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Suffering Basics

Why All People Suffer: Basics

What is suffering?

Quick answer: Suffering is the God-given ability to sense evil that threatens our existence. It is an evil detector

  • Although suffering and evil are often conflated, they are not the same thing.

  • Suffering is our experience of evil, the feeling we get  when exposed to evil or more correctly when we lack a required good. It is not evil, it is an evil detector.


  • When we are starving, we suffer from hunger.  But its not the feeling that endangers us, it is the lack of food.

  •  Hunger is our ”food alarm,” keeping us from running out of fuel for our bodies.

  • When we are injured in some physical way, we get the feeling of pain. Pain is an alarm that the injury needs care. Without the ability to feel pain, people are exposed to further injury so pain is valuable.


  • Humans are social creatures  and require love and companionship to thrive. The feeling of loneliness warns us of our social needs and motivates us to seek companionship.

Why is suffering persistent  and uncomfortable?

Quick answer: to motivate us to avoid evil.

Suffering is an “evil detector,” a sophisticated alarm system in the human soul capable  of detecting when a required physical, social, psychological, or spiritual need is unfilled.

  • Like any alarm system it must be unignorable and last until the danger passes to be effective.

  •  The signal as understood by humans must be unpleasant to motivate us to avoid the evil and seek out the good we lack.

  •  If it was a positive feeling, we would be attracted to things that are harmful.

What is  evil?

Quick answer: Evil is the loss or lack of  expected goodness in a thing or action.

  • In Genesis 1, God made everything out of nothing and it was all good for the purpose for which it was designed.

  • Nothing is inherently evil. Evil can only exist as a loss or absence of good, just as silence is the absence of sound and darkness is the absence of light.

  • Things are characterized by form (what they are), function (what they do) and order (when they do it) . Evil  (imperfections) occur:

    • when things are malformed or incomplete, ( a person born without limbs) or corrupted (rust, etc).

    • when things malfunction (don’t operate as expected) or are used incorrectly (using a screwdriver to put in a nail).

    •  when disordered decisions are made (sin): choosing a lesser good over a greater good.

What are causes of evil?

Quick answer: Sin is caused by disordered decisions by rational beings (humans and angels. God's designs lead to physical and natural evil and He is also responsible for the evil of punishment.

The four types of evil:

  • Natural evil is caused by living beings  upon each other mostly as part of the food cycle (predator vs defensive prey)

  • Physical evils are caused by the environment being in the state of evolving to perfection (storms, tectonic disruption, etc.)

  • Sin is disordered choices by rational creatures (man/angels)

  • Punishment is evil to bring about order to organizations to discourage sin.

Only the evil of sin opposes God’s will and is harmful to the soul.


  • Natural and Physical evils are part of God’s evolutionary plan for the universe.

  • God punishes to rehabilitate and not destroy. 

What is good?

Quick answer: God is good and he declared that everything he made is good if used according to its nature         (God's plan for it.)

  • This teaching is based on the text of the first book of the Christian Bible (Genesis 1),  which depicts God evaluating his work as he completed  the Creation of each day, “he saw it was good”. The exception was on day 6 after the creation of the human race. Which he evaluated as “very good".

  • The corollary: God made every person perfect for his/her role in his plan; even the most disabled among us have a specific role to fill.

Why do All People Suffer?

Quick answer: All people suffer because the world has not been perfected and  God uses suffering to lead us to him by making the things that are opposed to our well-being uncomfortable.

Suffering is not a sign of sinfulness.

  • Jesus and Mary, both without sin, suffered immensely when Jesus underwent his Passion and Crucifixion.

It is a signal from God directing us to what we need to do to fulfill His plan.

  • We all have needs and we are threatened by all types of evils which suffering detects.

  • Sometimes we suffer not for or needs but for the benefit of others.

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