The Age Old Question: Why Does A Loving God Allow Pain And Suffering?
(This is part 1 of 2 in series)
I believe there isn't a person alive that hasn't wondered why a God who reveals so marvelously that He is Love, seems at times to look the other way when His children or creatures are in pain and are suffering. It would seem to give validation to the atheist that begins arguments with, "If God exists why..." It always seems pain would add to the burden of the downtrodden and to discourage the strong. Doesn't God care? And if He cares, why do His creatures suffer so much?
"He who does not love does not know God, for God is love." (1 John 4:8)
To give grounds and premise to our "verbal adversaries" is the last thing Christians want. So how do we respond to the above question?
1. Pain Causes One To Call On The Lord.
We know that Satan is in charge in this world and sin is universal, present in every person. And we know that God is able to turn off the pain and suffering should He see fit. But the world needs pain. That's what I said, the world needs pain. Now, I know that seems to be the statement of a lunatic, but I'm serious. We sinful humans need a focus, something to get our minds off what we are doing, or thinking, or how we are living, and onto something much more important. But then the argument is: "What could be more important than our comfort, our peace of mind? When we are suffering, doesn't that distract from what is important? Just what is more important anyway than one's quality of life and ending of suffering?"
"You are of God, little children, and have overcome them because He that is in you is greater than he that is in the world." (1 John 4:4)
"These things have I 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." (John 16:33)
The important thing for the world to know is that this is only the beginning. There is an eternity beyond this life and where they spend that eternity far outweighs any pain or suffering of this life. The world needs pain to cause them to look for God. Suffering eliminates things from one's focus. Everything boils down to only a few things or even only one thing. The pain and suffering then cause the person to call on the Lord God of the universe to save them. He is faithful to allow that call to come through. He is faithful to bring into a person's mind that He can solve this for them and that they need Him to do just that. If God allowed no pain into the life of the unsaved of the world then He truly would not care, for Hell is even worse and never ends! All are sinners bound for hell and can't stop the inevitability of going there unless God intervenes. The Holy Spirit convicts and calls, and woos and stands with arms wide open. He forms thoughts and offers a solution to the pain and suffering. He reaches into the minds of each individual to let them know that a Savior who cares is there knocking on the door and waiting. If they only would say, "Yes, come in."
Our lives are cluttered with things that all fight for our attention. We need God to allow pain into our lives so that we will stop and remember to call upon Him. I can share with you that I fight panic when trouble looms on the horizon. I am usually quick to call on the Lord and turn to His word to give me strength. I really wish God didn't have to allow those times of angst, but I realize that He does. It reminds me that I need to draw each breath, do each deed, and think each thought for His glory. I am quite sure that if those times did not enter my life, I would not turn to God as often as I do.
2. Pain Is Given To Chastise.
When I was a youngster there was a time or two that I got my bottom whacked. In hindsight, I don't remember those times as proving my parents didn't love me, but to the contrary, that they did love me. I remember trying not to cry and feeling as if I would die as I was being disciplined. Painful, are the lessons we learn as we grow. It even seems grievous while we live through the classroom of life, but it's for our own good. Be careful not to despise the chastisement of the Lord. In fact, God's correction proves He loves us for we are His children.
"Harsh discipline is for him who forsakes the way, and he who hates correction will die." (Proverbs 15:10)
"And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as sons: "My son do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; for whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives." (Hebrews 12:5-8)
3. Pain Nurtures Character.
Under the artisan's hand, clay is formed into the shape he desires. In like manner, God forms us into the image of His Son. He builds in us qualities that will display the supernatural fruit of His Spirit. As our character changes, we enjoy a closer fellowship with God. We are not "more saved," but our lives are more acceptable in His sight. We are urged not to conform to the world but to be transformed (changed) by God's Spirit. Pain is one vehicle that God uses to do just that.
"But now, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay and You our potter; and all we are the work of Your hand." (Isaiah 64:8)
"But the fruit of the Spirit is love; joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such things, there is no law." (Galatians 5:22)
"For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth, finding out what is acceptable to the Lord." (Ephesians 5:9-10)
"And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God." (Romans 12:2)
4. Pain Teaches Us Who Is In Control.
God created man in His image and gave him the ability to do many things. He intended man to live in obedience to His word. Sin adds the dimension of rebellion to the mix, which brings about a struggle for control. God uses pain to bring about a humbling of the human spirit before Him. This is completely necessary to our growth, for, without trouble and pain, man would not see the power of God work in their individual lives. A good example of this is Israel when Moses said to "stand still" and see the power of God.
