Why does God allow suffering?
One of the main objections to the belief in a living God, is that if God is alive, then why does He allow mankind to suffer? Why does He allow wars, famines, earthquakes etc.? What kind of ‘living God’ permits such things?
To understand this, we must first have a correct understanding of why we are here? What is our purpose in life? For those people who believe that life was all an ‘accident’, then there is no answer, as there is no purpose! Their goals then become limited to achieving things of this world – a good job, a good income, a pleasant life, etc. To such people, naturally, they will not understand why, if there is a God, does such a God permit us to suffer; they would instead prefer a comfortable life with nothing to spoil the illusion.
Of course, God has made natural laws that govern this world, for instance, the law of cause and effect. The majority of suffering is due to the reaction to some action, but God can intervene and prevent the effect, the reaction. Sometimes God does so, or at least lessens the result of the reaction, but does mankind really want God to take complete control of our lives? No, mankind is happy that we have free will. But with freedom of choice comes responsibility and answerability!
Muslims are told in the Holy Qur’an that the whole purpose of life is “to worship God”. They are taught through the Qur’anic teachings that this world is a beginning of a long journey to God. That after they die, their soul will continue to live on. That their time spent in this physical world has been given for them to improve their relationship with Allah – God. How they improve this relationship is by putting their full trust in God and turning to Him in all cases. One of the best ways of doing this is when we need God, when we need the love and comfort of God – that being when we are suffering.
The Holy Qur’an states in Chapter 2, verses 156-7:-
These kind of verses shows us that suffering is a trial for testing mankind on how he reacts. That we will be tried in many ways, but we should always remain steadfast and put our full trust in God. In this way we will get closer to God. On the other hand, if we curse and blame God for our loss, then we have lost this trial and moved further away from God. Tests and trials serve a fourfold purpose:
1) They distinguish the waverers and the weak of faith from those who are sincere and steadfast in faith.
2) They are a means of spiritual advancement for those sincere in faith.
3) Those going through a trial come to know the strength or weakness of their own faith and are thus enabled to shape their conduct accordingly.
4) Trials also help to determine the reward of those deserving it in accordance with the quality of their sacrifice.
If God took away suffering, then He would take away our ability to develop and grow. If we did not experience pain and misery, then we would not understand joy and happiness and our very existence of life would lose all purpose!