I’m sure that at one time or another we have all asked the question, “Why does God allow pain and suffering?” We look at our world and the incredible hurt that so many have to endure and wonder why God, if He is really all powerful, does not just put and end to it. While this is a big question in the global sense and we can dismiss it as something we may never know, it is harder to dismiss pain and suffering when we are going through a trial ourselves. Trials will certainly test our faith in God and for many have even pushed them away from Him. We will all go through times of pain and maybe even moments of suffering and, while I don’t think it is wrong to ask why, we need to ask why for a better understanding of our path forward. One thing I know for sure is that when we are hurting trite statements about trusting God or praying more just don’t get at the heart of what we are feeling. This could be a very long post, but to keep it brief, here are a few thoughts on why God allows pain and suffering.
First, some perspective:
There are many things that we will never know, but we need to start this conversation by reflecting on what we do know. Here are a few things that need to be acknowledged up front. Some things that we do know:
- We all struggle. Struggle and pain are universal. We will all experience it. No one gets a pass.
- Some struggle more than others. This is what can make this puzzling for us. Not everyone suffers the same. When you are in the middle of a hardship though, your pain, even if not equal to someone else, is very real.
- We will not ever know the answers to some questions. Although we hope to have a moment in the future when everything will finally make sense, that may not happen.
Isaiah 55:8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD.
4. Even though we may not understand, God does have a plan!
Romans 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
5. Our ultimate purpose is to bring Glory to God.
Revelation 4:11 Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.
With those in mind, what are some reasons that God allows pain and suffering?
- Sin. The brokenness caused by sin brings pain and suffering. Sin has a penalty and that penalty is death (Romans 6:23). Although the payment for the sin was made through Christ, we still live in a world dealing with all that sin brings.
- To get our attention. God is far more interested in having a relationship with us than He is in our health and well-being. Sometimes, God will use the difficulties of life to get our attention and bring us back into a right relationship with Him. (Hebrews 12:6-11)
- To give us a story. Life is only worth living if we are influencing others for and toward God. The best way to do that is through a personal story of God’s working in our lives. It may be that God is allowing the trials in your life so that you will have a story that can be used to help others.
- We may never know. This has already been mentioned of course, but there may be a reason that we will never know. We need to seek understanding and trust that even if that understanding is not given, God is bigger than it all and worthy of our honor.
So, what can we do when we are experiencing personal times of pain and suffering?
- Stop comparing your life to others. You have no idea what others are dealing with and they may never know your pain. Comparing is rarely helpful and can cause us to isolate and make self-defeating decisions. Deal with your situation but refuse to compare to others.
- Decide before you do anything else that you are going to trust God regardless. Don’t wait until the pressure becomes to much to handle. Decide now that no matter what happens in your life you will trust God.
- Be thankful. Thank God for the good things in your life and for the confidence you can have that He is bigger than your current trial. There is hope in Him. Be thankful.
- Ask for understanding. Ask God to show you what you need to see so that you can understand anything He may be teaching you.
- Use your life and story to help others. Find the redeeming purpose in your story and trust God to use it as He sees fit in the lives of others.
Pain and suffering is real and will be experienced by all of us to one degree or another. Though we may never understand why these things happen, we can decide to use them to glorify God and encourage others. Don’t waste the trials in your life!