That specific query I've been thrown back on time and again over the last few months, but indirectly so--through two stories about the brutal suffering and death of innocent children. The first case was that of Jessica Ridgeway, a 10-yr-old girl from Colorado who was abducted, raped, executed, dismembered, and whose remains were buried beneath the house of the killer. The second event I heard about just days after discovering the first story: a New Jersey girl named Autumn Pasquale was lured into a house by two teenage boys and killed...for her bike. Think of it. Just think of it. And Psalm 103 says "The Lord works vindication and justice for all who are oppressed." And Psalm 34 says "When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears, and rescues them from all their troubles. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit." So did God hear their cries? their pleas for mercy? for help? Did he behold their unspeakable suffering? sustain the beating hearts of the killers as they carried out the designs of hell?
Then come the questions which Hume (I think) popularized, but which everyone has recognized intuitively, has felt internally since the murder of Abel: "If God is all loving and all powerful, why is there evil? Is he not loving--and thus indifferent to our hurt? Is he not all-powerful--and thus unable to change the way things are even though he wishes he could?"
So what's my response? Where do I turn for an answer? Asking these questions, curled up in a fetal position, God showed me grace through--not surprisingly--another question: whose world is this? I mean, if there were no originator, no sovereign, no God, then this thing we call "hurt" is nothing really but meaningless chemical reactions inside my body; more fundamentally, what's caused these chemical reactions (i.e. "evil") can't truly be called "evil," can it? "Evil" compared to what? "Evil" implies a violation of some good, righteous, and holy standard; but if this world isn't God's, no such standard exists. Like Lewis said, I guess, only the Christian can actually have a "problem of evil."
But that still leaves me with the plaguing question: why did he allow the suffering of those children? Frankly, the "why" question I can only address indirectly. First, I recall the incredible "risk" God took by creating Adam and Eve to be thinking creatures. "Let us make man in our image" meant, among other things, the freedom of choice. Every evil action is a re-embodiment of our first parents' sin: rejecting God's authority and instituting our own. Secondly, recalling what God has done and what God will do provides great comfort in the midst of what he is doing. What he has done: "...it was the will of the Lord to crush him"; "he was cut off from the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people"; "you who were once estranged and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds"; "God disarmed the rulers and authorities and made a public example of them, triumphing over them through the cross." And what he will do: "I will make a new heaven and a new earth"; "see, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away." These word are trustworthy and true.
The remarks in this post aren't meant to alleviate any of the hurt you or I may feel because of evil. If anything, it actually pronounces those feelings all the more; we look around at this world and stand aghast at how horribly broken it is. But these considerations do, I think, give me something which I can in turn give to others: hope. Through union with Christ we've become participants of the New Creation (2 Cor. 5.17). As such, our energies ought to be bent fully towards extending the ethic of the New Creation (God's ethic, namely) as far and wide as possible. Art, politics, education, economics, friendships, etc., all become avenues whereby we extend God's righteousness to the furthest reaches of the world. So yes, we do suffer and will suffer, but not forever. We suffer...but not as those without hope.