Why Would God Allow Suffering?
I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. – Romans 8.18
In the last week I have been asked three different times a question I’ve been asked many, many times before. The question comes in different forms but basically boils down to: “Why would God allow suffering?”
First off, we should remember that this is a question that has been asked by our fellow humans for thousands and thousands of years. We all want to know. The desire to know comes from a place within us that knows in our bones that this (whatever the current suffering is this time) isn’t right.
That cancer shouldn’t have sprung up. My spouse should have been faithful. My job shouldn’t have been taken from me. That guy shouldn’t have shot all those people.
The very fact that we intrinsically know that something is amiss shows us it’s amiss from something. In other words, we have a reference point of goodness or as C.S. Lewis and other great theologians have argued:
We never would’ve even known the suffering was in fact suffering if it wasn’t for goodness.
But why allow it in the first place?
A short answer that won’t do it full justice is: that the highest value in the universe to God is love. And love cannot exist without free will. If God forced people to do good things only, then free will would not exist and people could not truly choose anything. We would essentially be robots. Free will exists, people make all kinds of bad choices, and those choices impact others in untold ways for generations! In fact, the whole world is literally thrown off balance due to the Fall. The book of Romans says that the earth is groaning waiting to be restored.
Now… If that were the final word it wouldn’t be enough. Thank God it isn’t. Death, disease, darkness, betrayal, etc. etc. etc. are all very loud things in our lives. But the final word? Never. What’s the final word? The passage from Romans eight that we opened this with. And many other promises God speaks through the Scriptures. And when God speaks, He speaks truth, life, love, and eternal things. In fact, when God speaks, He creates! And He wants to speak to us for an eternity.
And so you… When you experience suffering… And suffering is real! What do you do? You own it. You feel it. Paul wasn’t saying to ignore suffering or downplay it. No. We are encouraged to mourn over and again in the Bible. But, don’t accept the suffering as the authority on your life. Say to yourself, “Even THIS doesn’t have the final word!” And remember that the glory that will one day be revealed to you will so outweigh the suffering that the two won’t even be able to be compared. As Pastor Jeff has put it many times…Whatever suffering we have endured in this lifetime God has an eternity to make it up to us!
So Lord, hear our prayer. Give us the perspective to see that death never has the final word. Help us to see how much goodness you have given us. Let us live lives of gratitude despite difficult circumstances. And may we always look forward to what you have in store for us!
Josh is a husband, father, pastor, and aspiring laundromat missionary. He is incredibly curious about the way people connect with each other and with God.