"So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them." (Galatians 1:27)
"And Moses said to the people, "Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will accomplish for you today." (Exodus 14:13)
Things To Remember About Pain
1. We Must Learn To Be Thankful For Pain.
Pain is trying to show you that God loves you and that He is alive. Pain works out to the glory of God. Each time that we thank God for everything, our treasure builds in heaven. Remember, you are in the amphitheater of the eternities. There are those watching us from heaven. There are those that watch us here on earth. We display God to them. Angels rejoice when we obey and demons get angry. What happens when we are weak and unthankful for what God is doing in our life? Don't you want to please God? and considering how Satan hurts all of us, don't you want to tweak him a little (or even a whole bunch) by magnifying the name of his enemy, Jesus?
"For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light." (Ephesians 5:8)
"In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." (1 Thessalonians 5:18)
"And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful." (Colossians 3:15)
"Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race which is set before us." (Hebrews 12:1)
2. We Can Let Pain Teach Us To Avoid Pain In The Future.
Pain is a great schoolmaster. God has promised that He will not allow you to go through pain alone. He promised to hold you up and get you through it. You will be able to bear up with His strength. Things that "cost" us emotionally are more easily remembered. God does not want us to hurt any more than is necessary for our character to be matured. If that was not so, life would be just so much torture. But God is in control of the universe and in control of all we experience. Learn from each pain and let it become a part of you. Learn and let the time spent in pain teach you. If you think about it, pain can school you to avoid pain in the future.
"No temptation [in this case temptation causing pain] has overtaken you except such as common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it [If you escape the temptation you escape the pain associated with the consequences of the sin]." (1 Corinthians 10:13)
3. We Can Let Pain Teach Us How To Help Others In Pain.
We must also be mindful that we are not here to sit idly by while others suffer at Satan's hand and not help them. People need encouragement, edification, and the benefit of your experience, to grow and be spared suffering that could possibly be shortened or avoided. You are the way that God has provided for many people to escape needless pain because you have been through the same pain yourself. In this way, God can use your knowledge taught by the pain you've suffered to help others. Have you ever thought that the reason you are going through a particular trial is to spare another from suffering? or perhaps to strengthen him to endure what he is going through?
4. We Can Use Pain As An Opportunity To Witness.
Of course, the greatest need people have is to be spared from is the inevitability of hell for those that are lost that surround us. Your pain can open up opportunities to witness to others around you. They see your courage in the face of a trial or in sickness or tragedy. They see you glorifying God and see it as genuine. Perhaps it is the Spirit using you to lead others to Christ. So don't be so hasty to despise the life you live just because you have pain in it.
So, dear reader, if you live with pain, what is God saying by not removing it immediately from your life? If you have never reached out to God, that's the first thing that you need to consider to do to make your pain make sense. God is saying that sin in the world has caused all of this pain and suffering and He came to suffer more than any man to pay for that sin. He was nailed to a cross after being beaten with a cat-o-nine-tails. He see-sawed up and down on that cross for hours just to breathe and knowing that though He was bleeding to death He could have gotten Himself down, He remained on that cross for you. The pain, doctors say was more excruciating than any other ever devised. Not only that but he also bore in His body the sin of every man, woman, and child ever born and God punished that sin with that same crucifixion. That's the evidence that he suffered more than any man, even other men who were crucified. His pain was multiplied because of the punishment He suffered for everyone. He did this for you and to make sure that you have an eternity with Him and not be separated from Him forever in a place with even more suffering than could ever be explained. Reach out to Him and turn to Him. Pray this:
Dear Lord Jesus: I am in pain. I have lived a life where I have hurt and I hurt even now. I don't want to live this life with its pain and then have to pay for my sin for all eternity too. Please Lord, forgive me of my sin and save me. I believe that You came to earth and suffered more than I can understand for me. You died and they buried You and in three days You rose from the dead. I believe it. I turn to You from my life that I've been living without You and turn to You because You are the only Way of salvation. Thank You for saving me. I pray this in Jesus' holy name, Amen.