"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." - Jeremiah 29:11
Why does God allow suffering? For many years this has been one of the most commonly asked questions by Christians and non-Christians alike. And there’s no simple answer.
If God is all-knowing and all-powerful, then why does He allow innocent babies to be miscarried or to die at the hands of an abortionist? If God is all-knowing and all-powerful, then why does He allow children to contract chronic diseases like muscular dystrophy, cerebral palsy, leukemia or cancer? And if God knows ahead of time what atrocities people are going to commit during their lifetimes, why on earth did He allow mass murderers like Adolf Hitler, Osama bin Laden, Ted Bundy, Charles Manson and Jeffrey Dahmer to be born?
Much of our pain and suffering is the result of our own and others’ poor choices and sin. Some pain and suffering is the result of Satan’s attacks. (Do you remember Job?) Still other pain and suffering results from natural disasters that are part of the fallout of living in a sin-cursed world. But regardless of the source of our pain and suffering, why doesn’t our all-powerful God stop it?
And the most honest answer I can give you is: I don’t know. I simply don’t know. Why didn’t God spare the little baby my wife miscarried back in 2003? I don’t know. Why didn’t God stop the Pilot Fire that forced the evacuation of thousands of homes? I don’t know. Why does God allow children to die of cancer or women to die at the hands of murderers like Richard Ramirez and Ted Bundy? I don’t know.
Over the centuries, this has proven to be a thoroughly unsatisfying answer for many Christians, and as a result some have walked away from the Christian faith. But while this reaction is understandable, I believe it is short-sighted.
You see, the Bible doesn’t presume to answer every one of our “why” questions. There are many things about God’s thoughts and ways that we will never understand. Part of that stems from the fact that God is infinitely more intelligent than we are. Another reason is because God has never been tainted by sin like us. God’s thoughts are holy. His plans are perfect. And His involvement and judgments in our world are flawless. We may think that we could run this world better than God, but we are sadly mistaken.
So, why not stop blaming God for our pain and suffering and look at things from a different perspective? We tend to look at earthquakes and hurricanes and tornados and assume that God is letting every possible natural disaster happen. We don’t consider for a moment that God is holding back even larger cataclysmic events. We curse Him for the natural disasters that He allows, but we fail to thank Him for the natural disasters that He doesn’t allow.
We look at the Hitlers and Osama bin Ladens and assume that God is letting all the mass murderers be born. We don’t consider the possibility that they are like Mother Teresa compared to the more wretched mass murderers God has kept at bay. We look at our miscarried children and blame God for their deaths instead of considering the possibility that their deaths may have been an act of mercy. Perhaps God was sparing them from the excruciating pain they would have experienced during their lifetimes. God took them straight to paradise in heaven instead of subjecting them to a life of suffering. If so, God should be thanked, not criticized.
You may never understand why God does the things He does, but of this you can be certain: If you are a believer and follower of Jesus Christ, your suffering is temporary. Notice how Paul describes our pain in 2 Corinthians 4:17. He writes, “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” Never forget that all of your pain and suffering is temporary—just a blip on the radar screen of eternity.
And not only is your pain temporary, it is purposeful. My favorite Bible verse is Romans 8:28: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” The truth is: If God can’t somehow love you through the pain and suffering, then He shields you from it. And if God can’t work the pain and suffering together for good, He doesn’t send it your way.
We don’t always need to know the reason for our pain; we just need to cling to what we do know—namely, that our pain is temporary, and God is lovingly working for our good. Friends, God is good, and God is faithful. So trust Him. Keep following Him. And in His perfect timing, He will give you the answers you seek.
Dane Davis is the lead pastor of First Christian Church of Victorville and the author of Holy Huldah! Lessons You Should Never Forget from Bible Characters You've Never Heard Of. To hear Pastor Dane's messages for for more information about the church, visit www.fccvv.com.