“Though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered (Hebrews 5:8).”
Self-driving cars, aerial drones delivering packages, nursing care robots, even mechanized soldiers on the battlefield – such developments may soon be a reality. But with these advancements some tech engineers, such as Nell Watson, are looking ahead at the growing role of robots with great trepidation. She warns that if machines are not taught the value of human life they may terminate us as an act of kindness to avert our sufferings (1).
Many others have struggled with human suffering and arrived at the same conclusion, that suffering is pointless. Renowned atheist Richard Dawkins has opined that is a “moral” duty to abort mentally retarded babies rather than allowing them to suffer by bringing them into the world. Some have questioned having faith in God because He allows suffering. It is a difficult matter but the Bible should guide our thinking in regard to human suffering.
Firstly, this present world is not how God intended it. When He completed the creation, it was very good (Genesis 1:31). It was only after sin entered in that the creation was subjected to futility (Romans 8:20) and death entered into the world (Romans 5:12). Suffering is now a certainty. As Jesus told His twelve, “In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world (John 16:33).” We should not expect less – or more.
Secondly, suffering may have a purpose even if we don’t comprehend it. A child suffers pain when receiving immunization shots and may wonder why her dad allowed her to suffer while her father knows that it will save her. Peter explained that we suffer various trials for the perfecting of our faith so that in the end we receive the salvation of our souls (1 Peter 1:6-9).
A comfort for us in our sufferings is that God understands it completely. No one will stand before the judgment seat of Christ and complain that He doesn’t understand our sufferings because He suffered greatly (Mark 8:31, Luke 24:26). As much as we have partaken of flesh and blood, He has shared in the same (Hebrews 2:14). Therefore, He can sympathize fully and He gives us grace (2 Corinthians 12:9, Hebrews 4:16) to endure suffering.
Paul was chosen to suffer greatly for Christ’s sake (Acts 9:16) and it is likely that none of us will suffer to the extent that he did (2 Corinthians 11:23-27). He provides the proper perspective as he weighed the glory of eternity in heaven saying that our present sufferings aren’t even worthy to be considered (Romans 8:17-18).
So why does our Heavenly Father allow children to suffer and die? Why do parents for generations make that same determination to bring children into this world knowing that they will ultimately die and along the way suffer in varying degrees? Is it not so that their children may know life and be loved? God could have created us to dutifully obey His commands. If He had done so then sin, suffering, and death never would have occurred. In that case, we would be no more than robots. But instead He desired a relationship with us so He made us in His own image. And for the sake of giving love and life He risked death and allowed us to choose for ourselves (Deuteronomy 30:19).
Men may be able to create robots to do their bidding, and perhaps one day even create them to think for themselves. But we can never create them to love us. Love requires the choice to choose otherwise and perhaps for that God allows suffering – for a while so that we can truly choose to obey Him (Matthew 7:21, John 14:15, Hebrews 5:9).
One thing is for sure, while there is suffering now it will one day end for those who are in Christ. He promises to remove the curse (Revelation 22:3) and to wipe all tears from our eyes forever (Revelation 7:17). And as for that greatest suffering we all must endure – Christ will terminate death forever (1 Corinthians 15:21-26).
“Strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying, ‘We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God (Acts 14:22).’”