Why doesn’t God do something? Part 2
Tuesday I began an effort to reconcile the reality of suffering with the existence of a good, loving, and all-powerful God. Please read that post before continuing on with me.
Both our parenting failures and successes can result in some suffering experienced by our children. A wise and faithful father does not rescue his son or daughter from every conflict or difficult situation. Doing so would deprive the child of opportunities to learn some important life lessons and grow in independence. And every good parent will discipline their children when they disobey, which necessarily involves something unpleasant. Still, even the wisest among us fail to consistently follow through with what we discern is probably in the best interests of our children but what we know will be painful for them. We love them, and it’s hard for us to see them suffer.
We humans may love deeply and sincerely, but we love imperfectly. God loves perfectly. His love for us is unconditional and totally selfless, unhampered by sentimentality so that he never fails to be tough when that is what we need. He is compassionate, but he is not soft. His perfect love will do everything necessary to make it possible for the beloved to be his or her very best.
We may prefer not to be so loved by God, but we have no choice in the matter. We are, however, free to choose to return his love…to obey and submit to him…or not. This is the doctrine of free will, and it is crucial to a proper understanding of suffering in the world. True love must be freely given or it is not love at all. But freedom to choose good is necessarily a freedom to choose evil as well. And God cannot restrain all evil without overriding our free will.
So if we maintain that God’s character, his goodness and love, would require that he not allow my friend’s niece to suffer at the hands of her abusive father, we must expect him to prevent all suffering of every child, at all times, everywhere. This would be a major interference in our free will and would effectively negate it.
Consider all the ways children suffer. Many children suffer emotional trauma for years because one or both parents decide they don’t love the other anymore and get a divorce. Should God intervene in all these marriages to prevent the breakup of the family? Wouldn’t that deny the spouses their free will? And if a loving God is expected to prevent all innocent suffering, why do loving parents get a pass when their personal desires for self-fulfillment or romance result in real and lasting suffering in their innocent children?
Children suffer in intact but dysfunctional families. Poor parenting sets some children on a trajectory that directly results in suffering of one kind or another for years, if not the rest of their lives. Even good parents fail their children in some way, causing them emotional pain, distress, or disappointment. For God to prevent it all would mean overriding the parents’ free will.
Children born to unwed mothers suffer. Most often the father is absent or uninvolved and the mother financially strapped and too young to handle the stresses of parenthood well. Can God prevent the two from engaging in sex and still allow them their free will? He can prevent conception, but then he is denying the child who would be born the opportunity to live and be loved by him. And if he declines to create any child who will suffer, the human race would soon die out.