The most predictable thing about life is its unpredictability. Life can happen to any one at any time. Cancer diagnosis, death, barrenness, poverty, demotion, hunger, divorce, stillbirths, miscarriages, stroke, dementia, adultery, arson attack, suicide, are examples of what can go wrong while alive.
As though the aforementioned were not bad enough, we have ISIS killing Christians and anyone who opposes their ideology in Syria and children under attack from pedophiles and abusers in the guise of teachers, family, friends and guardians.
Drug dealers, terrorists, genocides, slavery, earthquakes, droughts, famines are other evils ravaging our world. The bottom line is that the world we live in is not perfect. It is a beautiful planet, but life is imperfect. We were born perfect but we found imperfections. Hence the question, why does a perfect God allow us to suffer?
Much of the suffering we endure is as a result of human actions. Our actions also cause suffering: the things we say or do, hurt. In Ibadan, the Bashorun High Street is plagued by armed robbers, eyeing new provision shops in the area. These robbers have stolen time and time again from ordinary people who are struggling to make ends meet. It makes no sense as the Bashorun High Street itself is in dire need of government intervention.
Some of the buildings need fresh paint coating, a new lease of life and perhaps even some government funding for the business people who, against all hopes, are still trading. These armed robbers have mothers, siblings and family. Why are they so mean to ordinary people? A shop owner has been robbed more than twice.
Philosophers have wondered why God should allow suffering to happen. If God is good, why does he tolerate an imperfect universe? Nigeria is a rich country but every time you look around, you find the divide between the rich and the poor obvious. When the Pope was on his recent tour of South American countries, he made himself available to the worst of society: prisoners, drug peddlers, and those who live in the ghettos, perhaps recognising that in the face of such suffering, he was helpless. The best he could do was to commiserate.
Why is there suffering? The first postulation is that as long as there are human beings on this planet, there would always be suffering. We are not always kind to one another. Our imperfections may not be helped. Smokers pass on the suffering in their lives to their families either by dying early or by contaminating the environment with their smoke. Alcohol addicts punish their families by spending food money on alcohol. Those who live with the HIV virus may regret the life styles they had before contracting the virus.
Secondly, Christians will always insist that suffering humbles our hearts bringing us closer to God. The great hymn: It is well with my soul, was written in the 19th century by a man, who lost his four daughters in a fatal sea accident. Suffering brings us closer to God. When we are beaten by life and we turn our issues to God, He has a way of making everything work together for our good. We often get insight through the things we suffer. Some people would go further and say suffering purifies the soul if that experience is regarded as a ‘teacher.’ Whether or not you agree with me, it seems that some good may come out of suffering…