Why Does a Loving God Allow Pain and Suffering?
One of the hardest truths to understand about God is why He allows pain and suffering. Many agnostics believe that God is a punishing, vengeful being who is indifferent to our pains and suffering. That is not at all who He is. He is a God of love, hope, and peace. Many will argue if God is good, why is our world such a hateful, hopeless, chaotic mess. Each person will find different areas of this world to blame Him for and cause misgivings about Jesus.
One person may struggle with why their grandma has Alzheimer's, whereas another grapples with why there are people who experience schizophrenia, or how could He allow the rape of a young girl, the abuse of a child, the death of a child? For several years, I struggled with many of these questions. In fact, during one of my hardest moments, I wrote an honest, revealing blurb about my feelings on this topic. Since then, I have come to an understanding and an acceptance that took me many years. It wasn't until I reached this understanding that I truly became a Christian.
Is God a Loving God?
Faith Like Job
Job is probably one of the best examples of someone who knew God as a loving God, despite hurt, pain, illness, affliction, loss, and tragedy. Even when those around Job, criticized him, and accused God of bestowing this great punishment on Job, Job never lost faith in Christ.
When reading the book Job, one needs to be careful of misunderstanding the true words of wisdom, and the words of foolish men. It's quoted in Job, "You talk like a foolish woman. Should we accept only good things from the hand of God and never anything bad?” Job 2:10 The fantastic thing about this statement is that God did NOT choose the specifics of Job's misery, Satan did. Job endured all of this with a faithful heart and a love for God. He became mad, but He accepted that God knew what was best. He did not lose faith, even though God chose not to reveal the reasons for this.
God never once tried explaining to Job why he went through everything he did, yet Job accepted his plight. He was faithful because he trusted that God loved him and knew more than he did. He understood that God is a sovereign God.
God is in control.
He only allowed what would be the best for the world as a whole. Who are we to judge God? We are mere humans in this vast world, we have no way of knowing God's ultimate plan, except through what he has placed in His Word. We should all be like Job and learn that just because things are going bad, does not mean that God is punishing us, nor should we believe that God is harming us. He is merely allowing the pain in the first place.
Job and His Naysayers
How Could a Loving God Allow Pain?
Unfortunately, most of us are not born with faith like Job's. Satan knew that Job had a tremendous amount of faith, but Satan felt he could break down Job's faith through tragedy. It did not work.
So we are left to ask questions like "How could a loving God allow rape, murder, mutilation, starvation? If He allows this, is he truly loving?"
The short answer is yes. God is loving.
We may not understand why something has happened, but he uses all things for His good. He gave us free will because he wanted to feel the joy of us coming to Him on our own. When we do that, He gets to experience our tremendous love for Him and our willingness to come to Him out of faith, love, and devotion. Although, He takes a risk in giving us free will. For one, He also gets hurt because many of us make very unwise, harmful decisions that hurt God, and that hurt our fellow man. God knew this was a risk of allowing us to have free will. All people will hurt others in some way, for we are all sinners. Some of us are more severe, others less severe.
To the rapist, murderer, etc., don't worry, they will not go unpunished. Either we are punished in this world or the next. And yes, God allows the rapist to rape, the murderer to murder, and the liar to lie. Just because God allows it to happen does not mean that he does not feel our hurt as we go through these problems. His pain is tremendous, as God watches us hurt. He tries to comfort us, but we have to be willing to accept his comfort. God uses others; He uses circumstances, He uses many vast things, but often we reject the things He sends.
Some may argue that if God wanted to give us free will, couldn't God have made it, so we didn't hurt one another. When God gave us free will, He gave us free will in everything. If God limited what we could do so we couldn't hurt others; then it wouldn't be free will. He either can give us free will, or limit how we can affect others. He can't do both. If God chose not to allow others to kill each other or not let people do many atrocities, then we would not indeed have free will.
Gravemarker of Jesus
God's Will Is Too Hard for Us to Understand
The truth is, we have free will, but what about the other things like severe deadly weather, or diseases. Why would God allow this? He can control these things.
