The suffering of the innocent is one of the most emotionally compelling arguments against the existence of a loving and powerful God. If He is able to intervene in our world, why doesn’t He stop more of the atrocities that poison it? Why do we seem to see Him act at some times and at others seem to be so conspicuously, unavoidably, alone? Why do some people receive supernatural visions or material comfort, while others suffer abuse and feel that heaven itself is blind and deaf to their prayers?
I will never be able to answer those questions. When my atheist friends bring up the dilemma, I have no short answer to satisfy them, no list of possible divine plans or actions that could make those evils ok.
But what I can tell them, what I do try to tell them, is that Christianity solidly agrees with them that the suffering of the innocent, the oppression and abuse of the vulnerable, is most definitely evil and is never “ok.” I don’t worship a God who is on friendly terms with evil. He hears the cry of the oppressed and avenges the innocent. Why He doesn’t just prevent the evil from occurring in the first place I don’t know for sure, but I would argue that it is because He gave us free will, and for that free will to be meaningful it has to be able to actually affect reality. If love and creativity and courage and honesty are to be authentic, then there must also be the possibility for hatred, destruction, cowardice, and deceit. And the greater the potential good, the greater the corresponding potential evil. It is the beauty and the horror of humanity.
And what does God do, faced with humanity’s evil choices? He gives us a moral standard to understand the difference between good and evil, justice and injustice. He calls us out of darkness into His light, offering us the chance to be forgiven and changed. He promises to punish those who commit evil, either in this life or the next, establishing His justice as a judge in court. And He enters into our suffering alongside of us, offering us the comfort and strength of His presence, giving us the opportunity to use our suffering with Him for the redemption and re-creation of the world.