Why does God Allow Suffering

Why does God allow bad things to happen

If you could ask God one question, what would it be? Our team surveyed thousands of people, and we asked them if they could ask God anything, what would they ask? In fact, there was a national survey done just a few years ago, and this same question was the number one question asked. The one question that came up is, why does God allow evil, pain, and suffering in the world.

It would be nice if we could have this discussion about suffering on a theoretical, philosophical, or academic level. But the truth is, tragedies are happening in our world right now like what is happening in Israel, events like 9/11, seeing children starving, hurricanes, earthquakes, wars, and terrorist attacks. It is hard to wrap our heads around such awful news. 

But when it happens on a personal level we all ask WHY?! Why do we have to experience suffering, pain, and evil? Why did my parents get a divorce? Why do children get leukemia? Why do miscarriages and death happen to innocent children? Why was I abused in a home where I should have been protected? Why did the only person that I ever really love leave? Pain takes on a whole different level when it’s my pain, my suffering, my spouse, my marriage, my child, my family, my hurt. 

It’s okay to ask why, even Jesus asked why. As he was hanging on the cross, suffering an excruciating death, he said, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Sometimes people who follow Jesus think that it’s wrong to ask why. And so we show up at church with the smiles and we pretend like everything’s okay and we kind of cover it up.

But asking why is normal and it is a normal reaction to wrestle with the why! Honestly, this question raises some troubling questions about God. Is God powerless to do anything about this stuff and change it? Is God indifferent? Does he just not care? Did he just kind of create the world and leave it to run on its own and not be involved? Is God to blame? Is God the one that’s causing the pain, suffering, and evil?

Why does God permit suffering

The truth is God doesn’t want people to suffer. Lamentation 3:33 reminds us God does not willingly bring affliction or grief to anyone. God wants the utmost good for people, so if that is the case then where does suffering come from? Here are three reasons we experience evil:

  1. Some of the suffering that we experience comes as a result of our sin. If you cheat on your spouse and they want a divorce, that’s no big mystery why they want to divorce. If you drink too much, if you eat in unhealthy ways, it’s not a mystery why you have health challenges in your life. Some of our suffering is just the result of our own sin.

  2. Sometimes our suffering is the result of other people’s sin. The person you’re dating cheats on you. If your spouse abuses you, if your son or your daughter rejects you, goes down a self-destructive path, you hurt. You experience pain because of someone else’s sin. Sometimes we look at the news and think where is God? This is not God’s plan. The truth is, this planet produces enough food for every man, woman, and child to have over 3,000 calories a day. How can it be God’s fault when it’s not a lack of food in the world that is causing starvation and suffering? If I pick up a gun and then shoot someone and then I say, why does God allow this suffering evil in the world?

  3. Last, some suffering is the result of Satan’s attack. While Satan has limited power in this world, this world is his domain, and the Bible in John 10:10 explains that Satan has come to kill, steal, and destroy. We read about Job, who lost everything that he had, all 10 of his children were killed. He experienced a great physical misery all at the same time, and it wasn’t because of his sin, it wasn’t because of someone else’s sin. It was a direct attack from Satan. We read in II Corinthians how Paul says his physical problems were from Satan. God didn’t cause that to happen to Paul or to Job, Satan did.

No matter what causes the pain and suffering, here’s the reality you need to understand. Most suffering comes because we live in a fallen world. Well, then why doesn’t God just create a perfect world? And the answer is he did. God created a world and it was good, and in this perfect world, he gave Adam and Eve and you and me, free choice. Why did God give us free choice if it would lead to so much pain in the world? Because God is love and instinctively we know you can’t love authentically and have it be real if somebody doesn’t have the choice to love or not love. I’ve often said, I don’t want my wife Barbara to love me because God computer programmed her to love me and to be faithful to me. It’s meaningful to me that she loves me because out of the three billion guys on the planet, she chose me. It’s meaningful to me because she had the freedom not to choose me. That’s love. 

The suffering started with Adam and Eve exercising their free choice to sin. The perfect world was no longer perfect. Nature was corrupted. Everything was now out of kilter and ever since then, the world has been out of sync with droughts, famines, wars, hurricanes, tornadoes, fires, and disease. The air is polluted, the water is contaminated, and the ground is poisoned because, from the time sin came into the world, this whole world is out of balance. This is why we live in a world where the Bible says the rain falls on the just and the unjust because the whole world is out of balance.

Even Jesus asked why and didn’t get an answer right away, and that may happen to us. I heard someone say even if you had an answer to the “why,” you would still have to deal with the “what.” Think about that. Even if Jesus had an answer to the “Why have you forsaken me?” he still had to deal with the what? At some point, you have to deal with the what, so when you or someone you love suffers, there are four things that I want you to remember.


Why does God allow evil

I’ve shared these reminders because I think it is enormously powerful in your life. The dark days won’t last forever. Not if, but when you go through dark days remember they are temporary. 

I know some of you are in a dark season right now so please let me say that not for one second do I want to minimize the level of pain that you’re in. He patiently waits for you to use your free choice to say, God, I’m coming in your direction. I’m going to love you back. 

The reality is, if God were to come back right now, some of you wouldn’t be ready, and you’d miss out on the place that Jesus has been preparing for you for 2,000 years, and so God patiently waits. He holds back the curtain of history, and he’s waiting for you right now. Maybe you just need to be encouraged today to hear him say, dark days don’t last forever because one day in the glory of eternity, you’re going to look at the challenges of this life as light and momentary when you’re in heaven forever. Maybe some of you’re ready to say yes to Jesus today and you’re so thankful God’s been patient with you and he’s been holding back the curtain of time for you, and this could be the most important turning point in your life right now. If this is what you want, just tell him today a prayer like this.

Jesus, I want what you did on the cross for the sins of the world to be applied to me. Thank you for being a God who knows how we feel, a God who works all things together for good and brings a purpose out of our pain. Thank you for being a God who promises that pain will be over one day and that you have prepared a place for us that is beyond description.

Our team has compiled some of the most challenging, difficult, controversial, frequently asked questions we get about faith and Christianity as it relates to life, morality, current events, the end of the world, and more. We will explore these questions in ways that I think you’ll find surprising! Why take on these controversial topics? Because these questions are often roadblocks for people when it comes to faith and Christianity. For more discussions on these topics, you can read Eastside’s Got Questions Blog and check out the series You Asked For It.

Author: Gene Appel
Eastside Christian Church
Anaheim, CA

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