Currently, I am reading a book on apologetics; a book that seeks to address some of the objections that skeptics make to God, Christ and Christianity. One problem that continues to plague apologists (defenders of the faith) is the idea of “pointless suffering.” Pointless suffering is a perspective that says there is no point to one’s suffering if he is innocent of any wrong. If this occurs (and it does), then it must be the case that God does not exist. How could a loving God allow pointless suffering to exist in the lives of people when He is powerful enough and, supposedly, a God of love to eliminate it? Since it exists, then God must not be loving, or powerful enough to remove suffering (especially what is considered “pointless” suffering); thus, the God one reads about in the Bible does not exist!
For some there are no easy answers to this objection. For others the objection is not an objection at all, but just another made-up reason for why some don’t want to believe in God. However one might approach this topic of discussion it is wise to recognize that pain and suffering is quite a troubling topic for some.
Suffering in this physical world is “just the way it is;” there is no real way to avoid it. If one has great success at avoiding most, it will be the case that some suffering will be experienced (if it has not already been). Generally, suffering is the result of choices made. I chose to hurry up and get home; I was pulled over for speeding. I must suffer the aggravation of loss of money and embarrassment. One chose to frolic with one of the opposite sex, and a jealous husband is all-prepared to make it right! The guilty one (or ones) suffer through moral failings and even, potentially, physical pain. You chose to go sky-diving, and though you were trained properly, at your landing, you came down very hard and suffered serious injury. We understand suffering in these contexts.
But what about the little girl born into the world with cancer? What did she do wrong, or what choice did she make? How does one address this? Anguishing questions to consider. The only adequate answer I can give is a biblical one; in fact, it is an example. “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly” (1 Peter 2:21-23, ESV).
When Jesus lived He lived in such a way that can be described in no other way than a perfect, sinless life. He had no moral failings, He made no poor choices, but He suffered much at the hands of people for no other reason than that He faithfully executed the Lord’s will for His own life, teaching others to do the same. Did Jesus suffer “pointlessly”? Looking at the above passage one can see the approach the Lord took, thus, the answer is no.
The comparison of the two are not the same, one might object. There is a dissimilarity, but there is much that is similar. In both cases, suffering occurred; in both cases, suffering was experienced by one who was (or is) innocent, and in both cases, the solution to getting through must be the same.
If the solution is inadequate what would you offer as an alternative?