Do you ever wonder why we have to suffer through trials and struggle?
Do you question God when you are in the middle of a crisis, wondering why this is happening in your life?
Or do you question why there are natural disasters, why world hunger cannot be eradicated and why people choose to murder, manipulate and abuse others?
I know I have certainly wondered about all these things!
There have been countless tragedies in the world. We have seen more newspaper headlines than we can count. Many have showcased natural disasters, murders, abuse, and many other terrible things. We have experienced pain in our personal lives and wonder why.
If we could ask one question of God, many would want to know “Why does God allow suffering?”
I personally have been through many crises in my life — abuse, depression, anxiety, a friend being murdered. I won’t go into full detail here, but trust me, I’ve been through it. I used to wonder why God would allow people to go through such hard times and why He created suffering in the first place.
I had this idea that life would be better once I became a Christian. In many ways it was, but it didn’t stop bad things from happening in my life. I had God so that made a HUGE difference. I asked questions and challenged Him, wondering why He would allow me to go through pain like I was at the time. I didn’t realize I was asking the wrong questions.
We might not be able to make sense of why there is tragedy or understand the suffering in our world. There are some key Biblical truths that can open our eyes and allow us to see a different perspective. This can help answer our many questions about suffering.
God Did NOT Create Suffering
First I want to address my incorrect thinking when it comes to God creating suffering. The truth is, God didn’t create evil and suffering. God initially created a world that was good. In Genesis 1:31 it says, “God saw all that He had made, and it was very good.”
God is perfect love and he created humans to love as well. Love is the most powerful feeling in the universe.
God decided to give us a choice in love — He gave us free will to choose to love or not love. He knows real love is not forced — you can only experience it authentically when it involves a choice.
Because we have free will, we can do what we want with our lives to a large degree. We have earthly laws, but within the law we have many choices. One choice people have made with their free will is to turn away from God and do what they want.
Humans make choices and sometimes those choices are ego-driven, unkind and abusive. Romans 3:23 says, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
Much of the world’s suffering results from the sin in us.
Take murder — I used to blame God for my friend’s murder, but this was not God — it was free will of the person who committed the crime. Another issue is world hunger. We could eradicate it because there is enough food to feed everyone, but we as a whole choose not to.
In giving us free will, God knew we’d rebel against Him, but He also knew many people would choose to follow Him. He hoped they would choose to have a relationship with Him and spend eternity in heaven with Him. God felt it was worth it, even though it would cost His own Son great pain and suffering in allowing humans to experience this redemption.
So remember, as you ponder why pain and suffering exist, that God did not create those things.
God is the Ultimate Judge
A lot of times you’ll hear people say: “If God has the power to eradicate evil and suffering, then why doesn’t He do it?”
The answer is that just because He hasn’t done it yet doesn’t mean He won’t do it. The day is coming when suffering will stop and God will judge evil. The day will come when sickness and pain will be gone and people will be held accountable for the evil they’ve committed. Justice will be served in a perfect way. That day will come, but it’s not here yet.
So then what’s stopping God?
One answer is that humans are and He’s actually delaying this, hoping that many will put their trust in Him and spend eternity in heaven. He’s delaying everything out of His love for us. 2 Peter 3:9 says, “The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”
The fact that He cares that much about us is evidence of a loving God who sees the bigger picture of what is to come — the end of suffering.
God Can Bring Good Suffering For Good
Glad can definitely use our suffering to bring good into our lives — and we see many examples of this in the Bible.
First, we hear about His promise in Romans 8:28, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who are called according to his purpose.”
God doesn’t make this promise to everyone. He promises that He will take the bad circumstances that come upon us and cause good to emerge. He says this will happen if we’re committed to following Him.
The Old Testament gives us a great example in the story of Joseph, who went through terrible suffering. Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers and then imprisoned for a crime he did not commit. Finally, after 12 years, he was put in a role of great authority where he could save the lives of his family and many others.
