A few weeks back, Pope Francis, the head of the Catholic church, visited the Philippines. While here, he had an event at the University of Santo Tomas, the biggest Catholic university in the country, which was his "Encounter with the Youth". During this event, a girl named Glyzelle Palomar, a former street kid, asked him this question... "Why does God let children suffer?" Francis' answer to the question was this... "Look out for this fact today: she, Glyzelle, is the only one who has put a question for which there is no answer. And she was not able to express it in words but, rather, in tears." He then veered away from that question and talked about how people should cry more so that questions like what the girl posted could be understood.
Was the girl's question really unanswerable just like what Pope Francis said?
It seems that the head of the biggest religion on planet Earth does not own even a free copy of the world's biggest selling book of all time, because if he owns one, then he could read from its pages the answer to that question. Actually, the Bible's theme revolves around this question and even talks about how God solved this problem.
Romans 8:22 tells us that suffering is a common experience in this world. Why is this so? Well, we have to understand that at the onset, suffering was not even a word that this world knew because the Bible informs us that when God finished creating all of the universe, He declared everything that He had made as "very good" (Genesis 1:31). Now, what does it mean to have a world that's "very good"? It simply means that all forms of suffering like calamities (both man-made and natural), sickness, death, etc., were not present in God's original creation. And what changed everything? The book of Genesis tells us that the decision of Adam and Eve to go against a simple command by God turned things around. Sin destroyed the perfection of God's creation. The curse of sin brought sufferings to this world. Calamities, sickness, crimes, death, etc., now defined the experience of man. Even thorns in plants and flowers weren't present before that great Fall (Genesis 3:18).
The sad thing is, we followed the rebellion of Adam and Eve. We, too, are going against God everyday by the sins we commit ourselves. We lie, steal, hate, dishonor our parents, covet, and make God an insignificant figure in our life. And because of that, we further bring curse to this once perfect world of ours. Not only that, we also now face an eternity of torment in Hell because that is the punishment for the sins we have committed against Almighty God (Romans 6:23).
This is the answer to the question asked by the girl to Pope Francis!
How great it could have been if Pope Francis knew his Bible more. If he was just able to answer the girl's question from what God's Word had declared, he could have also shared to her and the many people watching him at that moment what God did so that a perfect world could be ours again. He could have declared how we can receive forgiveness for our sins. He could have declared the Gospel message.
Two thousand years ago, God sent forth His only begotten Son, Jesus, to our fallen world. Jesus lived a sinless life and yet, after thirty-three years of living a perfectly holy life here, He was nailed to a cruel cross just like criminals in His time. He allowed this to happen to Him so that a payment for our sins can be available and we can receive forgiveness from the Father. We committed the sins but He willingly provided a payment for them with His life's blood. Then after three days of being lifeless, Jesus rose from the grave, conquering death, so that we can also someday conquer death. All of these we can receive if we just repent of our sins and trust only on Jesus and His finished work at the cross for our salvation. That is the Gospel. That is our way out of this fallen world.
(For more on this topic, read the following related articles: Why do good things happen to bad people and bad things to good people? / Is there a difference between the OT God and the NT God? )
Dennis Aglosolos, the Director of Living Waters - Asia, will be answering questions.