Why Do Children Suffer?

I recently had someone ask me why God would let bad things happen to children. For example, this person was raised with people who exposed him to drug abuse, violence, etc. We were recently talking, and though this person has recently been saved, he still has trouble figuring out why God would allow bad things to happen to him as a child. Some of the things he was exposed to still seem to effect him as an adult, and when I told him to pray about it and give it to God, he asked me why God would allow these things to happen to an innocent child. I’ve heard people discuss this over the years, resulting in various answers, so my question to you is, how would you answer? – Ashley

Let me start by making a distinction between two problems this question presents. The first problem is emotional. We feel bad anytime something bad happens, and that feeling is only intensified when bad things happen to children. Let me be very clear up front: this question cannot be answered if the person asking is trying to feel better about suffering. The reason is that evil hurts us emotionally. Knowing the “why” doesn’t make us feel better. Besides, why should it? You would probably object if I told you that I could make you feel good (or even neutral) about the suffering of anyone, children especially!

The second problem is theological; it wants to know the “why.” I think I can answer this one, so long, again, as we don’t think solving this issue is the same as solving the emotional one.

So why does God children to suffer?

The most common answer to this, which is fine, because it is correct, is that people have free will. It is logically impossible for God to give us the choice to do good without also giving us the choice to do evil. I have a beautiful little girl who is my heart and soul. I choose every day to love and take care of her. But suppose I was compelled to do so. That would mean that I when I did take care of her, I wasn’t really choosing to after all, wouldn’t it?

God certainly could have denied us the choice to hurt people, but if He did that, He would just have robots! Some people use their choice to hurt others, including children. Often, they don’t do so intentionally. They just focus on what they want without regard for how it effects their child. Either way, the point is the same. Children suffer because of our selfish choices. It turns out, then, that of all people, God is the last one we could possibly blame! It’s our own fault. Not His.

Some, however, will point out that things like cancer or natural disasters hurt children but usually don’t come from anyone’s choice. We must remember, though, that our world operates by normal laws. A dropped rock will fall because gravity works. Those laws explain on a mechanical level everything in the universe, including disease and natural disasters. To ask God to not let children suffer as a result of these laws would be to ask Him to suspend them, but if He were to do that, imagine the kind of world we would live in. It would be completely irrational. There would be no way to know the consequences of our actions, because God would always be intervening! That, however, would end up denying us free will, because choice only means anything if you can make sense of your possibilities.

In other words, in order for us to be the free, moral creatures God designed us to be, our world has to operate according to normal laws of cause and effect. Sometimes we just get in the way of those laws—maybe by our own choice and maybe not—and get hurt.

In both of these cases, the reason God allows suffering is that it is the byproduct of creating a world where choice is possible. Yet I would point out one last thing. God is not standing by in Heaven and watching our plight with disinterest. He actually did something about our suffering by taking it on Himself at the Cross. God is not someone who can’t relate to our pain. When we are hurt, we can run to Him, and He can wrap His omnipotent and all-loving arms around us. He can cry with us and say, “I know how you feel.” Better, He promises to make it all right one day.

Our response is not to become angry at God for letting children suffer. It is to do everything we can to prevent it as much as possible, and that starts with our own behavior in our own houses with our own children. The last thing we want, after all, is for them to grow up and have to ask why they had to suffer in their innocence. In the end, if it is our choices that cause the bulk of the suffering of the innocent in this world, then we must make the choice to do as much as possible to help them as well!

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One thought on “Why Do Children Suffer?

  1. You knew I would have to comment on this. Someone who is having a difficult time with Who God is will almost always say, “Well, if God loves us so much, then why would He allow terrible things to happen to little children.” My answer is always the same, and very much like you have pointed out here. God doesn’t allow or disallow these terrible things to happen. God gave man free will and man is evil. As a result, terrible things happen to people of all ages. People are also quick to say that God did this terrible thing to a child or took their child from them. No, He didn’t. Something terrible happened, or the child died. It’s just life. It’s hard to accept sometimes, but we have to remember that as much as we love that child, God loves them infinitely more, and their pain breaks His heart. But we are here only a short time in comparison to eternity. As a parent, I strove to make sure that above all things, my children knew they were loved more than anything on the face of this earth. I tried to give them security, and I tried to protect them as best as I could. We had the same routines to give them that security. A few months ago, my grandsons got to spend a week with me. We had the same routines that I shared with my children coming up. One night, as we lay there in bed, just before he drifted off to sleep, the oldest one said, “Mammaw, when we wake up, are we going to cuddle on the couch and have hot chocolate?” My heart filled with emotion. My prayer is that every parent makes their children their number one priority, aside from Christ, of course, and that by doing so, less and less children will live with pain, fear and suffering.

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