The source and purpose of human suffering is a question in the minds of almost everyone. Generally people question why humanity does so much suffering if God is good and loving. This is just as true of folks in the church as in the population at large.
It strikes me as strange that church folks can question the need for human suffering in the context of this life and yet embrace the concept of eternal suffering in the next life as perfectly acceptable. What makes one question God about suffering now and then blithely dismiss questions about the justification for eternal suffering later.
I suspect that a partial answer is the very human tendency to judge others and thereby condemn many as being deserving of punishment, physical suffering now or eternal punishment later. In this life with its many trials and pains, we observe primarily the suffering of those close to us and know well, the ones we most likely judge to be “good” people, deserving of special favor from God. This select group, in our minds, should not have to suffer. The great many others we don’t know or interact with regularly must be the ones God intends to punish eternally, and they must deserve it. Our lack of knowledge of these others allows our minds to simply assume their guilt and to feel justified in seeing them suffer eternally.
If one is to be consistent in questioning suffering, the questions must include as well the suffering which supposedly follows our demise. If one believes that some, perhaps many, will suffer after death because of their mistakes in this life, doesn’t it follow that the suffering in this life results from similar “errors”? This after all was the contention of Job’s friends, when they attempted to explain his pitiable situation. Job, of course, refuted this idea vehemently, citing the many cases where he had observed the righteous being afflicted in some way. Our own personal observations cannot fail to see similar examples of people we judge to be “good” suffering in many ways while other who seem “bad” prosper.
No, suffering just doesn’t seem to follow any rule we can detect. All suffer, after a fashion, and all are blessed in some ways. There is no obvious rhyme or reason behind it all. That being the case, how can we rightly conclude that eternal blessing and suffering follows the “good/bad” rule?