The second point to note is that when people ask this question, they usually include pain, suffering caused by people to other people, and all kinds of “natural” disasters – the whole works. That’s the assumption we’ll make here.
This begs the question: “if God is able to stop suffering, does that mean he doesn’t want to?” Not at all. In fact, there will come a time when God puts a stop to all evil. Obviously, that time has not yet come. In that case, the even bigger question is this: “why hasn’t God put a stop to suffering and evil yet? What is he waiting for?”
And the answer: He’s waiting for as long as possible, to give as many people as possible the opportunity to make their peace with him. To put it another way:
“God is not slow about his promise, as some count slowness, but is patient towards you, not wanting anyone to perish, but wanting everyone to come to repentance”
That’s the bottom line. God could quite easily put an end to all suffering and evil now. Instead, he’s waiting to give all of us an opportunity to respond to him. In any case, what if God decided to stop all evil at 5 pm today. How many people would be left living at 5.01 pm?
What Would God Have To Do?
Just think for a moment what God would have to do to get rid of the painful consequences of human choices:
Every time someone used a weapon for violence, God would have to make the weapon harmless. He would have to turn bullets into paper, knives into plastic, and grenades into polystyrene beads.
Every time someone drove a car out of control, God would have to intervene, somehow interrupting the laws of nature to protect that person.
Every time a parent yelled at a child in anger, God would have to mute the sounds, and somehow turn the expression on the parent’s face to an expression of care and love.
How Did It Start?
Evil and suffering made their appearance when the first humans, Adam and Eve, chose to disobey God. In a garden of every imaginable delight, they ate the one and only piece of fruit that God had told them not to. That was the first human sin. Since that time, the world has seen a lot of pain and suffering, but it was never God’s preferred option. Natural disasters are all part of the suffering caused by sin.
Sure, God could have removed the option of choosing to disobey him, but he wanted people who chose to love him. Love is never forced. And so, God put in place a plan to rescue humans from their own self-destructive ways.
Here’s a story to make the point:
A vicar and an atheist barber were walking through the seedy part of their city. As they saw the suffering around them, the barber said “This is why I could never believe in a God of love. If he is as kind as they say, why doesn’t he do something about all this crime, disease, poverty, drug-dealing and vandalism?”
The vicar said nothing until they came across an unkempt and filthy man with hair down his back and far too much stubble on his face. The vicar said to the atheist: “You can’t be a very good barber, or you wouldn’t let people live around here without a haircut and a shave.”
More than a little offended, the barber answered: “Why blame me for that man’s condition? I can’t help it if he’s like that! He’s never given me a chance! If he’d only come to my shop, I could fix him up and make him look respectable.”
The vicar replied: “Then don’t blame God for the condition of these people. They’ve never given God a chance. If they would only come to him, he would fix them up and turn their lives around.”
Even though God is completely powerful, he has not yet removed suffering and evil from the picture. He’s waiting…waiting for as long as possible, to give as many people as possible the opportunity to make their peace with him.