NOTE: This article is part of our series called ‘Honest Questions’, which seeks to aid those on a spiritual journey to work through some of the biggest questions and obstacles to faith. You can read our introduction to the series here.

AN HONEST QUESTION

“Any kind of God worth knowing wouldn’t let suffering happen. A loving God wouldn’t allow wars, diseases, and unhappiness.”

Suffering is horrible and deep down we all feel it’s a problem, something that shouldn’t happen. That’s because it shouldn’t! God made this world to be suffering-free: to be “very good” (Genesis 1:31), with nothing bad in it.

So why is there suffering now?

ANSWER

Jesus once said: “out of men’s hearts come evil thoughts…murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit…” (Mark 7:21-22). In other words, when people – like you and me – think we know better than God how to live, we cause suffering, to other people, and sometimes to ourselves.

Because we reject God and his guidelines for living in his creation, the whole thing is messed up: in Bible-speak, the ground is “cursed”, imperfect (Genesis 3:17). This world goes wrong – earthquakes, tsunamis, diseases.

God allows suffering because he allows humans, who cause it, to exist. Asking God to stop suffering existing in the world is actually asking God to stop us existing in the world.

But actually, an answer to this question isn’t that helpful. When we suffer, what we really need is two things

HOPE

God won’t allow suffering in his world forever. One day he’ll get rid of all suffering and everything that causes suffering: he’ll remake the world new, and “there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain” (Revelation 21:4). People will live with him in his perfect presence.

But because we reject God and cause suffering, we don’t deserve to be in that world. That’s why God’s Son, in his love, came into the world as the man Jesus. He lived perfectly, never causing suffering – but he came, he said, to “suffer many things and…be killed” (Mark 8:31). As Jesus died, he took what we deserve: separation from his Father God’s perfect presence. So he can offer life in God’s remade world to anyone who asks for it. Anyone who trusts Jesus can look forward to a guaranteed place there.

HELP

God promises to be with Christians when they suffer: nothing can “separate us from the love of God” (Romans 8:39). And he promises to use suffering to help Christians know him better, and become like the people he created us to be. “In all things, God works for the good of those who love him” (Romans 8:28).

If there is a God who loves us, suffering is still horrible – but we can face it with hope, look beyond it to a better life, and trust in the God who promises to help us through it.

YES, BUT…

“All this hope is based on what the Bible says. Can we really trust it?

FURTHER STUDY

Thanks to the internet, we have an incredible number of resources at our fingertips. In an abundance of information, however, the challenge is often finding the right thing to study. With this in mind, we’ve curated this list of articles and videos for you as you continue your investigation into the topic explored in this article.

Author

  • Timothy Berry

    Tim and Renske met and were married in Toulouse, France. They have three wonderful children: Matthijs, Anouk, and Jaana. Before planting City Church Wolverhampton, they served at Mendham Hills Community Church in Chester, NJ as the Pastor of Worship Arts. Tim is ordained by the Christian & Missionary Alliance (C&MA).