God is described as "eternal" (Gen. 21:33), unchanging (Mal. 3:6), the "beginning and the end" (Rev. 22:13), all-knowing (1 John 3:20), and alive "for ever and ever" (Rev. 1:18). His ways are higher than our ways and His thoughts higher than our thoughts (Isa. 55:9). By all this I'm trying to say that it's pretty difficult for us to imagine ourselves in God's shoes. C.S. Lewis was of the opinion that while we humans are blips on the timeline of eternity, God spans it from end to end. Every moment in time is like the present for Him; He sees the beginning of a series of events as easily as its outcome.
But even this is probably an oversimplification of the nature of an eternal being. Trying to wrap your head around what it would be like just leads to confusion, but we can try. Imagine if you had all these eternal attributes of God. Actually, don't even. If you think about it, it's hard to imagine a worse fate. And you still wouldn't be in God's shoes. God doesn't just see all of time at once, He is outside it (yet somehow able to interact with us temporal beings).
The relatively new school of thought called open theism sees problems reconciling God's omnipotence and His transcending time. If God can do anything, can He change the future that He already knows to be true? And furthermore, if God has foreknowledge of all the evil that happens in the world and has the power to prevent it, why doesn't He do so? These questions led open theists to a more limited picture of God's timelessness, in which He still has knowledge of the future, but it's subject to change based on our free actions and prayers.
But this kind of thinking puts God in the box, a box that is traveling along the timeline at a fixed rate just as we are. To God, there is no time difference between a prayer and His response to that prayer. While to us it may look like we changed God's mind, to Him it's always happened that way. Our prayer was part of His plan. Because we have free will and our present is a single instant in time, it makes sense of us to talk of possibilities: What will happen if I take this action, or what would have happened if I'd done that. But to God the idea of possibilities is meaningless. In His infinite wisdom and infinite knowledge, He has a plan for the universe that is perfect; there is no need to change it, and He has somehow worked the expression of our free will into it. This is one of the greatest mysteries of the Christian faith.
Of course, now it's starting to sound like God predestines everything, and if He does then do we really have free will? I think humans have a tendency to massively overestimate this question. I'm free to type this sentence, or something completely different. After the fact, you can argue that chemicals made me do it, but I (and, I believe, nearly everyone) consciously experiences the freedom to determine our response to a situation. This might even be an essential trait of consciousness. The fact that God knows what we will freely choose to do doesn't negate the fact that it's a free choice. (If He were to tell us what were we going to do, then it might become a rather coerced choice, if that)
Back to the question of God's culpability for our suffering, we need to look deeper at the assumption underlying this argument: that God's number-one priority should be making us happy and comfortable. When brought out into the open, it's surprisingly hard to justify. God was perfectly happy and complete before He made any of us, so why should His world suddenly revolve around us? No--God's world revolves around God (and rightly so). His first priority is His glory, not our comfort. Fortunately for us, those goals don't clash; the fruits of the Spirit (traits of those in relationship with God) include joy, peace, and patience (Gal. 5:22). This joy goes beyond mere comfort, and being from God, it goes back to His glory. Yes, real tragedies happen (a fact of which we're all acutely aware after the events in Japan). But God of all people knows that the greatest good can come out of the worst tragedies.So I hope that made some kind of sense. This blog has always been an escape valve for thoughts that have been bouncing around for too long, and this post is a shining example of that. Feel free to comment; perhaps if I can shape my writing around a specific question it will make sense.