BY: EVAN KEUM
From the hundreds of thousands of children that are trafficked for child prostitution to the millions of people starving in Africa, we cannot ignore the fact that we are truly blessed if we are here in Berkeley with high quality life and education compared to the majority of the world. There are people suffering every single day of their lives. If God is so great and so gracious and so loving and so caring, why does He, with all the power He has, allow this to happen?
I wish I had the correct answer to that. In fact, lots of other Christians do too but they only have theories or the best possible explanations to this. This question of suffering is the cause of many downfalls for Christians. My friend, David, for example was raised in a Christian family and attended Catholic school all his life. He always held a Christian faith but then he started having doubts and when I talked to him about it, he asked me the question, “If God does exist, why does He allow people in Africa to suffer?” I did not have a good answer at the time or even now, but I knew he started having doubts about his faith since then. However, this big question has had an impact on me on a personal level. I started having my own doubts about the mere existence of God. So I started searching and praying, asking people about their views on this. Many explanations included the idea of free will. Although God has control over the world, many people choose not to include Him in their lives and since they chose to live Godless lives, their children are suffering. This explained why suffering exists but not what happens to those who do not hear about the Gospel at all. Would they go to hell or be exempted from Judgment?
That raises another question. Do people who do not have the chance to hear about the Gospel go straight to hell when they die? Although as mortals, we would never know for sure, I still got a pretty satisfying answer when I asked this question. God is a just God and a fair Judge. As mere human beings, we cannot comprehend His idea of right or wrong. But when we see Him, we will know that He will give us the perfect explanation of what happens to those people who die without finding out about Him and it will all make sense.
This explanation does not however satisfy the original question of this article. If God is just and fair, why are you and I living good lives while many people across the globe have to suffer every single day of their lives until they die? Although God never mentioned that life was going to be fair, why would a gracious God allow this to happen? Another explanation was that since sin entered this world, the world has been taken over by Satan. Satan has control of those who do not believe in God and Satan has essentially taken over the world and that rapture is imminent. However, it is our duty as Christians to go on missions and to spread the Gospel to the people and help those in need. Of course, this is very limited as we could only reach out to a handful of people. The morbid reality is that there is always going to be mass amounts of suffering in this world but it is our duty as Christians to help those people in need. Essentially, we could say that there is suffering so that Christians could bring out the light of God by showing love towards people in need. This explanation is however, also unsatisfactory. I do not want to end this article by just saying, “Even though we will never know why God does what He does until we actually meet him, we have to fulfill our duty of sharing the gospel and love those in need.” This big question of suffering has been raised in the Christian community many times and I do not want to give the same cliché response. However, I am not saying we should not do our part helping those people in need but there is a better answer than that.
Suffering and pain are subjective. We all go through hurdles in life that we cannot completely jump over and fall down. There are Christians out there that suffer much more than we do, but maybe that is just God’s will. Maybe they will be compensated in the afterlife if they stick with God even through their struggles. I like to think positively and believe that God is a fair and merciful God. He has a specific plan set out for each of us but we need to do our part to reach out to Him. The starving children in Africa all have purpose, as they are all children of the Lord. Even though they may go through much tougher lives than we do, God unveiled this problem of people in need so that Christians could demonstrate His love to the world. I like to think that the world has pain and suffering due to free will, which is essentially the absence of complete control of God. God will have the perfect scale with His standards of right or wrong that will judge people from different circumstances fairly according to His perspective in the end.
My personal view towards God is optimistic and I believe He is more loving than judgmental. The existence of suffering for people who never even heard of God is a hard one to answer. But the idea of rapture being imminent seems probable as modern society is crumbling and many of the prophecies related to rapture from the Bible are coming together. I also like the idea of pain being a subjective feeling. Even though the children that are trafficked for sexual slavery definitely seem to have much harder lives than we do, suffering might be just relative to the individuals’ perspective. People that live in first world countries seem to have “better” lives than those in third world countries but they still go through pain and suffering despite their “better” circumstances in life. Life is unfair. I agree. But God’s standards of judging us will make sense in due time.