There are so many aspects to such a question that we can only provide the briefest of summaries in this short article. There are matters to consider at every level: the world we live in; human individuals; society as a whole; God and eternity.
We ourselves must accept some responsibility for life’s hardships. True, we bear a genetic inheritance from our parents and ancestors. This can make us prone to a range of health issues. In addition though, we each make choices in regard to the way we live and the ways in which we react to our life situation. Sometimes we make bad choices, have a negative attitude, and face painful consequences. The major issue at times is not so much what is happening around us but how we choose to respond to such circumstances. What is a hurdle for one person can be an opportunity for another. To some degree, our own outlook will affect whether we find life a blessing or a burden.
But this doesn’t explain all hardship. The fact is that regardless of all our own good efforts, bad things can still happen to us. We must remember that just as we have the freedom to make our own choices, so too do others. Just as we can affect others negatively by our own unwise decisions, so too can the decisions and actions of others bring hardship to us. If we want freedom to make choices of our own (even if we may sometimes make bad choices), we must recognize that others have the same freedom. This freedom can accomplish much good in a society but it can also cause harm.
Why doesn’t God protect us in such cases? Again, there are many answers. One is that good people can influence society by being part of society. To be able to influence others (as in, for example, teaching them the positives of Christian faith and life), we must be with others. As a result, we are vulnerable to the opposition or hostility which others may express. Furthermore, such struggle can actually help us to learn and grow. We can be shaped by our experiences, even when our experiences may be caused by the misconduct of others. (See what the Bible says in Romans 5:3-5.) Struggle can be character-building. This leads us to the question of God’s purpose in all this.
I have so far tried to show that humans cannot simply blame God for all hardships. But why does a loving, all-powerful God permit suffering? As always, there is much to consider. However, one aspect is that weakness and suffering can, if we are willing to stop and think, make us aware of our own limitations and needs. The apostle Paul provides an example of this in the Bible book of “2nd Corinthians” (12:1-10). He suffered from some sort of problem or ailment (a figurative “thorn in the flesh”). He wanted God to remove it. However, it eventually occurred to him that the problem was actually a blessing. Without it, he would have been egotistical; satisfied that he was self-sufficient, having no need for God. With it, he realized that he was not complete on his own and that he needed God. Individual weakness and social problems today can lead us to the same awareness.
There is so much more that can be said. However, think for a moment about surgery. We choose sometimes to undergo the pain and discomfort of surgery because we believe that temporary discomfort will provide long-term benefits. So it is with the nature of life. God permits us to face temporary hardships because these can in various ways lead to eternal benefits. “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18). If there is no God, suffering is without purpose (for, in the end, we simply die). God, however, gives purpose to hardship both in this life and in the context of eternity. If you would like more information on this subject, let us know.