This is perhaps one of the most frequently asked question among Christians and non-Christians alike, not to mention one of the most widely debated theological issues of all time. Suffering exists, and so does God. How and why?
“If God is good, why does He allow people to suffer?”
“Why do the righteous suffer?”
“If God exists, why isn’t He doing anything about all of the suffering in the world?”
There are many more ways to phrase this question, but I think you get the idea. In fact, you have probably asked a form of this question yourself at some point. There is no easy, black and white, quick answer to this question. Obviously, if there were, you wouldn’t have clicked on this post. However, I am a firm believer in God’s Word and what His Word has to say about who He is. Although the struggle remains as we wrestle to understand the concept of a good God who is in control of all things while suffering seems to prevail, I do hope to shed some light on this age-old question. God’s Word offers hope, and it is in His Word that He reveals His character to us. So, since this question has to do with understanding the character of God, I say we turn to the greatest text we have – the Bible.
Throughout time, mankind has experienced suffering. From the point in time when sin entered into the world through our first parents (Genesis 3), Adam and Eve, suffering has been a significant part of this life. So, right away we can link suffering to sin. Every time we choose sin over righteousness, sin over godliness, sin over obedience, we ultimately choose to suffer. Why? Because Scripture tells us that God is just (Psalm 89:14). Don’t you love that about God? He is a just God. What does that mean? He requires payment for sin. When we sin, we choose to live outside of His boundaries of protection, and that inevitably invites suffering. Let me put it this way. A man rapes a young child. Our response? We cry out for justice! Why? Because it’s evil. Because it’s wicked. Because it’s wrong. And why do we think that way? Because we are created in God’s image, therefore we bear aspects of His character within the fibers of our being, the desire for justice being one of them. God is just. Therefore, sin bears consequence (Romans 6:23), and most often, that consequence involves suffering.
But what if sin doesn’t appear to be involved in the scenario? Why, then, is suffering allowed? Like you, I have wrestled with this question for years, seeking to understand the heart of God on this matter of suffering and His purposes in it. Based on my own study of Scripture and what the Lord has taught me through His Word, allow me to offer you some truth in response to our question today.
The Bible makes it very clear that God ordains His children to walk through sorrow and pain on this side of heaven (John 16:33), sometimes as a result of our own sin (Numbers 12:10-12), sometimes to discipline us as a loving father would discipline his child (Hebrews 12:5-12), sometimes to strengthen us (1 Peter 5:10), and other times to give opportunity to reveal His comfort and grace (2 Corinthians 1:3-7). It is, perhaps, that final reason that causes us to struggle the most with suffering. In this age of entitlement, we reject that final reason as sufficient cause for suffering. Is it not a beautiful thing, though, to fully experience the Lord’s comfort and grace? Is it not life-altering to rest in His presence and know His love that transcends all understanding? Yes, it is. Will our suffering ever make sense on this side of heaven? Maybe not, but we are given the hope and promise of God’s constant presence throughout. Every painful trial and every hardship has first passed through the loving hands of our loving God. So, it comes down to a different question in the end:
Who do you say God is? Is He loving? Is He good? Is He faithful? And does the existence of suffering change or alter God’s character in any way?
“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” Hebrews 13:8