This begins the first part answering the question. Part 2 will be posted tomorrow.
We live. We suffer.
We live. We suffer. If you do not suffer, you have not lived very long. The world is full of suffering that comes from a multitude of sources, in a multitude of ways and with a multitude of results and consequences. It seems to us that some people suffer much more than others, until we are in the midst of it. Then everyone else’s suffering pales in comparison to what we are battling. We’re often willing to do just about anything to get rid of the suffering! There are emotional, social and mental struggles that often overshadow physical suffering, but the physical is easier to identify.
Some of the worst cases of suffering echo from the German prison camps during World War 2, where six million Jews and five million non-Jews were killed. There were many additional periods of extreme suffering at the hands of other dictators. The numbers killed under Stalin in Russia were 7,000,000 from 1932-1939, Mao ZeDong in China murdered upwards to 78,000,000 (yes, millions!) from 1958-1969, Pol Pot dropped 1,700,00 in the killing fields of Cambodia during the more recent history of 1975-1979, and Kim Il Sung in North Korea killed 1,500,000 from 1948-1994 . These staggering numbers are only some of the larger exterminations by vicious dictators in the last one hundred years. It is almost incomprehensible to fathom the suffering felt not only by those who were subdued under torture and extermination but also by family members and friends of those who suffered. These surreal numbers are so high and far away in distance and time that they seem unreal.
When we get closer to home in the United States, we must consider the daily murder statistics. For the last six years, there has been an average of 14,000 each year, who are murdered with various weapons and by various means. Suffering is very personal, when it is initiated by people in our own land and history. Now let’s consider the suffering brought on by uncontrollable weather conditions.
Suffering from Indiscriminant Weather
On December 26, 2004, giant forces from the ocean floor earthquakes in the Indian Ocean unleased killer waves that sped at jet speed across the ocean and created a tsunami wave that killed over 150,000 people and caused millions to be homeless. The energy released was equal to 23,000 Hiroshima-type atomic bombs! It was one of the most devastating tsunamis in history and caused incredible suffering.
On August 29, 2005, Category 5 Hurricane Katrina that cut through Louisiana and Mississippi was the costliest hurricane in the history of the United States. She was also one of the five most deadly hurricanes causing 1833 deaths. Many thousands suffered by having to relocate, experiencing economic and job loss being separated from family.
Other Types of Suffering
Then you can consider the effects of bullying on young people. There are some 4400 suicides each year among students and 30 percent of students are either bullies or victims of bullying.1 Additionally, 160,000 students stay home every day, because of the fear of bullying.
What about suffering among family members, the high divorce rate and specific tragedies like Columbine and Aurora, Colorado, the Boston Marathon bombing, or Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut? Yes, the list seems almost endless regarding the amount, types and magnitude of human suffering.
The Question People Ask
When Lee Strobel was preparing to write his best-selling book “The Case for Faith: A Journalist Investigates the Toughest Objections to Christianity,” he completed a nationwide survey asking, “If you could ask God anything what would you ask?” You can imagine the number of questions people thought to ask. However, the top response was, “Why is there suffering and evil in the world?”2
[Tomorrow the second part of this article will be posted. It will continue “The Question People Ask” and begin “An Explanation for Suffering.”]