How can a good and loving God allow so much pain and suffering?

First, let us define what love is. What does it mean to love? St. Thomas Aquinas defines love as “willing the other’s good.” When we think of God’s love, we see it as God intending all the energy and presence of the universe for our benefit. God wills all things for our good. And all things include suffering, even death.

A personal trainer pushes his or her trainee to the point of struggle, and perhaps even pain to prepare muscles to strengthen and grow.

Boot camp is an experience of many in which a weak and selfish individual can be broken down by his drill instructor and rebuilt into a strong, well-trained soldier who will sacrifice himself for the good of his country.

When accepted with thanksgiving, suffering in this life can be redemptive.

Therefore, since we have been brought into a good and positive relationship with God by faith, let us enjoy peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ. By whom also we have access through faith into this grace, in which we stand, and rejoice in the hope of the glory of the children of God. And not only that; but we glory also in our troubles, knowing that suffering builds patience; And patience builds endurance. And endurance builds hope. And our hope, our conviction that God is working for our good, never puts us to shame. Because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to us. Romans 5:1-5

Even death when seen from God’s perspective is not a sad or bad experience. Jesus said, ““I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me shall live, even if he should die. And everyone who lives and believes in me, will not die forever.” John 11:25-26 Death is merely a doorway from life to the fulness of life. The sadness we experience when losing a loved one comes from our perspective of loss and loneliness.

Of course, not all suffering is redemptive. Parents sometimes have the experience of watching a rebellious child take everything that was intended for their good and employing it for the purpose of self-destruction. It is called free will. A child may squander their education, money, and life itself on drugs, alcohol, relationships that lack commitment or true intimacy, and screen distractions that numb their ability to reason. Self-destruction is not in the flow of God’s loving presence but exists in the devil’s playground. Still, God’s love is so powerful that one only needs to turn to God, repent, and submit to the flow of God’s love to be plucked from the path of destruction and placed on the path of life. And God is able to take even the worst experiences of our lives and miraculously use them for our ultimate good.

And we know that all things work together for the good of those who love God. All things work together for good, for those who, living according to his will and purpose, are called to be saints. For those whom he foreknew, he also determined to be conformed to the image of his Son; so that Christ might be the firstborn among many siblings. And those whom he determined, he also called. And those whom he called, he also justified into a good and positive relationship with God. And those whom he justified, he also glorified. Romans 8:28-30

Sometimes the Holy Spirit needs to perform holy surgery in our souls to cut away self-destructive desires and replace them with pure desires that bring us hope and joy. That can be painful for a moment but ultimately result in our healing.

So, God is not ashamed to be called our loving Father. For he has purposed everything in this universe for our good. And even when through our own rebellion and violence we introduce destruction into our lives, God is always present to transform our lives into joy, when we submit ourselves into the flow of his love.

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