I first met Alegra when she was five years old, on her very first day of school.
Alegra was this fun, thoughtful, big-hearted kid—the kind of person who was always way more interested in paying attention to other people than trying to make them pay attention to her. And even though, as one of her teachers, I’d been told that Alegra was recovering from brain surgery and still had a bunch of medical stuff going on, you never would have guessed it by how enthusiastic she always was about school.
But then one day, Alegra didn’t come back to school. And as the days went on, we got the news that she wouldn’t be coming back to school.
Alegra’s cancer was back, and this time it wasn’t going away.
Not long after her sixth birthday, I found myself standing in a crowded church, surrounded by the hundreds of other friends and family who had gathered for Alegra’s funeral.
As we prayed and hugged and cried and said goodbye, the same questions burned through my mind over and over again.
God, how could you let this happen?
Don’t you care?
The Biggest Question
Maybe you’re going through something awful and heartbreaking yourself—or maybe someone you love is. Or maybe it’s just that the constant stream of horrible stuff on the news is making you feel anxious and scared about the world, and you don’t know how to make sense of it all.
Maybe you wonder where God is in the middle of all this.
When you think about it, all this hurt and brokenness in the world seems like a pretty big problem for God. Or at least, it seems like a pretty big problem for us, if we want to believe what God says about himself in the Bible: in particular, that he is all-loving and all-powerful.
Because if God truly is all-loving, then surely he’d want to stop all the suffering that’s going on in the world, right?
And if he truly is all-powerful, then he could stop all that suffering whenever he wanted to.
But he hasn’t. The world is still full of suffering. So why doesn’t God do something?
Is God not actually as strong as he says he is? Does he want to stop our suffering, but he’s too weak to do it?
Or, worse, is he not actually as loving as he says he is? Is he powerful enough to stop our suffering but too cruel to do it?
Or is he both? Is God weak and cruel?
Or is all this suffering just proof that God’s not really there at all?
Like I said, suffering seems like a pretty big problem for God.
A Big God
Here’s the thing, though: if your biggest question is How could a loving, powerful God allow so much suffering? there’s actually a really easy answer.
The whole reason why people ask God for help in the first place—and blame him when he doesn’t seem to give it to them—is that God is meant to be so much bigger and wiser and more loving and more powerful than we are.
But if that’s true—if God really is that much bigger and wiser than us—then couldn’t he have all kinds of good and loving reasons for letting our suffering continue, but which are just too big for us to see right now?
Just because we can’t see a good reason for our suffering, that doesn’t mean there isn’t one.
If God is big enough to blame for our suffering, he must also be big enough to have great reasons for allowing our suffering to continue that we just don’t understand yet.
A Problem for Our Hearts
So there you go.
There’s your answer to the problem of suffering.
And I actually think it’s a great, solid answer. But if you’re anything like me, it probably doesn’t feel very helpful. Because what I’ve just given you is a tidy little “head answer”. But suffering isn’t just a puzzle for our heads. It’s a problem for our hearts.
When we’re actually going through something awful, I don’t think our biggest question is How could a loving, powerful God allow so much suffering?
When it feels like life is falling apart, the cry of our hearts is something bigger and deeper and way more personal: God, how could you let this happen? Don’t you care?
If we’re going to believe that God is as loving and powerful as he says he is, that’s the question we really need to answer.
And that bigger, deeper, way more personal question is what my new series of books, Big Questions, is all about.
Chris Morphew is the author of Big Questions, a series of fun and fast-paced books walking kids aged 9-13 through what the Bible says about some of the big questions of life, such as ‘Why does God let bad things happen?’, ‘What happens when we die?’ and ‘How do we know Christianity is really true?’. These books will help readers to grow in confident and considered faith. This article originally appeared here.