10 Reasons God Allows Suffering
All of these questions seek to answer one question, “Why suffering?” This is probably one of the hardest questions in all of theology for us to wrap our minds around, even if we are not in the midst of suffering.
I myself have asked this question many times. Here are ten things that have comforted me and helped me to better understand suffering.
1. There Are No Good People
According to Scripture:
- We were all born in iniquity (Psalm 51:5).
- We all have sinned and fall short of the God’s glorious standard (Romans 3:23).
- Every man and woman is personally responsible for their sin (Isaiah 53:6).
- There is no one who is righteous in God’s eyes and every aspect of our humanity is tainted by sin (Romans 3:10-18).
This means that we are totally depraved (unable to come to God of our own accord). Regardless of whether or not we believe we are good, God tells us that we are not and that the penalty for our sin is death (Romans 6:23). In essence, we reap what we sow.
But this leads us to the Good News in that while we were sinners Christ died for us, demonstrating His great love for us (Romans 5:8). God knew there was nothing we could do to be reconciled to Him. He knew we could never live up to His standard. The law reveals this to us.
If we confess and repent of our sin and believe in our hearts that Jesus is the son of God and died on the cross for our sins, was buried and arose on the third day, you can become righteous in the eyes of God (Romans 10:9-10; 1 Corinthians 15:3-4; 2 Corinthians 5:21).
2. To Remind Us That the World is Broken
Just as suffering reminds us all of the severity of our sin before God, it also reminds us that we live in a world that is broken and is groaning for redemption (Romans 8:20-23).
3. Suffering Produces Spiritual Maturity
James tells us that suffering produces steadfastness and is used by God to sanctify us (James 1:2-8). A believer’s experiences are not by accident (Romans 8:28). God uses our trials to perfect our character.
4. Suffering Teaches Compassion
There are some levels of Christian maturity that we can never reach except through the doorway of suffering. God can use our affliction so we can learn how to comfort others (2 Corinthians 1:3-4). Compassion is a learned skill and the way God teaches compassion to us is by sending us affliction. Suffering teaches us how to connect with people’s pain.
5. God Wants Our Trust More Than Our Understanding
Our God is not only a loving God (1 John 4:8), but He is a sovereign God (Job 42:2). There are times when the godliest thing we can do is say with Job, “Though He slay me, I will hope in Him” (Job 13:15). We all live in all kinds of ambiguities where we do not know the mind of God–and we dare not act as if God owes us detailed explanations. As Oswald Chambers said, “Faith is deliberate confidence in the character of God whose ways you may not understand at the time.” God knows us, but we won’t fully know Him until we are face-to-face with Him (1 Corinthians 13:12).
6. Afflictions Draw Us to God
God can use our afflictions to draw us to Him (John 16:33) and keep us dependent on Him (Hebrews 12:6-7). Trials, pain, and suffering are not unusual to this world as they are a part of what it means to live in a fallen world. Our suffering draws us closer to God because we don’t have the worldly comforts to rely on. When earthly pleasures, things, and people are stripped out of our lives, it reveals where we have mistakenly placed our hope.
7. Sufferings are a Part of the Life of a Christ Follower
God told us that we would go through trials and we need to rejoice in them (1 Peter 4:12-13). Followers of Christ are to “take heart” or “have courage” because Christ has “overcome the world” (John 16:33). Suffering changes us, it transforms us to become more like Christ. “…if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering” (Romans 8:17).
8. Some Suffering Results from the Sinful Action or Inaction of Ourselves and Others
For example, people look at a famine and wonder where God is, but the world produces enough food for each person to have 3,000 calories a day. It’s our own irresponsibility and self-centeredness that prevents people from getting fed. We chose to be selfish, arrogant, uncaring, hateful, and abusive for we all fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).
9. Our Situations are Temporary Compared to Eternity
God also reminds us that our afflictions and everything we bear in this world are nothing in the comparison to the eternal glory that believers will receive when entering heaven (Romans 8:18; 2 Corinthians 4:17). Our trials in this world are only a slight moment and are light in weight compared to what we will experience for the rest of eternity.
“We must meet the uncertainties of this world with the certainty of the world to come” – A.W. Tozer.
10. So Christ Will Get the Glory
The Bible stands high above any other teaching on pain and suffering and goes beyond other answers to the suffering problem because Christianity alone offers a person in the name of Jesus Christ.
There are many other worldviews and answers out there that may help us navigate our suffering, but only through Christ can we persevere and grow in Christlikeness through them (Isaiah 41:10).
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- D.A. Carson, How Long, O Lord? Reflections on Suffering and Evil.
- Ravi Zacharias and Vince Vitale, Why suffering?
- John Piper’s sermon series, “Treasuring Christ and the Call to Suffer” (part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4).
- Joni Erikson Tada and Steve Estes, When God Weeps: Why Our Suffering Matters to the Almighty.
- Francis Chan, sermon: “Is Suffering Optional.”
- Lon Solomon, sermon: “Why God Let’s His Children Suffer“.
- Jerry Bridges, Trusting God: Even When Life Hurts
- John Piper and Justin Taylor, eds., Suffering and the Sovereignty of God. In particular, David Powlison’s chapter, “God’s Grace and Your Sufferings.”
- C.H. Spurgeon, Beside Still Waters: Words of Comfort for Your Soul, ed. Roy H. Clarke. Excerpts from Spurgeon’s sermons on how he prepared his people for suffering.