Why does God allow suffering? That is one of the most common questions we hear. Many atheists who comment on our posts try to prove that God cannot exist because there is suffering in the world. They are assuming that if God existed, His purpose would be to give us happiness all the time. Since He doesn’t, that means God can’t possibly exist.
That mindset assumes that we are God’s pets, and His responsibility is to see that we don’t get hurt no matter what we do. There is no doubt that we do many foolish and hurtful things. So why do we think that God should be our servant to keep us always happy as if happiness is the primary goal of life?
However, if God does exist (as we believe He does), He should have a more important goal than taking care to always provide us with what we think we need to be happy. What happens if human parents bow to every whim of their children by always giving them what they want and expect? The result is a spoiled child. Sometimes after warnings to a child, the parent has to stand by and watch the child make bad decisions in the hope that they will learn from their mistakes.
What if the primary goal of human life is not happiness? What if the primary goal is to learn to know and trust God? It is that knowledge of and trust in God that will bring–if not continual happiness–true fulfillment and ultimately, everlasting fulfillment. Why does God allow suffering? Although the suffering in this world may be counterproductive to our happiness, it might help us to gain a deeper knowledge of God and dependence on His love.
A research team at Iowa State University led by Professor Douglas Gentile discovered the happiness secret. It has nothing to do with money or power or fame or anything else that people are always striving to gain. Actually, an ancient book had the secret all along.
The researchers divided a group of Iowa State students into four groups. Each group was told to look at people they saw as they walked around the campus. They told one group to wish others well and really mean it. The researchers called this “loving-kindness.” A second group was told to think about how they might be connected to the people they saw, such as sharing a class. This was called the “interconnectedness” group.
They instructed the third group to look at people and think about how much better off they are than the people they are looking at. This was the “downward social comparison” group. The idea was that seeing how much better off you are than someone else could make you feel happy. The fourth group was the control group. Their task was to walk around in the same way and just notice the outward appearance of people. They were supposed to look at things like clothing and accessories.
All of the students in each group were questioned before and after the 12-minute test to determine their happiness, stress, and anxiety. Can you guess which group had the most significant increase in happiness? It wasn’t the “downward social comparison” group. They came out on the bottom. The group that increased their happiness the most was those who practiced “loving-kindness.” The happiness secret is simple!
Whom do you suppose set the example for practicing loving-kindness? If you answered “Jesus Christ,” you are exactly right. Jesus not only felt love and compassion for those He met, but He also demonstrated it by His actions. Jesus said, “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.” He gave us the happiness secret!
Professor Gentile concluded, “Walking around and offering kindness to others in the world reduces anxiety and increases happiness and feelings of social connections…It’s a simple strategy that doesn’t take a lot of time that you can incorporate into your daily activities.”
I suggest that we begin to practice the happiness secret today!
The research report has the long title, “Caring for Others Cares for the Self: An Experimental Test of Brief Downward Social Comparison, Loving-kindness, and Interconnectedness Contemplations.” It was published in the Journal of Happiness at THIS LINK.
It was a study using scientific methods to determine what category of people are the most content with life. The research involved compiling the results of five different psychological studies of more than 50,000 individuals completed between 1981 and 2017. The journal Social Psychological and Personality Science published a report of the final result in June 2018. The happiest group are those who know the meaning of life.
A team of psychologists from the University of Southern California conducted the study. They concentrated on the political views of the test subjects, looking to see whether they were liberal or conservative. The conservatives consistently were the happiest, and they more often claimed to know the meaning of life. The media reported this as a “happiness gap” between liberals and conservative.
This study concentrated on political viewpoints, but when the researchers adjusted their model to remove “religious attendance” from the equation, the conservatives were still happier and found more purpose in life than liberals did. However, they found that the people who were pro-life and did not support same-sex marriage (which would include most conservative Christians) were more likely to believe that life has meaning and purpose. (After all, why would someone who believes there is a purpose in life not be pro-life?)
The author of the new study, David Newman, said, “Finding meaning in life is related to the sense or feeling that things are the way they should be and that there is a sense of order. If life feels chaotic, then that would likely dampen your sense that life is meaningful.”
Christians believe that there is order because God created an orderly universe. We believe that chaos is the result of sin. We also believe that God created us for a purpose and no matter what happens in this life, God loves us and has something better waiting for us. Our hope is in Christ, and nothing in this life can take away the “peace that passes understanding” (Philippians 4:7).