Suffering: Why Does God Allow It?
Why does an all-powerful and loving God permit evil? This question has challenged the hearts and minds of Christians throughout the centuries. When adversity strikes every one of us will come face to face with this inevitable mystery.
God is not offended when our “why” questions flow candidly from our broken hearts. In fact, He welcomes them. The writers of the Psalms freely mingle bold statements of faith with raw human honesty. Even God’s own Son exclaimed: “My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?” (Mat. 27:46).
The Bible is clear. We don’t know the mind of God. His ways, motives and objectives are beyond our comprehension (Rom. 11:33; Deut. 29:29). We must therefore shy away from labeling specific instances with explanations. Why does cancer ravage John’s 5-year old body? What good purpose is God after when He closes the doors of your business or on your deep-felt desire for a baby? We simply don’t know.
But God doesn’t leave us entirely in the dark. The Bible is jam packed with descriptions of God and his design for our lives with him. These truths are not only a cushion for the bumpy ride but a road map how to hang on to God and trust His ways even when it hurts.
God allows suffering…
- To teach us who He truly is, the mysterious but utterly good and reliable God. There is a difference between knowing God and experiencing him. Hardship paves the way for the second (Ps. 46:1-3; Job 42:5).
- To cut-off our prevalence toward self-reliance. When life is good we gravitate to trusting in ourselves, not in God (2 Cor. 1:8,9).
- To be of comfort to fellow-sufferers (2 Cor. 1:4). Our difficulties and the ways God strengthens and supports us in them can bless others. Don’t hoard God’s comfort. Share it.
- To provide us with a platform to glorify God. The man sitting by the side of the Jerusalem oad was born blind so that “the works of God mighty be displayed in him” (Joh. 9:3). We can make God look good through our tears.
- To reveal what is in our hearts (Deut. 8:2,3). Suffering can purify us. It can weed out the unnecessary, the idolatry, the selfishness. Like a surgeon’s scalpel, God cuts to heal.
- To keep us from further suffering. None of us knows what awaits us one nanosecond from the moment we finish reading this sentence. God can design pain now to avoid greater pain later (Ex. 13:17,18).
- To share in the sufferings of His Son (1 Pet. 4:13). Affliction, and especially the kind that is for the sake of Christ, reminds us of what Christ suffered for us. It is a privilege to be counted worthy to suffer for Jesus (Acts 5:41).
- To increase our appetite for heaven. We’re sojourners (1 Pet. 2:11). Perfection is in Jesus and in being with Him, not in a comfortable and smooth life on this earth.
- To keep us from straying. “Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep your word” (Ps. 119:67, 71).
- To strengthen our faith. There are plants that only grow in winter. Some lessons will only be learned when the heat is turned on (2 Thess. 1:4,5).
God’s dealings with us are not whimsical or cruel but purposeful and merciful. He does more than meets the eye. He is present. He cares. Through the valley He woos us into a deeper relationship with Him for His glory and our joy.