“The Problem of Pain” is one of the most compelling arguments atheists have against belief in God. It goes like this: “If God is all-powerful He can keep suffering from happening; if He is all-loving, He would want to do so. The Holocaust occurred. A tsunami in 2004 killed 230,000 people. Child abuse, spousal abuse and elder abuse are rampant. Thousands of innocent children die every year of cancer. How could an all-powerful, all-loving God allow this? There must not be such a being.”
“The Problem of Pain” impacts Christians as well. There are some who have an underlying sense that faith, good works, and prayer give an element of protection to them. When hit with REAL long-term suffering – truly appalling suffering – an endless nightmare of suffering - the sound of silence from God - no forthcoming good outcome and no rescue, believers of this type are entirely bewildered. In their state of shock they may still spout platitudes because it’s the only thing they know how to do, meanwhile undergoing an internal spiritual death. Even for those with a deeper, more realistic faith this level of suffering can shake life, self and belief to the core.
Many books have been written on “The Problem of Pain,” and they contain good thoughts, ideas and approaches, but none really adequately address the issue. There is no answer to be found here, but the issue can and should be faced and dealt with honestly as it is in the lyrics below (Christa Wells 2001):
Two months is too little;
They let him go.
They had no sudden healing.
To think that Providence
Would take a child from his mother
While she prays, is appalling!
Who told us we’d be rescued?
What has changed and why should we be saved from nightmares?
We’re asking why this happened to us
Who have died to live, it’s unfair!
This is what it means to be held
How it feels when the sacred is torn from your life
And you survive;
This is what it is to be loved and to know that the promise was that when everything fell
We’d be held.