This is what he said to his brothers “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” (Genesis 50:20)
So Joseph shared the wisdom of God, knowing that out of his suffering, God brought good.
We also hear about Paul, who experienced a great deal of pain. He served God and followed His calling. Being a follower of Christ did not guarantee that he would not have trials in life.
I’m guessing you've heard the saying “God will never give you more than you can handle?”
We need to change the wording here to:
“God will never give you more than HE can handle.”
In 1 Cor 10:13 Paul writes “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”
Paul wrote these words to help people understand that God will provide a way out when we look to Him. The issue that many people have is they do not lean into Him in the crisis — they blame Him for it and turn away. Maybe that’s not you, but it is a choice many others make.
In 2 Cor 1:8–10 Paul says, “We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us.”
When we are in crisis, God wants us to put our faith and trust in Him. He takes us deeper into it and allows us to grow in Him. Paul also says “Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Cor 12:7–10)
Paul knew that weaknesses allowed God to come in and show His strength and power. Paul even said he would boast about his weaknesses because God would give him power in the struggle. Paul also wrote “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” (Romans 8:18)
We also read the story of Lazarus. In this story, we see that Mary and Martha were going through a crisis…and that is when God showed Himself at a new level.
John 11:38–44 says, “Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. “Take away the stone,” he said. “But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odour, for he has been there four days.” Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.” When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”
This is an amazing story of God’s power. He shows power of this magnitude when we are in the struggle.
It is like someone who is in deep debt, about to file for bankruptcy and lose everything. His last hope is a lottery ticket that he finds under a pile of books. He realizes that it is one of the winning tickets and he receives a payment of $1,000,000. He is now able to share this amazing story of the one thing that pulled him out of the depths of despair.
This is what God does. When we hope in Him he shows up in our suffering with a winning ticket — except His grace is even better than that. It is powerful and gives strength beyond anything we can experience in this world.
Another example of huge struggle in the Bible was the story of the Israelites when they fled Egypt. When they reached the Red Sea they were at the end of themselves. There was nowhere else to go. In allowing them to be in that crisis, God also showed His greatness of what He could do when there was no other way out.
The Bible says, “When Pharaoh drew near, the children of Israel lifted their eyes, and behold, the Egyptians marched after them. So they were very afraid, and the children of Israel cried out to the Lord. And Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever. The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.” Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the Lord caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all that night, and made the sea into dry land, and the waters were divided. So the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea on the dry ground, and the waters were a wall to them on their right hand and on their left. And the Egyptians pursued and went after them into the midst of the sea, all Pharaoh’s horses, his chariots, and his horsemen. And Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and when the morning appeared, the sea returned to its full depth, while the Egyptians were fleeing into it. So the Lord overthrew the Egyptians in the midst of the sea. Then the waters returned and covered the chariots, the horsemen, and all the army of Pharaoh that came into the sea after them. Not so much as one of them remained. But the children of Israel had walked on dry land in the midst of the sea, and the waters were a wall to them on their right hand and on their left. So the Lord saved Israel that day out of the hand of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore. Thus Israel saw the great work which the Lord had done in Egypt; so the people feared the Lord, and believed the Lord and His servant Moses.” (Exodus 14:10, 13–14, 21–31)
This is another amazing testimony of what God can do when we are at the end of ourselves. When we are struggling with pain and suffering, He can do amazing things — and we get to be a part of it!
Was God being mean in allowing any of these situations to happen? No. It may feel like it but in these hopeless scenarios where you can’t see a way out, God ‘raises the dead’ for you. God becomes real to you at a level you never knew before.
To experience an emotional or mental resurrection we may need to experience a death. We all have a vision of what we want our day, our week and our life to look like — and it often doesn’t look that way. When it is very far from what we hoped it can cause us pain and suffering.
We want a job and don’t get it.
We struggle financially and don’t see how the money will come in on time.
We lose a loved one and go through the pain of moving on.
In those situations, we get to trust God and have hope that He will bring good when we look to Him. That is what HE promises after all.
