Why Does God Allow Suffering?
I often hear the question, how can a God that supposedly loves us so much, allow such suffering in the world? At first glance, it seems like a justified question. We see innocent people die every day. People all throughout the world are asking the same question. Is there a God at all? If so, why would he allow such horrific events to haunt the people he created? The aforementioned question is fully packed with answers, but I will start by directing you to Isaiah 53:11: “Out of the anguish of His soul, He shall see and be satisfied; by His knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant make many to be accounted righteous, and He shall bear their iniquities.” I start in Isaiah because I want you to notice how God himself views and uses suffering. Reflectively, we recognize, through the study of Isaiah 53:11, that God views suffering as two things worth noting:
1. Consequence of sin
2. A glorified, perfectly-timed visual of His will in action.
Because of the sin in humanity, God, out of the anguish of His soul, sent his son to the cross for us. We often think of all the physical suffering Jesus went through and the intense burden of sin He carried on the cross, but we rarely think of the suffering God the father experienced also. God’s suffering was a response to His love for us, and a necessity for His will to be revealed. Let us take a moment to reflect on the selfishness of our original question; People who ask this question are subconsciously labeling God as unjust, nonexistent, unresponsive, and unloving for allowing suffering in the world. As a result of our suffering, we selfishly label God as unjust and do not appreciate God who humbly chose to suffer for our sake. Unbelievers suggest that it is unfair to allow suffering as a consequence for our wrongdoings but fail to recognize that Jesus truly did not deserve the suffering on the cross. Jesus lived a sinless life yet suffered a punishment for crimes that He never committed; however, He accepted his role and trusted the power of God’s perfect plan.
In the same way, Christians need to trust that God’s purpose is much greater than the suffering we experience in life; Paul confirms this for us in Romans 8:18: “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” The problem is, as evident in Genesis 3, we love to be in control of our own lives. We want a perfect life, perfect car, perfect house, perfect health and the plan that God has for us is not good enough unless he reveals it to us on our time and not His. We are saved from sin by the unbounded grace of God, but that’s not good enough for us. We want more. Well, I am here to tell you that the obstacles in life are much more beneficial than you think. Romans 5:3-5 states, ”...suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” If you live life trusting in God’s perfect plan, and believe that his Word is sharper than a two-edged sword, you will hold fast to the words in 1 Peter 5:10: “And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.”
I created an acronym that has helped me understand how to view and live life as a Christian who has gone through suffering: we must always live by the CROSS.
Change: changing daily to better ourselves and to use your faith in the glory of the cross to fight anything that would dim God’s glory. As Christians, we are called to daily die. As stated in 1 Corinthians 5:17, we are new creations in Christ Jesus, but we have a great responsibility to act
like it. During a time of suffering, we cannot expect to see God’s plan clearly if we are constantly in sin and not searching for Him every day.
Reality: Acknowledge the reality of God’s nature. He wants a relationship with you. He deserves worship. He calls us to pray. We do not have enough strength of our own to get through any hardships without God.
Obedience: A successful walk with God requires obedience. Sin is not absent, but as you continue to feed your faith, the changing power of God will make sin less desirable; as a result, we will find ourselves much more satisfied with our lives. When God is glorified in our life, we are most satisfied in Him. True satisfaction is given when you lead your life by your faith and not a sense of entitlement.
Suffering: Notice that suffering causes us to cling to God and it’s exactly where we want to be. His promises never fail us, and he ensures through His word that he will restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you no matter what you go through. Believers need to understand that suffering is a result of sin in this world, but God always works things out for your benefit. When in doubt, focus on Romans 8:28, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”
Sacrifice: Do not ever forget God’s ultimate sacrifice for all who are His. Just as He sacrificed for you, God expects you to sacrifice for him. Understand that no matter how much you do, you still don’t deserve grace, but God gives it to you anyway; that is the exact reason why God deserves you to put aside your sinful desires and cling to him and give him the worship he deserves.
If we live by the CROSS when times of hardship come, it will help us refocus. Instead of getting angry with God or thinking that this season is unfair, we will realize that this is a consequence of sin, and God lovingly uses the consequence of sin to grow us and mold us into godlier men and women.