This is an excellent question and I thank you for asking it. It is, perhaps, one of the ultimate questions of our time. How can God, who is above all things, all-powerful, all-good, all-loving, and all-knowing simply watch our suffering and not do anything about it? It all seems against character for Him to allow such horrible things to happen in our lives. So, it becomes very difficult sometimes to just say, well I’m just going to have faith in Him no matter what happens. We experience these challenges in our lives and we come this point where we want answers, and we need something more to hold us to believing in God.
I think one thing that is truly guaranteed is that most of us experience challenges to our faith and so I think we all need an answer for this, but then I think there are some people who have something truly horrible happen to them which is so far beyond our capacity to deal with on our own that it changes us completely. Maybe a loved one develops cancer, or you personally develop cancer, or someone very close to you passes away or is killed.
In 2012, I was holding my daughter in my arms as she breathed her last breath on this Earth. Let me tell you that I could not reconcile that by so easily just believing that all things work together for good. That was not going to do it. I and my wife were ripped apart from our daughter and a scar remains from that time which will never be gone in this life. How can God allow this to be?? He could have saved her…He could have reached down and just as simply as touched her…and she would be here today.
So, why would God allow us to suffer?
First of all, we have to reconcile something very important; the answer will not take your pain away. There is no answer that can be given which will make you ok with the pain of this life. If God reached down from heaven, tapped you on the shoulder, and explained why He allows pain, and suffering, and evil; it would not be a comfort to someone who just lost their loved one, or who is sitting in a hospital in pain and dying. I think many times that people are looking to God for an answer the way they look at aspirin when they have a headache. “This hurts, it is painful, I can’t stand it…please take it away from me.” Then, when God doesn’t take it away, we wonder why, and some of us assume…”well, He must not exist, a loving God wouldn’t let this happen.”
Now, does the suffering in this world prove that He does not exist? Or that He does not love us?
Short answer: NO
Now for the long answer
Could God just reach down and stop this suffering, or that suffering, or that evil? Of course He could. But He did not want to stop specific sufferings and evils, He wanted to put an end to ALL suffering and ALL evil. That is why we see Him stepping into this world in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He sent His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
Jesus came into this world to live with us and reveal Himself to us, and to show us the way to be saved. He suffered one of the most horrible deaths imaginable and gave His life so that we may have a chance to be saved. Why? Because God is going to give us a new life, free of suffering and death.
But why doesn’t He just get on with it??? Why does He allow this pain and suffering to go on?
Because He wants us to have a chance to be with Him in this new life. He is not sitting by idly. 2 Peter 3:9 says that “ The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” He knows how much we are suffering, but He also knows that the suffering we experience here will be nothing compared with the eternal suffering we will experience if we reject Him. He does not wish for any to perish, but He gives us time in hope of us reaching repentance.
Paul recognized this in Romans 8-18-25, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.”
No matter our present sufferings, we have hope in God for the redemption of our bodies and our adoption as sons and daughters to a new life with Him forever.
Now, remember that I said the first thing we must recognize is that this will be little comfort to one who is in the midst of such suffering. As I held my daughter, as I saw the last breath leave her, and felt her spirit leave my arms, there was no comfort. I could have heard everything I just said, and nothing would have taken my pain away in that moment. Even to this day that pain stays with me as persistent as if something very necessary to me was amputated. But as I have healed through the love and comfort of family, and the love and comfort of Christ, I have realized that He has not abandoned me, and that in that very moment He was with me, hurting alongside me. I lost my daughter, well my friend, God lost His Son, but Jesus is alive today in heaven, and I know that my daughter is alive today with Him, and I will see her again.
Yes, God allows suffering in our lives, and if we want to explain its purpose or why, there may not always be an answer that can satisfy us here. But He has made the sacrifice for us, experienced the pain with us, and by His suffering and death, given us a way to be free of all suffering for all eternity. This way will not always be easy. He tells us that outright in John 16:33, “I have said these things to you that in Me you may have peace, in this world you will have tribulation.” He tells us that we will have tribulations. We will experience evil, and pain, and suffering, and death…but then He shares the last half of that verse… “but take heart, I have overcome the world.”
I hope that this helps to answer your question Brian. It’s a hard question, but it is one that is worth pursuing a true understanding of. Keep searching for the answers brother, and I hope I have helped you in beginning to find an answer to this question. If there is anything else that you want to ask, please do not hesitate to post it. God bless you and may He grant you direction and wisdom in discerning His answer for you. Thank you