Suffering and the gift of creation

By Aian Macpherson

If God is all powerful and loving, why doesn’t God end suffering? It is the age old question. ‘The only problem, in fact, worth discussing’ Muriel Spark observed. Be warned it is a complex issue. At heart it is a question exploring relationship with God. All relationships are complex. This is a relationship between creator and creation, the cosmos and God, all humanity and the Lord. The answer is at the end of a path littered with the pot holes of misconception, human history, and personal pain. I offer a general answer but this is never the answer to give to someone who is suffering and who asks ‘Why?’ The answer to the sufferer will be found in friendship and compassion, not observations on the nature of the universe.

Why suffering? – The gift of creation

Human nature and God’s nature are not the same. The difference in magnitude is quite incomprehensible; however it is not a difference of logic. As C.S. Lewis observes, “The Divine ‘goodness’ differs from ours, but it is not sheerly different: it differs from ours not as white from black but as a perfect circle from a child’s first attempt to draw a wheel.”[1] If God loves it might be a higher love than we can imagine but it is not less than human love. Likewise if God is generous and good, God will give freedom to exist rather than exert control.

In human behaviour seeking control of others may be a sign of mental illness or trauma. On the other hand it may be the behaviour of the ‘bad guy’: a sign of despotism, authoritarianism, and megalomania. To use narrative as illustration the Lego movie works well, the only way for Lord Business to make his perfect world is to stick everything down, with super glue! Another fictional example would be the First Order from Star Wars. Their goal is perfection achieved through power and the eradication of diversity. Historically Hitler and the Nazi party remain the obvious example but there are many more. Most worrying are the examples on the horizon of the future. First then let us agree that we would not wish for a god who rides roughshod over all he surveys, to perfect us by domination.

God creates out of overflowing love, and gives freedom. This is the freedom of anything created, even an atom, to exist. God the creator is the first cause and sustains creation by his Word. God does not meddle! God creates, but does not then capriciously destroy. God orders creation on a foundation of Torah (instruction/law, Palm 19, and 119), wisdom (Psalm 104, Job 28, Proverbs 8), and God’s Word (Logos – logic, reason and purpose, Genesis 1 and John 1). God does not over turn this order arbitrarily.

Therefore I suggest that the fundamental laws of creation – which we describe but do not make – are God’s laws. Logic, maths, physics and the sciences, and through them language, art, architecture, and all things are possible because God is faithful to creation. Ending suffering on mass in this universe, or in the multiverse as far as we could theorise, would mean creation ceased to be marvellous gift and became God’s play thing, and nonsense. He would be the Lord Business of creation, sticking it down if it moves out of place, eradicating it if it falls short of perfection. Instead God continually gives God’s Word to sustain faithfully that which God called in to being.

It is not that God is subject to logic. Rather, God is faithful, and from God comes logic and reason and the cosmos as it is, a gift that in its consistency we can explore and know and care for.

[1] Lewis C.S. The Problem of Pain, HarperCollins, First published 1940, signature Classics Edition 2002.  30


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