Suffering results either from personal or natural evil. Suffering that results from evil is inevitable in a free world. The Bible records certain times when God delved out punishment for one’s sin, but it is a lie to proclaim all of suffering is God’s will. In the story of the falling tower Jesus laid to rest the age-old argument that suffering is always directly because of one’s sin (Lk 13:1-5). The truth is much of suffering is either self inflicted or inflicted upon others by lawless and cruel people. C.S. Lewis has suggested that wars, crimes, and injustices – evils that come through bad choices make by cruel and lawless people – account for at least 80% of humankind suffering.
Miracles turn heads more than they do hearts. Humans have short attention spans. Jesus’ miracles attracted crowds but rarely encouraged long-term change. Jesus’ suffering is what changed the world and not His miracles. What’s a God to do? Besides making a farce out of freedom, it may not always be wise for God to intervene with human or physical nature. Might there be good reasons for God to restrain His mercy? What can be learned from a catastrophe from sufferers and bystanders?
No amount of good forthcoming can justify any evil, but suffering can remind us of the brevity of life. Suffering can make us to depend on God, which was always in our best interest from the beginning. Since suffering is inevitable, we can allow suffering to bring out the compassion in us toward others that should have been present all along. Sometimes we don’t become the people we ought to be until after a catastrophe. Messages of suffering are as much for the survivors as the afflicted should we choose to be receptive.