Q : 
An atheist approached me and asked : “Why does God, who is so good, allow suffering? If God is all-powerful, why does He allow evil to exist and does not defeat Satan in the first place? “. How should I answer?
【 Question from 】 Malaysia 馬來西亞

Fr. Francis : 

God created everything good, including Lucifer who became Satan. When God created the visible world, His primary goal was to share His love. And to do that, He must bestow freedom. And freedom He did give, to angels and humans.

But to give real freedom, without which true love is impossible, to each person He bestows, He must also deny Himself a degree of freedom — freedom to interfere with this life’s choices, to limit the freedom, or to terminate the consequences.

True freedom means each angel and man or woman truly has the ability to say yes to good, or no to good. Without that choice, and the real consequences that it brings, we would be mere automatons, living only on instincts like other animals.

So, some of the angels did choose to say no, and so did our first parents. Evil was brought into the world. But that is the necessary consequence of freedom.

If God takes that away, then the original gift of freedom would be false. We would have no choice but to serve God; our love for God would not be from our own volition.

But God knew all this from the beginning. Evil was not a surprise to Him. But out of love for us and respect to our dignity as free agents, He permitted it. God does not live in time. When He creates, He creates the entire timeline. He sees immediately all the consequences and ramifications. He has a plan already to counteract evil.

We think God should remove evil, eradicate the evildoers. That’s not God’s plan. God’s plan is to save all humans. (The angels are a different story.) That plan is Jesus.

Jesus came as one of us, not to remove suffering and evil, but to conquer evil and sin, and turn suffering into a voluntary sacrifice, that in exchange becomes our salvation. Jesus showed us that God has something better than removing evil. Destroying evil or removing evildoers is merely termination of life, which He called good. Conversion, forgiveness, mercy, and being welcome back to heaven as sinners, this is far more glorious, something that only God can think of!

As Jesus said in Luke 15, what is the joy of 99 righteous person entering heaven, compared to the exultation in heaven when one sinner is won back by Christ’s mercy?

The suffering in this life, because we said yes to evil, is inevitable and cannot be removed without doing violence to our freedom. Yet, our suffering can be turned into weapons, offered up to God for the salvation of souls. Suffering in this life can only rob us of things of this world: our health, comfort, dignity, worldly satisfaction, etc. But in exchange, if we can join with Christ’s suffering to save an eternal soul, by patiently and bravely fighting for good and blessing each person, that is a very good deal, a fantastic exchange!

But of course, for those who only believe in this world, the above is veiled from them; their hearts are closed to it and they can only think of blaming God or ridicule the Gospel, for them we must continue to pray and show patience and kindness, for they know not what they’re doing.