Ty Gibson asks “If God exists, and if God is good, then why is our world filled with suffering?” See Ty’s video here.
I once visited an elderly widow named Birdie each week for over a year with some friends of mine. We would play the piano and sing for her. She was a loving and sweet woman. During that eventful year after she had lost her husband, she also lost her son, to suicide. Poor Birdie lost it. She couldn’t reject the God she loved, but she couldn’t comprehend her losses, either. Her eyes were full of such fear and pain and profound sadness that I still remember that look as clearly as if it were yesterday. She became as a little girl, dancing and singing with us, but vacantly. She started calling me Jesus, and Lisa, Mary. And she started to wonder out loud why God had abandoned her. It reminded me of some of Jesus’s last words, a cry from the cross: “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”
There are no facile answers to Ty’s question or to Birdie’s or even to the Savior’s, but I like Ty’s perspective on the matter expressed towards the end of his video.
There is a profound need to include the principles of love and freedom in answering these questions. Philosophically, The Book of Mormon points out the need to recognize that there must be opposites for anything to have meaning. “For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so … righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad…” (2 Nephi 2:11) In other words, you can’t have joy without sorrow; you can’t have good without evil; and you can’t have freedom without bondage.
Thus, because God is good, he honors our freedom to choose for ourselves. If man did not possess the ability to choose evil, he would not be truly free to choose good. If he did not possess the capacity to selfishly inflict harm upon others, he could not love. And if he could not love, he could never know the good from the evil or possess joy or dwell with God.
So please think again before getting caught in the specious logic that asks if God is good, then why does he let me suffer? That begs the question. Good IS good, and therefore we suffer because God loves his children enough to give us freedom; and in our ignorance or even malice, we often choose evil. Sometimes we suffer because of someone else’s sins; sometimes we suffer because of our own sins.
But to somehow offset the great evil of this world, God gave his only begotten son as a sacrifice to atone for the sins and evil of the world. Jesus suffered more profoundly than anyone ever has, because he not only suffered the exquisite pains of crucifixion, but by being the sacrificial Lamb of God, he suffered the spiritual pain of taking upon himself all of our sins, all of our guilt, all of our shame, and all of our pain.
Understanding these great but mysterious truths is the key to the ultimate joy that overcomes even the most profound suffering…