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Our readers asked:

If there is a God then why is there suffering in the world?

Richard G. Malloy, SJ Answers:

Question:  If there is a God then why is there suffering in the world?

I often preach that there are only two things of which I am absolutely sure: one, God loves us and, two, humans suffer.  No one has ever disagreed with the second assertion.

This question of evil, known in theological circles as the theodicy question (impress your theology major friends throwing around that term over coffee), is the main question to give believers pause.

The first thing to recognize is that suffering is only a problem for those who believe in God.  If there is no God, there is no reason to think we should not suffer as we do.  It is only when we hope in a God of love and life, a good God who created all, that pain and death become contradictions.

Secondly, those who say they don’t believe in God because there is so much suffering, still fail to address the issue.  Fine, you don’t believe.  There’s still all this suffering.

Suffering is a given.  Why there is suffering has never been answered to everyone’s satisfaction (e.g. suffering make us “better.”  But if that is true, couldn’t God have found a better way to make us “better”?  And suffering caused by our moral failures, e.g. war, still doesn’t explain natural disasters (tsunamis killing thousands; kids dying of cancer).

All I know is that the God revealed in Christ responds to our suffering.  We follow and worship a crucified God.  Jesus entered fully into our suffering and was crushed on the cross.

There is no resurrection without the cross, which means there is no cross in any human life that does not contain within it the seeds of resurrection.  As we accept and bear our crosses, we can gain strength and grace to endure from the one who was crucified for us.

The Author : Richard G. Malloy, SJ
Richard G. Malloy, S.J., Ph.D., is Vice President for University Ministries, the University of Scranton, Scranton, PA, and author of A Faith That Frees (Orbis Books).
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  • Ginny Kubitz Moyer

    Thanks for this thoughtful and compassionate answer.

    I love this quote: “The believer in God has to account for the existence of unjust suffering; the atheist has to account for everything else.”
    — Milton Steinberg

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