Excerpts from Got Questions/Does God cause suffering?.
Human suffering exists because…
Human suffering exists because sin exists. When Adam and Eve disregarded God’s command and ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, “the eyes of both of them were opened” (Genesis 3:7), and death, along with all the suffering the reality of death implies, came into the world (Genesis 2:16–17).
The results of sin
The results of sin are explained in Genesis 3:14–19. Sin affected humanity’s relationship with God, with each other, and with the animals. Even the ground was cursed (see also Romans 8:20–21). Sin would specifically result in increased pain in childbearing, laborious toil in work, and contentiousness in human relationships.
Ultimately, sin would result in physical death. In broader terms, sin opened the door for all kinds of suffering throughout all of creation.
God takes no pleasure
We see God enact consequences upon Israel for their disobedience—consequences we would call “suffering” (Deuteronomy 28). We see God more passively “cause” suffering by giving people over to their sins (Romans 1:18–32).
But we know that God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked; He would much rather they “repent and live” (Ezekiel 18:32; cf. 33:11).
God not wanting anyone to perish
In 2 Peter 3:9 we read, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” God does not inflict suffering out of sadistic pleasure, but out of a desire to draw people to Himself. When people refuse to repent, the suffering serves as part of the due penalty for sin (Romans 6:23).
God’s sovereignty and human free will
An additional consideration in the question of whether God causes suffering is God’s sovereignty and human free will. We know that God is in control of all things.
We also know that human choice has a meaningful impact in the world. We know that God cannot be the author of evil of any kind. So, when God “causes” suffering, is He simply orchestrating the results of natural evil to work to His good purposes? Could it be that everything we deem to be “suffering” is not antithetical to good?
God never stops wanting to hear from us
Suffering, no matter its cause or its precise type, is not an experience any would choose. But the more we come to know God and see His character (2 Corinthians 1:3–7), the more we understand how He can take even the hardship of suffering and work it for His purposes.
We can and should also share our struggles with others, being willing to weep together and lift each other up in love (John 13:34–45)
[Apostle] Paul encouraged, “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:16–18).
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