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Don Stewart :: Why Does God Allow People to Suffer?

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Why Does God Allow People to Suffer?

God and Us – Question 14

To be a human being means to suffer. This is something which we all face. Does the Bible give any reasons why people go through times of suffering? Can we have any understanding of why suffering occurs?

Although the Scriptures do not give a complete explanation of why people suffer it does provide some solutions and comfort. From the Bible, we can make the following observations about suffering.

1. Suffering Was Not God’s Original Intention

The Bible teaches that suffering is an intrusion into the universe that God has made. It was not His original intention that people suffer. When God created the universe everything was very good. In the Book of Genesis, we read,

And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. (Genesis 1:31a KJV)

God did not create the world in order that people suffer. Indeed, it was not part of His original plan that we suffer. This point must be understood.

2. Suffering Is a Result of Sin

Suffering entered into God’s universe as a result of sin. This occurred when Adam and Eve disobeyed God at the prompting of the serpent. Because of their disobedience God pronounced judgment upon them. This included that they would suffer in this life. The Bible puts their judgment in this way.

To the woman he said, “I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing; with pain you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.” To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat of it,’ Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.” (Genesis 3:16-19 NIV)

Suffering is part of the judgment upon the human race because of the original sin of Adam and Eve. Yet, if we are to understand suffering, then we must realize that human responsibility is involved in much of the suffering that goes on. We suffer on our own account or because of what others have done to us. We should not blame God for the suffering that we bring upon ourselves or that others cause.

3. Suffering Is Real

Strange as it may seem, we have to establish that the Bible looks at suffering as something that is real. There are groups, such as Christian Scientists, which claim that suffering and evil are not real. However, Biblical Christianity takes seriously the reality of suffering evil. Indeed, Paul wrote the following.

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. (Romans 8:18 ESV)

Paul certainly recognized the reality of suffering.

He also wrote of the groaning and suffering the creation is experience at the present time. The suffering is real. He made this clear in his letter to the Romans.

For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together with labor pains until now. And not only that, but we ourselves who have the Spirit as the firstfruits—we also groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. (Romans 8:22-23 HCSB)

Our bodies are groaning within because of the suffering we all experience.

Jesus certainly expressed human suffering. Indeed, we find Him crying at the tomb of His dead friend Lazarus. The Bible says,

Jesus wept. (John 11:35 KJV)

Among other things, we find that the Lord Jesus cried at the suffering which death brings. Death remains an enemy.

Satan Attempts to Devour Believers

The New Testament speaks of Satan, or the devil, actively prowling about the earth. The Bible says he is looking for people to devour. Peter wrote,

Be sober! Be on the alert! Your adversary the Devil is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for anyone he can devour. (1 Peter 5:8 HCSB)

This enemy of the truth attempts to cause people additional suffering.

We can also suffer spiritually. The Bible also says that believers are to participate in the continuing struggle against “the cosmic powers of this present darkness.” Paul wrote,

We are not fighting against humans. We are fighting against forces and authorities and against rulers of darkness and powers in the spiritual world (Ephesians 6:12 CEV).

There is a constant spiritual battle going on. Suffering is real on the physical and spiritual level.

4. There Is Relief from Suffering

No matter who or what is responsible for suffering the fact is that we all still suffer. The question of course, which we all want to know, is how can we experience relief from that suffering?

The good news is that the Bible teaches that Jesus came to earth to relieve the problem of human suffering. Jesus spoke of one of the purposes of His coming. He said,

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has appointed me to preach Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the downtrodden will be freed from their oppressors and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come.” He rolled up the scroll, handed it back to the attendant, and sat down. Everyone in the synagogue stared at him intently. Then he said, “This Scripture has come true today before your very eyes!” (Luke 4:18-21 NLT)

Jesus Christ came to help those who are oppressed. Indeed, one of the reasons for His coming into this world was to help those who had been trodden down.

While physical suffering is truly real, and not an illusion, Jesus also taught that there was something worse than physical suffering. This is the suffering of the spirit, or soul. This type of suffering can lead to eternal suffering. He said,

“I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more they can do. But I will warn you whom you should fear: Fear the one who, after the killing, has authority to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him!” (Luke 12:4, 5 NET)

We are to fear the One who is able to throw people into hell. Only God is able to do this. We are to have the proper fear of Him. He will cause eternal suffering to those who reject Him.

The relief from eternal suffering is provided to us by Jesus Christ. The Bible teaches that Jesus suffered on our behalf so that we do not have to suffer for our sins.

For while we were still helpless, at the appointed moment, Christ died for the ungodly. (Romans 5:6 HCSB)

Because Jesus Christ suffered for our sins, we do not have to personally suffer for them. He has taken the penalty for us on the cross. The good news, or gospel, is that if we can be assured of everlasting life if we believe in Him and accept His sacrifice.

5. There Will Be an End of Suffering

Because of Jesus’ sacrifice on behalf of the human race, God will someday put an end to suffering. In the Book of Revelation we read the following comforting truths.

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.” And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.” (Revelation 21:3-5 NRSV)

Consequently, suffering for the believer is for a limited time. It is not forever.

Summary – Question 14
Why Does God Allow People to Suffer?

Suffering is part of the human experience. This is evident to all of us. Nobody really questions this.

However, this was not God’s original intention for the human race. When God created the universe there was no sickness or suffering anywhere. When He created the earth He pronounced everything “very good.” If everything was very good then where did suffering come from? What happened?

Scripture says that suffering came as a result of the sin of the first two humans, Adam and Eve. It was not something God built into the universe. Their sin nature was inherited by all of us. Human beings are sinners because of our relationship to Adam.

Furthermore, unlike some groups, the Bible treats suffering as something which is real. There is no denial of the fact of suffering in the Scripture. All of the biblical characters testify to the reality of suffering.

The Bible says that Jesus Christ came to relieve the problem of suffering. The penalty for the sins of the world was placed upon Him when He died on the cross of Calvary. He suffered and died on our behalf so that one day there would be no more suffering.

Jesus taught that there was something worse than physical suffering. Indeed, there will be eternal suffering for those who reject Him. This eternal suffering can be avoided when one receives Christ as Savior.

We all look forward to that day when suffering will end.

What Keeps People from Believing in God? ← Prior Section
Can Suffering Have Positive Benefits? Next Section →
CONTENT DISCLAIMER:

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.


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