Q: How would I go about answering a nonbeliever who asks, "If God is real, why does he allow so much suffering in this world?"
This question takes on many forms, but essentially it centers around WHY a God who is thought to be all powerful as well as loving and kind, would allow evil and suffering to exist as part of our human experience.
People ask this question because they assume since God is the Creator He must have created suffering and death since it is so prevalent in our daily lives. The fact is, the world in which we live is "fallen" — corrupted and polluted — and it contains many things that are not part of God's original design.
The Bible tells us God never intended the world to include sin, suffering and evil. Even death wasn't part of God's plan for mankind. All those things came about as a result of man's rebellion against God. Ultimately we have no one to blame for suffering and evil but ourselves.
In order for God to rid the world of suffering He would have to abolish all sin. And to do that He would need to eliminate all sinners — which kind of defeats the point since no one would be around to enjoy this new sin-free world.
But that doesn’t mean that God isn’t working to eliminate suffering and death. In fact, He has already begun the process by sending His Son to pay the penalty of our sin through His death on the cross. You see, before the CONSEQUENCES of sin can be dealt with, the PENALTY of sin had to be taken care of first.
With the death and subsequent resurrection of Jesus, events have been set in motion which will eventually bring about God's plan to completely eliminate sin, suffering and death. The promise to accomplish this is scattered all throughout the pages of Scripture, and the next event in God’s redemptive time-table is the return of Jesus Christ for His Bride, the Church.
So why is God taking so long? The Apostle Peter responds to that question this way:
The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. 2 Peter 3:9 (NIV84)
This means God is giving mankind time to take advantage of the wonderful promise of forgiveness He has made available to any who might accept it.
When you’re talking to unbelievers about God’s plan to redeem this fallen world, don't forget to ask them if they have accepted God’s offer of forgiveness through His Son. This is our hope, and we need to share it while there's still time.