GOD AND SUFFERING
written May 23, 2012
Can a loving God exist if suffering exists? If so, why does a loving God allow suffering?
IS SUFFERING ALLOWED FOR REASONS KNOWN AND UNKNOWN?
To suffer is to undergo or feel pain or distress. Suffering cannot be the standard to which to determine if a loving God exists or doesn’t exist. That is, suffering, in of itself, does not negate God’s existence if suffering can be allowed by a loving God for reasons known and unknown. Here are some examples of reasons known and unknown for suffering:
1. Joseph suffered so that good could come of it.
In Genesis 50:20, Joseph said to his brothers “You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people.”
2. Job lost his family to death and suffered horrible health issues, and God says sometimes we just will not know or understand why suffering happens.
3. Jesus, God in the flesh, suffered torture and death so that we could have eternal life. So, God in the flesh knows what suffering is like and understands what we suffer through.
He (Jesus) went on a little farther and bowed with his face to the ground, praying, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”
4. Sometimes suffering will bring community together – i.e., 9/11 or death of a loved one.
5. Suffering can build character.
Romans 5:3-4a says,
“We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character…”
6. Suffering can draw us to God.
Deuteronomy 4:30 says,
“In the distant future, when you are suffering all these things, you will finally return to the Lord your God and listen to what he tells you.”
7. Suffering can keep us humble – such as Paul’s thorn in the flesh that he hoped God would get rid of.
In 2 Corinthians 12:7-9 Paul says, “even though I have received such wonderful revelations from God. So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud.
Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, ‘My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.’ So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.”
IS THERE A NEED FOR SUFFERING?
How would we know and/or experience the love of God if there was no suffering while still in our state of “self centred I’ll decide for myself what is right and wrong” selves?
It would be hard to experience God or his love if we never suffered anything while in a flesh that desires sin. Would we even care if there was a loving God or need him? Suffering breeds “need” and helps us turn towards God and/or others.
Suffering will and must exist while we remain in our self centred flesh. God’s love for us was demonstrated through suffering. Therefore, both suffering and an all loving God can exist together, and suffering can be the main ingredient or one of the ingredients that helps us turn towards him.
Our primary purpose of existence is to be in relationship with God. Suffering can get us or keep us on track with our primary purpose of existence – while we are still in the flesh that is. Only after we freely choose a loving relationship with God and leave this flesh behind, will there be no need for suffering any longer. And I praise God for that.
WHERE DOES SUFFERING COME FROM?
Suffering can come from nature – i.e., our own bodies, or natural disasters such as earthquakes. Suffering also can come from freedom of choice.
WHY DOESN’T GOD PUT A STOP TO ALL SUFFERING NOW?
For God to stop suffering right now, he would have to stop evil. And to stop evil, he would have to either destroy us all or take away our freedom of choice. If he took our freedom of choice away, we could not freely love God of which he desires.
In regard to natural disasters, if there were too many earthquakes, life would be unlivable. But if there were no earthquakes, then minerals would not be shaken from the bottom of oceans and brought by rivers to land to help the land grow and keep vegetation – which in turn keeps us alive. Therefore, even though earthquakes can cause suffering, without them we wouldn’t have life.
I do not know why other natural disasters happen.
WILL GOD ONE DAY STOP ALL SUFFERING?
In Matthew 13:37-43, Jesus replied, “The Son of Man is the farmer who plants the good seed. The field is the world, and the good seed represents the people of the Kingdom. The weeds are the people who belong to the evil one. The enemy who planted the weeds among the wheat is the devil. The harvest is the end of the world, and the harvesters are the angels. Just as the weeds are sorted out and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the world. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will remove from his Kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. And the angels will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in their Father’s Kingdom. Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand!”
Revelation 21:3-4 says, “I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, ‘Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.’”
God promised that one day there will be no more suffering. But first, he saves those who come to freely love him (no longer declared guilty of sin), and destroys that which is evil and sin in his final judgment.
Anyway, this is what I have learned about suffering and evil in the world and it helps me deal with it – even though I do not desire it and still complain when it comes my way.
– by Steve Devall