Atheists and skeptics maintain that pain and suffering are the most significant proof that there is no God and the Bible is not true. They claim that a good and loving God would not allow pain and suffering. Is there an inconsistency between the descriptions of God in passages like 1 John 4:7-8 and the history of Israel? Unfortunately, skeptics and atheists fail to consider the alternative if pain did not exist.
The ability to exist in a physical world requires being able to feel pain. How could we survive if we could not know that a stove is hot when we put our hand on it? The ability to feel pain lets us know if something is sharp, or dangerously hot or cold.
Pain occurs on more than a physical level. What kind of a person would it be who could not feel guilt, compassion, empathy, and sympathy? These characteristics are unique to humans. We may condition an animal to display a response we interpret as one of those emotions, but humans uniquely can experience mental anguish over the circumstance of another human. People who bury this capacity, such as Hitler, Mao, and Putin, have created enormous problems for the whole human race.
The Bible clearly tells us that God can perform miracles. However, a careful study of the biblical miracles shows there was a reason beyond just curing a disease or infirmity. If people could escape life’s problems by becoming Christians, many would come to Christ to escape even minor physical problems. The Apostle Paul struggled with suffering, which he called his “thorn in the flesh.” He would not have learned an important lesson if pain did not exist. He wrote, “Three times I prayed to the Lord to relieve me of it.” God responded, “My grace is all you need; power comes to full strength in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:7 -9).
None of us like to have any kind of pain, but this life is only temporary. If pain did not exist here, there would be negative consequences. Christians have peace in knowing that the future holds an existence that will be free of pain. My suffering has given me a purpose in living and the strength not to fear dying. Denying God’s existence adds another level of denial and uncertainty to life.
— John N. Clayton © 2023