It may not look the way we think it should, but He has a greater plan.
Death Of a Vision
‘Death Of a Vision’ is a concept explained in scripture through a reference of planting a grain of wheat. Although the grain has the potential to produce “much fruit,” it first must be buried in the ground and die. Only then can new life spring up to produce a harvest. (See John 12:24.)
We have a vision birthed in us and we visualize what God can do in our life. We expect Him to work it out even when it doesn’t seem possible, which is when we allow our initial vision to die. God uses this time of waiting to develop patience, trust, faith, self-control, and more in us. When we continue to strive for our initial vision, we are not allowing God’s will to prevail. We are trying to control things and that is what God wants to rid us of during the death of a vision.
When Abraham had a son by Hagar to control the situation and fulfill God’s promise the way he thought it should be done, he was not allowing God’s plan to prevail. This resulted in more heartache than needed.
When we choose to wait and allow God to fulfill our vision His way, we see His amazing power, grace and majesty. In my experience, He always works things out better than I could ever do on my own! He can do the same for you. He will, if you trust Him.
God does some of His best work when your back is up against the wall. Let Him use the crisis you are in to show you His power, His presence, and His ability to turn your situation around.
What God is Doing in the Suffering
When we go through pain, there are a few different things God is doing:
- He is allowing us to experience Him in a new way.
2. He wants us to grow closer to Him and have a deeper relationship with Him.
3. He wants to show us more of Him and this often happens in the pain when we choose to rely on Him more than we sometimes do when things seem okay in life.
Did you ever lean on God in a time of suffering, knowing He was the only thing that would help you move through the pain?
All your options were gone and nothing reduced the pain.
Everything you thought would work, did not work.
You couldn’t talk, walk or pray your way out of it.
You just had to simply lean on God and look to Him to see the good He was going to bring out of the pain.
That crisis gave you the opportunity to experience and know God in a way that you may never have known before.
You may be thinking, “Okay that’s great and all but I don’t want the crisis and pain. I have a good relationship with God and I put Him first in my life so I would rather things stay normal — why rock the boat?!”
I completely understand, as I have thought this too! I don’t think many ask for a heart-wrenching crisis. Most of us would ask for a way out rather than dive into a crisis. Yet, the pain is an opportunity to know God in a much deeper, more intimate way.
When He wants to move you to a new level of intimacy with Him, He will typically use a crisis.
Don’t look at your crisis as a negative thing that you must endure. Many crises are positive things disguised as pain. They are God — reaching in and placing you on a pathway to your purpose. Everything is in His perfect plan.
We can Choose our Perspective
God promises a time when there will be no more crying, no more tears, no more pain and suffering. He says we will be reunited with Him in perfect harmony, forever.. 1 Corinthians 2:9 says, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.”
That feels so good doesn’t it?!
In the meantime, we have a choice. We can turn away from God in the midst of the storm or turn TO Him. When I was in the middle of various tragedies over the last decade, I looked to Him. My greatest healing came from His love and support.
We may not be able to make sense of the suffering in our world, but when we’re committed to God, He promises to take the pain we’re experiencing and draw something good from it. He can and He will. God can use our suffering to draw us to Himself and to sharpen our character. He can draw something good from our pain in so many ways…if we trust and follow Him.
Scriptures to Encourage you in the Suffering
(You can access the free downloadable guidebook with scriptures to encourage you when you’re in pain in the Free Resources section
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:2–4)
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me — put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” (Phil 4:6–9)
“Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear…Can any one of you add a single hour to your life by worrying? But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough troubles of its own.” (Matthew 6:25, 27, 33–34)
“We also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:3–5)
“I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” (Phil 4:11–12)
There is Hope
Even though none of us want to suffer, I hope this article helped you understand a little more about why there is suffering in the world.
I also hope it gave you some encouragement so that when you’re in a struggle, you can turn to God and know that He will bring good out of it in His timing.
There is ALWAYS a greater plan at work!