Why do people suffer? This is a difficult question to answer, especially for religious people. Because if God is omniscient, which means he knows everything, and omnipotent, he is all-powerful, and benevolent, he is kind, then why does he allow bad things to happen to good people?
Most religions teach that good people will be rewarded and bad people will be punished. For example, most Muslims believe that God will judge everyone and decide who deserves reward in heaven and who deserves punishment in hell.
But if God is all-powerful, why doesn’t He stop people from doing bad things in the first place? But then we would be like robots following a program. Jews and Christians believe that God has given us free will – the right to choose how we want to live our lives – and therefore the possibility of doing evil must exist. This is called moral evil, which is the suffering caused by people who make bad choices, such as stealing something or murdering someone. But this does not explain natural evil, that is, suffering caused by the natural world such as earthquakes, floods and disease.
Some Christians would say that natural evil can be explained by the story of Adam and Eve – the first man and woman. God gave them a paradise to live in and only one rule: do not eat the fruit of this tree. But Adam and Eve disobeyed him. Paradise was ruined. The balance of nature is upset and suffering begins.
Jews might cite the story of a farmer named Job who, although a good man, is tested by God. His animals are stolen or destroyed. His servants are killed. All his children die and he becomes horribly ill. But Job remains faithful. but what does that mean? That we should patiently bear suffering? That we will never understand God’s plans for us? Or maybe God doesn’t know everything, isn’t all powerful, or doesn’t care what happens to us.
Atheists might go even further and say that suffering is proof that God does not exist at all. Some people believe that suffering is due to karma, the belief that all actions have consequences in this life or the next. Hindus and Sikhs generally believe that a person’s soul survives after the death of their body and is reborn in a new body. If someone lives a good life, they will be rewarded with a better life next time. But if they do bad things, their life will be worse next time. It’s karma.
Buddhists believe that people suffer because they want bad things. And the only way for someone to stop suffering is to stop wanting. Eventually, instead of being reborn, Buddhists believe they will be freed from physical life and suffering.
Whatever we believe, we can all make better choices to reduce suffering as much as possible. What could you do to make the world a better place?