do like it. After all, some people take pleasure in suffering unnecessarily because they feel guilty and so they assuage guilt when unnecessary suffering occurs to them.

Atheists often assert the premise that "unnecessary suffering is wrong." But, in an atheistic worldview, there are no universal right and wrong actions. There are only groups of individuals with subjective opinions that often change. There is no objective set of ethical norms to which they can appeal and therefore say that "unnecessary suffering is wrong."

Then we get into the problem of determining what is unnecessary suffering and the above question can be modified, "unnecessary suffering for whom?" It gets complicated.

Essentially, when people start asking why God allows suffering to continue in the world are asking a question that is not so easily answered because so many aspects of the question need to be refined and analyzed. It just isn't that easy to provide an absolute response, but I do have something to offer.

Sacrifice is the greatest act of love

1 John 4:8 says, "The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love." Also, Jesus said in John 15:13, "Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends." So, we see in these two verses that 1), God is love and 2) the greatest act of love is die for someone else.

Perhaps one of the reasons that God allows suffering to continue in the world since it entered through Adam and Eve's sin is that it then provides a means by which God Himself can demonstrate the greatest act of love. How? By using the injustice of the world whereby Jesus, who is God and flesh (John 1:1, 14; Colossians 2:9), could lay His life down for His people, and through His suffering endure at the hands of the unrighteous and redeem those who put their trust and faith in His death on the cross.

So,  perhaps God allowed sin and suffering to continue in the world so that He could demonstrate the greatest act of love, which is consistent with His holy, loving character.


About The Author

Matt Slick is the President and Founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.