David Hume once said: “Were a stranger to drop suddenly into this world, I would show him as specimen of its ills, a hospital full of diseases, a prison crowded with malefactors and debtors, a field of battle strewn with carcasses, a fleet floundering in the ocean, a nation languishing under tyranny, famine, or pestilence. Honestly, I don’t see how you can possibly square with an ultimate purpose of love.”
The question of evil and suffering has plagued the philosophical debate over the existence of God for thousands of years. Many see a deep incompatibility between the all-loving and all-powerful God of Scripture and the world of pain and suffering they observe. The argument goes something like this: If God is all-loving, He would desire to stop evil, and if God were all-powerful (both of which the Bible claims), He would have the power to stop evil. Therefore, since evil exists, the God of Scripture doesn’t. Many great answers have been given to this objection, from free will to justice. These answers have shown that there is no contradiction between Scripture and the world, but instead of regurgitating those typical (and good) responses, I’d like to take another approach for a moment.
Many agree that free will answers why evil and suffering exist, but the next question is often ,“If God knew Adam and Eve would sin and cause death and suffering, why create them in the first place? Why create a world that He knew would end up in pain and suffering?” When Hume looks at the world, He cannot reconcile God’s ultimate plan of love with his observations, but I want to submit to you that suffering and pain is the only way for God to make the greatest act of love. Scripture says:
John 15:13: “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”
The greatest love that someone can express to another is to die in their place, to sacrifice themselves for the well-being of another. Sacrificial love is the greatest expression of love, because sacrifice involves pain and suffering of some sort. Dying for someone requires pain and sacrifice of your life. Giving finances when you’re struggling requires extra work to make up the difference. Donating a kidney is a frightening surgery and painful recovery, yet these sacrificial actions express the greatest love.
Why then, would God look down the timeline of history, know that mankind would sin and cause suffering and pain, and still create the world? God knew that in the midst of that pain and suffering, in the midst of the evil brought about by man’s free will and sinful choices, God could show His greatest expression of love towards us by dying on the cross to save us and bring us back into a relationship with Him. Pain and suffering make the greatest expression of love – sacrificial love – a reality, which is why the Bible says:
Romans 5:8: “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
A God who is by nature love, would desire to express the greatest love possible to His children, and that love is possible because He created mankind, knowing we would sin, and knowing that our sin would give Him the perfect opportunity to love us beyond measure. Love is not only the purpose of the cross, it’s the plan and reason for creation. My prayer is that the world will see the love that pain made possible, and the gospel in which this greatest love was expressed to the world by its Creator.