How can God be good when there is so much suffering?
This question contains the implied assumption that “if God were good, then the world would be a paradise.”
The perfect world that we wish existed is exactly the world God first made (Gen 1:31). But He put us in charge of it (Gen 2:15), and we made a huge mess of everything (Gen 3).
This question also has the implied assumption that if suffering exists, then God CAN NOT be good. But is that true? Is there no possible scenario in which any suffering could ever exist in a world created by an all-good, all-powerful God?
Consider just one example. The Bible tells the amazing story of God coming into the world to bear the punishment for the sins we had committed against Him (1Pet 2:24), thereby reconciling the world to Himself (2Cor 5:18-19) through the most UNJUST SUFFERING of all time, the crucifixion of Jesus Christ on the cross.
And He promises to make this world into a paradise again (Rev 21:4-5).
We know that God is good, literally by definition. Early American dictionaries defined the word “good” as: “perfect in accomplishing its intended purpose… having moral qualities which God's law requires” (The American Dictionary, Noah Webster, 1828). Also, God reveals Himself in the Bible as “good”. (Exo 34:6; Psa 119:68; 34:8).
However, many people think that if God was all-powerful and also all-good that He would have to eliminate all suffering in this lifetime. This appeals to our emotions on the surface but breaks down under deeper scrutiny.
First, it focuses only on our time here on earth. God has promised to make all things right and just for everyone, but His timeline includes eternity.
Psalm 103:6 – The LORD works righteousness and justice for all who are oppressed.
Romans 8:18 – For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.
Second, God can accomplish good through suffering. One thing He does is walks with us through suffering.
Psalm 23:4 – “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”
2 Corinthians 1:3-4 – “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus the Messiah. He is our merciful Father and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our suffering…”
Also, He promises specific rewards for those who suffer in this lifetime.
Matthew 5:11-12 – “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
In the end, God has chosen not to eliminate all suffering in this world but chooses to endure with us through all circumstances, promising eventual justice in eternity.
Link: Compassionate Letter to those suffering (Tyler Combs’ letter)
Additional Bible verses
Suffering in this lifetime vs. eternal glory: 1Pet 5:10; 2Cor 4:17.
Suffering can remind us that the world is broken (which leads us to the gospel): Rom 8:20-22.