One of the the questions that people ask in a time of tragedy is, “why does God allow suffering?”
I pray this post will beging to answer this difficult question in simple terms in ways that encourage and build your faith.
Speaking of faith, it’s important to know that we cannot truly have peace with the ways of God without faith. Sufferings greatest remedy is faith in Christ. Sometimes, God does not act in ways that we would agree with or understand in our intellect and reasoning minds. Yet, through faith, we come to understand and embrace many things the mind cannot line up with perfect clarity and confession. Indeed, Christianity is a “faith it in” thing, not a “figure it out” thing. It is in these moments of suffering, that when we surrender our desire to completely know and understand in our minds that we can actually can come to believe in such a way that we ironically can completely know and understand in our mind and hearts. The vehicle through which this occurs is always and only faith. Faith is the foundation for all true knowledge and understanding.
Upfront, I think it’s also important to note that God did not create suffering nor does He enjoy it nor desire it. God may have created the opportunity for suffering to become a reality within our world, but that was/is not His desire nor design. Furthermore, since the death and resurrection of Jesus and the new covenant of God’s grace Jesus ushered in, all of the punishment humanity deserves for sin has been placed onto Jesus. He took the punishment He didn’t deserve, so that we can have the mercy, grace, and favor of God we don’t deserve. God does not cause suffering for the sake of suffering.
Rather, the reason why we suffer now begins with humanity’s rebellion from God which caused sin to enter into the world, bringing with it the reality of suffering. This was not God’s choice, it was ours (see Genesis 1-3). Yes, God created the world with the potential for suffering to occur, because He created a world with free choice. If free choice were not allowed, love would not and could not exist. You can’t have love without free choice. Love is a choice. At the foundation of God’s nature is love. The Bible even states that “God is love.” He created humanity to enjoy Him and a relationship of love with Him and all that He created. This requires the presence of free will, which therefore creates the possibility for rebellion as seen in the Garden of Eden. Again, this was not God’s desire nor design. In fact, out of love and Grace, He sent His son Jesus Christ to die on the cross to ultimately correct this broken reality and restore the world back to Him and its original design. Faith in Christ is the choice that transfers this restoration accomplished by Jesus into the lives of people beginning with a brand new life now, and culminating with eternal life with God in heaven (which is this earth restored and reconciled back to God where His Kingdom comes down to a restored creation) (See Revelation 21).
So, why doesn’t God just end it all already and get this heaven thing going? Why doesn’t a loving God just step in and pull the plug on suffering. Why doesn’t God just make it all go away?
We find one critical aspect of this answer in 2 Peter 3:1-15…
Dear friends, this is now my second letter to you. I have written both of them as remindersto stimulate you to wholesome thinking. 2 I want you to recall the words spoken in the past by the holy prophets and the command given by our Lord and Savior through your apostles. 3 Above all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. 4 They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” 5 But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens came into being and the earth was formed out of water and by water. 6 By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. 7 By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly. 8 But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. 9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. 10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare. 11 Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives 12 as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. 13 But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells. 14 So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him. 15 Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him.
Obviously, there is a lot of meat on that bone, but here is the simple idea from within those verses of scripture in regards to “why God allows suffering.”
As Peter writes in the opening verses (3 and 4) of chapter 3, people have always wondered why God allows this world to keep on going with all its suffering and hardships. This is a common and normal question from humanity about the ways of God. As Peter suggests, God has a plan for all of humanity. That plan is that everyone would become restored and reconciled back to Him through faith in the saving work of Jesus on the cross. Out of God’s love, God wants everyone to be saved from sin and death. Yet, God knows that this cannot be forced, but can only come when people’s minds are changed (repentance) about who Jesus is and what He has accomplished for them etc. Earlier in the Bible, Paul wrote that “love… does not insist on its own way” Because God is love and is always loving, He cannot insist that anyone become saved as that would not be love, nor would that person be doing so out of love.
Therefore, God wants to give as much time for every person to be saved by coming to faith in Christ. He wants them to have every opportunity possible to have a changed mind and heart about Jesus. Furthermore, before creation, God foreknew all with whom He would create. (see Jeremiah 1:5) Additionally, there is a set and purposeful time for all person to be created/born.
Trust me, nobody wants to see an end to suffering and our broken world more than God. That’s why these passages speak of God having to exercise patience. He wants it just as bad as you and I do.
God knows who is left to be created and when they are to be created. Everyone and everything has purpose, timing, and significance. Thus, if God stepped in prematurely and ended all of suffering in the world by ushering in heaven, people who were meant to be created wouldn’t be, and those who might have changed their mind about Jesus at a later time would no longer have that chance.
Therefore, for the sake of all those He has and will create, so that every chance might be given for people to come to faith in Christ, God allows the world to keep on going as is, with suffering.
Now it’s also important to note that, though suffering is terrible now, it could be much, much worse. God has not withdrawn Himself from the world as it is now and is just waiting to being heaven down, but is very present in our suffering world. Out of grace, He brings tremendous comfort and healing into people’s lives in the here and now, and offers His peace that passes all understanding to anyone who would receive it through faith.
So much of what enables people to overcome the reality of suffering comes only through faith in Christ. As the Bible declares, “Greater is He (Jesus) than is in the world” When we believe in Jesus, He comes and lives in us, and therefore, we have One within us who is greater than anything or anyone in the world. His identity and power become our identity and power.
Praying God’s blessing as we all endure times of suffering. May our faith be strengthened and increased.