Why Is There Suffering in the World?
“Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ as you read this article. May He give us understanding.”
One question that many have struggled with is, “Why is there suffering in the world?” “If God is good and only does good (see Three Essential Truths about God) why does a good God allow suffering?” Since God is good and God is love and God is sovereign and God is all knowing and God has all power, then there has to be a reason for Him to allow suffering in the world. The problem of suffering has caused some to reject God; others it has brought them closer to God. The following will help us understand this subject:
1. View life from God’s perspective, not ours.
What is God up to? What is He doing? This is His world. God created this. God has a reason for allowing this world to be like it is. The wise thing for us to do is to trust Him. He only does good!
- Proverbs 3:5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding;
2. God’s original intent was not Creation; it was Redemption.
- Revelation 13:8 ….. the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.
- 1 Peter 1:19-20 ……but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. (20) He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you
- John 3:16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son…..
God began by creating this world. On the sixth day He created man in His own image and after His likeness. If man is to reflect the image of God then man would need to understand the heart of God. The first pair never knew the value the Father saw in the Son; nor the value the Son saw in the Father. They did not understand the depth of the love of their Creator – a God who so desires a relationship with them that He would willingly suffer and die for them in order for them to live with Him forever. This love cannot be taught; it must be experienced! REDEMPTION displays all of this to us! It is through the suffering of Christ that we understand the love of God. Creation shows the hand of God; Redemption shows the heart of God. The first pair knew God as Creator, but they did not know Him as Redeemer. God allowed the temptation and fall of man so man could understand the depth of God’s love and see what God sees in His Son. Man in his free will can access this great love or he can reject it. Angels desire to know what we experience.
- 1 Peter 1:10-12 Of this salvation the prophets have inquired and searched carefully, who prophesied of the grace that would come to you, (11) searching what, or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ who was in them was indicating when He testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. (12) ….—things which angels desire to look into.
3. God does not allow us to go through anything He is not willing to go through Himself.
God allowed Christ to suffer; therefore, God knows suffering serves a purpose.
- Hebrews 2:10 For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.
- Hebrews 5:8 though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered.
- Hebrews 2:18 For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.
4. God did not create evil and suffering; man’s free will opened the door for it.
The first couple’s disobedience opened the door for suffering to enter the world. Nature even suffers because of it (Romans 8:20-22). It is the result of rebellion against a holy, loving God. Evil, pain, suffering, natural disasters, trauma, sickness, growing old and frail and physical death are the natural by-products of disregarding a loving God. In the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 7:24-28) Jesus told of building a house on the rock (Christ’s ways) or on the sand (the ways of the world). Rain, floods and winds blow and beat against both houses. We live in a fallen world and troubles happen to Christian and non-Christian alike. Christ’s suffering displays to the world the compassion, mercy and love of a God Who is willing to die that we might live. What an amazing God! Christ is the light of the world and followers of Christ are a light in this fallen world. In eternity we will be completely free of suffering and evil.
- John 16:33 These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world."
5. God is with His children at all times, but He is particularly present in times of trouble!
God does not desire for us to suffer (it happens because we live in a fallen world); however, when we do suffer, He draws close to us during that time. What the enemy means for evil; God intends to make good come out of it. We sometimes learn our greatest lesson through our most difficult situation. Let us learn to lean into God in times of trouble. He is very near.
- Psalms 46:1 God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble.
- Matthew 5:4 Blessed are those who mourn, For they shall be comforted. (The Greek word for comforted means to be called to one’s side. God comes along side.)
- Genesis 35:3 …… God, who answered me in the day of my distress and has been with me in the way which I have gone.
- Psalms 9:9 The LORD also will be a refuge for the oppressed, A refuge in times of trouble.
6. God is conforming us to Christ.
- Romans 8:28-29 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. (29) For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.
The Father is far more interested in our character formation (our becoming like Christ) than He is in our health or our wealth. If the captain of our salvation was made perfect through sufferings and if He learned obedience by the things He suffered, then it stands to reason that God will allow the same in our lives in order to conform us to the likeness of Christ.
- Acts 14:22 (Paul) exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying, "We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God."
7. The Word of God declares there is value in trials and suffering.
- 1 Peter 5:10 But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you.
- James 1:2My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials
- Romans 5:3-4 …. we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; (4) and perseverance, character; and character, hope.
- James 1:12 Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.
- Romans 8:35-39 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? … (38) For I am persuaded that …nothing… shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
- 2 Corinthians 4:17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, (See Paul’s list of “light afflictions” in 2 Corinthians 11:23-28.)
8. Our hope is in God now and in eternity with Him where there is no suffering.
The present earth as it is now under the curse brought on my man’s sin is not our home. Our hope is in eternity with no suffering and in perfect relationship with Father. God’s promise to us is that evil and suffering will forever be gone. For now we are part of a suffering world. By faith we look for a city whose builder and maker is God.
- Hebrews 11:10 for he (Abraham) waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.
- Hebrews 11:13-16 These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. (14) For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland. (15) And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return. (16) But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.
9. We have this treasure in earthen vessels.
- 2 Corinthians 4:6-11 (6) For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. (7) But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. (8) We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; (9) persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed— (10) always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. (11) For we who live are always delivered to death for Jesus' sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.
There is as great treasure in us (the message of Christ and His Kingdom, the message of faith, hope and love). God displays to the world this great treasure through our frail bodies. Knowing this, Paul willingly suffered that we might understand the gospel.
- Romans 8:18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.
- Philippians 3:10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death,
- Colossians 1:24-25 I now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ, for the sake of His body, which is the church, (25) of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God which was given to me for you, to fulfill the word of God,
What are we willing to suffer that others might know Christ and His Kingdom?
10. We are entrusted with the gospel.
- 1 Thessalonians 2:2-4 But even after we had suffered before and were spitefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we were bold in our God to speak to you the gospel of God in much conflict. …… (4) But as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, even so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who tests our hearts.
Paul willingly suffered. He did not see it as punishment or that God was unhappy with him. He understood that standing for Christ can mean disapproval by men who do not regard God as they should. Paul saw himself as having been entrusted by God with the greatest truth known to man and he was willing to suffer through whatever in order to communicate this, the greatest message ever shared. The same is true with Paul’s “thorn in the flesh.”
- ·2 Corinthians 12:7-10 And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. (8) Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. (9) And He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness." Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (10) Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ's sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
For Coaches of the Significant life: One of our objectives as a significant life coach is to help our coachees understand that difficulty is part of this life. When bad things happen to good people, it does NOT mean God is upset with them. The truth is God in His infinite wisdom will actually use “bad things” to help us know Him better. Difficulties train us to lean into God and allow Him to develop the likeness of Christ in us. Heaven is not now. Perfection is not now. Life in a fallen world is now. And God is using this fallen world to prepare us for eternity with Him. Because of what we are experiencing now, we will appreciate Heaven more and be able to understand what God intended from the beginning – perfect fellowship with God in a perfect world fully understanding His perfect love. God actually uses suffering to prepare us for a perfect eternity.