There is one question that comes up often in all our lives: “Why does God allow suffering?” I’m sure you’ve asked it. I know I have. It’s a question many non-believers have asked as well.
Neil deGrasse Tyson, one of the most famous physicists alive today, was once asked why he didn’t believe in God. He didn’t give a scientific reason. He didn’t spout evolutionary theory. He didn’t try to find fault with the Bible. His reason was much more human, more emotional. He simply reasoned that if God is a god of love, then how can there be so much suffering in the world? Why doesn’t a God of love stop it?
Isn’t that surprising? One of the greatest scientific minds of our time doesn’t believe in God because of something so simple as suffering. Maybe suffering isn’t so simple?
In the big picture, the question “Why does God allow suffering?” has a pretty straightforward answer – sin. There are plenty of verses that show how man’s sin brought death and pain into the world (e.g., Romans 5:12) or how nature itself was cursed along with man because of sin (Genesis 3:17). Sin caused suffering. Sin broke the intimate relationship we had with God. Fixing that relationship by paying the price for sin is why Jesus came (Romans 6:23). We’ve answered the big picture question in our segment Life’s Question, God’s Answers. If you haven’t given it a listen, I recommend you do!
So, we know the big picture reason behind why there is suffering, but is there any good that comes from suffering?
“Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.” II Corinthians 1:3-4
According to this passage, God sometimes allows Christians to suffer as a witnessing tool to others. It may seem counterproductive at first. I mean, we tell people God is the source of comfort and joy, so how could the act of seeing God’s people suffer be an effective witness to them?
You see, if we go through a trial and are comforted by God, then we are firsthand witnesses to how God’s comfort can work in our lives. His comfort isn’t some catchy slogan on a get-well card or a quote we put on a plaque in the kitchen. It’s real. It’s genuine. If your neighbor or friend goes through a trial, you can tell them how God comforted you. You weren’t comforted by your own strength or a self-help book. You were comforted by the living God!
Like we’ve talked about in a previous blog, the greatest work we can do is point people towards a relationship with God. So, suffering, though temporarily painful, can have an eternal impact!
My wife and I are expecting our second child, a little girl. We recently went through a scary ordeal where a test revealed there was the potential for something to be very wrong with our baby. I’m so thankful to say that a few days later we had more tests done, and they point to us having a healthy girl!
But man, those few days before we got the results… they were very hard. I had to actively contemplate the possibility of our baby girl not surviving, or surviving but with severe disabilities. I did my best not to worry, but for a few days, those terrible possibilities seemed like inevitable realities in my mind.
God taught me many things during those few days. He comforted me by reminding me “that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). It may not work out on a temporary or even a lifelong timeline, but in the presence of eternity, we are already victorious through Christ.
He reminded me that even if my daughter was born with disabilities, He “hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty” (I Corinthians 1:27). Her life could still be a shining light to the world – not despite her disabilities but through them. God could use her to do great and wonderful things.
I’m so thankful that it looks like I won’t have to go through either of these scenarios, but for those few days, the emotions and worries I had were very real. I now have a taste of what other parents go through. I now have a taste of the comfort God can provide in those situations.
Refining Our Hearts
“But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you.” I Peter 5:10
God also uses suffering to refine us, to make us better, to point out sin in our lives, or to change our mindset and point us in the right direction. When it came to the situation with our baby girl, I felt guilty when I found out there could potentially be an issue. Why? Why would I feel guilty for something that is entirely out my and my wife’s control? That guilt was pointing to an issue in my character. God was revealing a dark spot that had been on my heart that I wasn’t fully aware of.
I’m ashamed to say that in the past, a small part of me put some blame on the parents when their children had birth defects or learning disabilities. Somewhere at the back of my mind, the thought would creep in, “What did they do wrong that caused this? What could they have done differently?” So, I was experiencing guilt because a small part of me thought that I was responsible. Going through this trial showed me how wrong I was. It showed me how helpless I truly am in my own strength. God showed me that “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above” (James 1:17), and that includes the blessing of healthy children. I have no power in myself to do anything good outside of God. Going through suffering made me better. It pointed out sin I needed to deal with. It made me more loving and caring towards others.
Romans 5:3-4 says, “We glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope.” At first, it seems ridiculous to “glory in tribulations,” but good can and does come out of suffering!
Brother, the next time you go through suffering, turn your mind towards the good that could come from it. This trial could make you a better witness to people around you who don’t yet have God’s comfort in their life. Take stock of yourself and consider if this trial may be pointing out a sin or flaw in your character, then learn from it! Most of all, be thankful and rejoice for all the blessings you do have in your life. You didn’t earn them. They are gifts from God.
“That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ.” I Peter 1:7
Family Radio Staff