In my mind, I am writing a booklet on suffering. The first post was:
Where is God?
Christians deal with such perplexities in more than one way. If the suffering is distant, many have a tendency to say God sent such suffering as a punishment for sin. For example, the fact that the people of Indonesia and Japan are not predominantly Christian in religion made sin an easy explanation for the tsunamis that hit in 2004 and 2011 respectively. So God was punishing them for not having faith. Interestingly, we did not hear this explanation as much when tornados hit the Bible belt, where many churches were destroyed in a predominantly Christian area.
Many also saw September 11, 2001 as God’s judgment on the United States, when terrorists flew planes into the World Trade Center towards and the Pentagon. What is interesting when Christians take this position is that they usually are not thinking of the specific individuals who died in these buildings, many of whom presumably were strong believers. They are rather thinking of a corporate guilt that applies to the nation as a whole rather than the actual individuals who suffered on those days. The individuals who suffer thus represent the rest of the nation, rather than being punished for their own sins.
As another example, Westboro Baptist Church, an ultra-fundamentalist group centered in Topeka, Kansas, picketed the funerals of soldiers returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in the first decade of this century. They did so to protest the prevalence of homosexuality in America and saw the deaths of American soldiers as God’s judgment on the United States. But ironically, they were not claiming that any of the individual soldiers whose funerals they protested were actually gay. They saw God’s judgment as a corporate rather than individual judgment. The deaths of these soldiers represented the punishment of the nation, regardless of how godly they might have been individually.
Despite how prevalent these sorts of comments are in the American church, they raise significant questions biblically and theologically. Those who say such things are selective in the passages and examples they quote and generally miss the overall trajectory of Scripture on these topics. Unfortunately, they can also manifest a spirit that is quite the opposite of the Spirit of Christ and the gospel of the New Testament.
A more loving, but I believe also problematic perspective on evil and suffering is taken by certain Calvinists like John Piper.  Because Piper believes that any true freedom on the part of God’s creation would contradict God’s authority and control over it—God’s “sovereignty”—he insists not only that God allows evil and suffering, but that God orchestrates it through Satan. God is thus directly responsible for everything that happens in the world, both good and evil. All evil and suffering brings glory to God in some way.
Suffice it to say, it seems very difficult to reconcile this picture of God with any meaningful sense of God as love. We certainly would not consider a man or woman loving who directed someone else to murder children or behead a Christian. It is one thing to say that, in some circumstance, God might directly cause suffering for a greater good. It is another to say that he directs and causes all evil and suffering.
Another position is thus that while nothing happens without God's permission, God never causes someone to do evil.  He only allows evil to be done. And just maybe, God more often than not allows suffering rather than directly willing it. God could stop evil and suffering at any time, but he allows them for some bigger purpose.
 E.g., Suffering and the Sovereignty of God, John Piper and Justin Taylor, eds. (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2006).
 We might call this an Arminian position.