Why Would A Good God Allow Suffering?
By: Kristen L. McNulty
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When things go wrong, it seems that Christians either go to two extremes- either they walk away from their faith, or they cling to it like it's the only thing they have left. The latter of the two usually produces the best results, but I'd be lying to you if I said it was easy. In fact, it's during these times when trouble strikes that we often question God and maybe sometimes doubt His existence. If this is what you're going through now, I feel for you and let me encourage you: hang on to your faith like it's the one thing you have left because even when everything else fails, my life is proof that Jesus doesn't. Even after the pain, even after the emptiness, there is still that one man who holds out His nail pierced hands and says "I love you. I'm here for you and I'll never leave you." God may not pull you out of the flames, but He will walk through them with you, step by step, moment by moment, flame by flame.
When dashing through the flames is not the time to doubt existence, but to take a leap of faith. What usually stops people is the question that presses in the back of their minds: Why does a good God allow suffering? Throughout time people have asked that question over and over, and in the past couple of months since the September 11th attacks on America, that question has been asked even more frequently. Now even though I don't claim to have all of the answers, I am going to give you my perspective on the question "Why does a good God allow suffering?" Because it is only when we put that question to rest can our faith survive the flames.
I can almost guarantee you that God did not intend for suffering. I'm sure that it was not in the original blueprints for us to have pain and suffering. But when asking the question "Why does a good God allow suffering?" we must flip in our Bibles over to Genesis to find the answer.
In Genesis chapter two, verses 16 to 17 it says, "But God gave Adam this warning, You may freely eat any fruit in the garden except fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If you eat of its fruit, you will surely die." By giving Adam this instruction we can see that God never intended there to be evil in this world. What's also interesting is the warning God gave Adam "If you eat of its fruit, you will surely die." Many people assume this warning to be nothing more than a mere threat that God would kill Adam if he disobeyed. That's not the way I see it. I see it as a warning that with evil comes pain, suffering and even death. Maybe not everyone will die due to a so called "evil" cause like what occurred on September 11th, but we all will eventually die because we live in a fallen world due to the presence of sin. As soon as sin entered, God's original plan for humans and the earth was forced out of the picture. In fact, let me be so bold to even suggest that it is very possible that God's original plan for the earth was a sort of Heaven. You see when the garden of Eden is described in Genesis it is almost a mirror image of the description of Heaven in Revelation. As soon as we sinned, God no longer walked the earth like He did originally, humans could no longer eat from the tree of eternal life and therefore live forever like they were intended to, and we were banished from Eden. In fact, another consequence to our sin is illustrated in Genesis chapter six where it states that "The Lord said: My Spirit will not put up with humans for such a long time, for they are only mortal flesh. In the future, they will live no more than 120 years." This biblical statement is true. Not now, nor will there ever be a person to live past the age of 120. No matter how much science and medicine advances, it won't happen.
So because of this fallen world that we live in, sin is a reality. And because sin is also a reality so is evil and therefore suffering. To go back to the original question "Why does a good God allow suffering?" by saying that we live in a fallen world I am suggesting that it was never in God's original plan for us to suffer and that to stop suffering, sin would have to be stopped. In order for sin to be stopped, God would have to take away human will. God gave us the gift of choice because He didn't want programmed robots following Him only because they have no choice. He wants people to follow Him because they want to. When we choose not to follow God, we choose to sin and when sin is present, so is suffering. I am not saying that those who suffer are the biggest sinners, I am saying suffering can be a reality because of the overall moral state of the world. I hate to break it to you, but people will continue to suffer until God comes back. In fact, in Romans 8:21-22 it says "All creation anticipates the day when it will join God's children in glorious freedom from death and decay. For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time."
While suffering will be present as long as we have free will, God does give us the strength to endure such trails. In Philipians 4:13 it says, "I can do everything with the help of Christ who gives me the strength I need." While God loves us enough to not take away our free will, He also loves us enough to provide the strength for us to get through any suffering or pain that we may experience. When Jesus walked the earth He went through pain, suffering, and eventually a cruel death so He can relate to us when we are suffering. So, instead of drifting away from Him during trials, we should draw closer because He's always there, just a prayer away. And when we surrender God promises a peace, a perfect peace that surpasses all understanding. I hope you take Him up on His offer.
This devotional was aired as a part of the Making A Difference Christian Radio Show.