First, you must understand that God placed things in motion. By not allowing a hurricane, other things on Earth would not do well. For instance, if God chose not to allow any more storms, this might have a severe effect on the Earth's ability to regulate its temperature or ability to redistribute rainfall as God intended. Many things would affect our world catastrophically if God were to stop them.
Forest fires are another necessary "evil." In many forests, often people who regulate the natural balance within forests will set controlled forest fires to burn off certain parts, to encourage more healthy growth. Without these necessary fires, the wilderness would become overrun with particular vegetation destroying others. The fires allow an equilibrium in the forest. Before there were men to set these fires, God knew that it was important that fires occur naturally in the woods on occasion; therefore, He allowed them to happen, despite the considerable damage that can occur.
Some Things We Will Never Understand
Another argument may be that He is all-powerful, so why can't he make weather good, not bad. Or why can't he make our bodies fully healthy without the disease? I believe you must accept that there are some things we will never understand.
We, mere mortals, are unable to understand God to His full extent. Lee Strobel quoted a story told by someone else about a bear. He started by telling the story from the bear's perspective: The bear was walking along and got caught in a trap. The bear was wailing and tugging; the more he pulled, the worse his hand hurt. Then all of a sudden, the bear sees a hunter with a gun! The bear growls and swipes at him. He becomes madder and madder as this man gets close. Then all of a sudden, the hunters lifts his rifle and shoots the gun at the bar. The bear jumps as he hears the bang, moments before he feels tremendous pain. His vision becomes black.
Horrible from the bear's perspective, right?
Well, let's look at it from the hunter's perspective. The man hears a big wailing in the woods behind his house. When he sees that the wailing is coming from a bear stuck in a trap, he runs inside his house to grab his gun. The hunter gets closer and closer to the trapped bear, to make sure that the aim is perfect until he knows he can shoot the bear in just the right spot. Then bang. He waits a moment as the bear slowly drifts asleep. Once he knows the bear is sleeping, he pushes the bear's foot into the trap further, until the trap releases. He dresses the wound, then pulls the dart from the bear's side. He leaves the bear lying, so that way, when the bear awakes, he will be able to go back home.
When the bear awakes, his paw is sore, but will eventually heal just fine. The hunter wasn't out to hurt the bear, and he was out to help. A bear does not know enough about humans to understand the human, just like we don't understand God sufficiently to comprehend why He does things. We are not God, and bears are not humans. Sometimes God has to allow pain to help us.
What about the People Who Have Never Heard of God?
Then what about this business of being saved? What about the people who have never heard of Jesus Christ? How can they be saved? How could a loving God make it impossible for some men to make it to Heaven?
Should ignorance be a damning problem? The bible states that God has revealed himself to every one of us. They may have never heard of God by the name we have, but He shows Himself no matter where we are. I am cautious about wording it this way because I don't want you to believe that I think all people who have some faith will go to Heaven. The bottom line is, we need to recognize that we are sinners, we need to seek forgiveness for those transgressions, and we need to come to a point where we realize we need help outside of ourselves to find forgiveness. Although someone has never heard of Jesus Christ, they may come to this realization. God is revealing Himself to them, by showing them they need to reach out to something beyond themselves to attain that forgiveness. Unfortunately, many of us are too stubborn to get that point. We want to believe that we are good enough on merits alone. Of course, we are not; we are human. We need Jesus, and we need forgiveness. God reveals Himself to everyone; it's our choice to be with Him or not. Those who do not get to hear the gospel, they can still be saved by listening to God when He speaks to them. By realizing they are sinners, they need forgiveness, and they need God's help.
So do others who choose not to believe, go to Hell? Well, yes. If you decide not to be with God here on Earth, turn your back on Him, be too prideful to admit that you need God, then when you die, you will not be with God in death. That is what Hell is. Hell is a complete separation from God, and that is what we are choosing when we choose not to believe that we are sinners who need forgiveness and that Jesus's blood can do that for us.
The bottom line is that the gospel will prevail regardless if people accept it or not. It is often hard for a believer to hear opposition to the gospel because it is the essential truth we will ever hear. We don't know why He does the things He does, but He does things all for His glory. We cannot see the grand scheme of life from an all-powerful perspective, because we are not omnipotent, all-knowing, or any of the such. God is, and we need to trust Him.
© 2010 Angela Michelle Schultz