Why does God allow suffering? This question, and its derivatives, has become more commonplace in the last 50 years. There is a simple answer for it, but we are far more curious about why people ask the question. The motives for asking tell us a great deal about the state of ‘self’ in most believers.
Love and free will
Let us understand that God is love. (1 John 4:8) Because God is love He freely gives and accepts love. The condition of freedom is vital for the expression of love for if there is any interference, however small, then the expression is not love. When God created He purposefully gave all of His creation free will. This means each being created by God is completely free to love Him or not. Along with free will God also gave His creation responsibility and consequence for their choices.
One creature took his free will and decided to rebel against God. His name was satan. With that decision came eternal consequences as God cast him from heaven. Once cast from the presence of love, satan plotted to attack God’s heart. We can trace all the suffering in this world back to satan’s original choice to rebel against God then inflict as much pain on God’s creation.
When God created Adam and Eve as independent beings, free to love, satan deceived them into accepting the ‘self’ nature. From that moment God separated mankind from His presence. This is the consequence of a free will choosing for ‘self’. Thankfully God sent Jesus to repair the breach. If we choose to accept Christ’s sacrifice we can be reconciled to God and freely express our love to Him in return.
God allows suffering as the consequence of a free will which pursues ‘self’. God does not intervene with our free will for its inviolate nature is required for proper expression of love. Rarely does God prevent any consequences from the wrongful expression of our free will. The Father does, however, provide a means for us to correct some consequences through repentance, forgiveness and mercy.
Why do we ask why does God allow suffering?
The simple answer to why does God allow suffering will not appeal to many because it does not address why people ask these questions. We must dig a little deeper into how people approach suffering to understand why they question this understanding.
The danger of immaturity
There is a timeline of growth each creature goes through in life. Every created being on earth is born, matures and then dies. This process is by design and helps us understand spirit. In the spirit realm God creates our spirit and places it in our earthly body. Spiritual maturity, unlike physical maturity, does not happen unless we exercise our free will to grow.
If we continually make choices for ‘self’ our spirit will never mature. An immature spirit does not understand suffering.
As believers, if we continue in immaturity, we will never appreciate the real value of suffering. If we continue to live for ‘self’ the suffering we experience, coupled with a lack of maturity, will trap us in misery and cause us to become bitter. Seeing only heartache in suffering causes us to avoid pain and medicate frequently. We empathize with anyone like this for we too have experienced such desperation that we questioned why God allowed suffering.
Immaturity blinds us to the truth that suffering is redeemable. When we see suffering through the filter of ‘self’ all we see is a vicious cycle that leads to destruction. The rampant abuse of drugs, alcohol and an epidemic of suicide are key indicators that people are trying to avoid suffering. The strange conundrum is that the more we try to avoid suffering the more we perpetuate pain and hurt to ourselves and others. Asking why does God allow suffering only exacerbates the problem.
The redemptive power of God
If we follow Jesus in faith we will grow into spiritual maturity. Growth is conditional on continual obedience to His every word. A single act of salvation will not reverse a lifetime of feeding ‘self’ and the suffering it produces, daily submission is required. As our spiritual maturity develops we find Jesus redeeming the suffering we have endured.
To mature in spirit takes a good deal of effort on our part as we change the direction of the ship from sailing toward ‘self’ to sailing toward spirit.
Maturing in spirit causes an amazing transformation. God takes our suffering and turns it into something beautiful. There are many, many testimonies that inspire and encourage us to see how God can take unfathomable suffering and turn it into a blessing. Joni Eareckson Tada did not let her suffering go to waste, neither did Corrie Ten Boom, along with many thousands of others. Instead of allowing suffering to destroy them, these believers chose in faith to accept God’s hand in their situation. Through their suffering God crafted a testimony of His power, mercy and love.
Choosing to suffer for Jesus
Our own story of deprivation, loss, hunger and homelessness may seem to be an undue amount of suffering for one family yet we do not see our journey this way. We have learned that there is a cost to uncompromising faith. That cost includes a great deal of suffering because satan actively punishes those who choose to obey God. We chose to pay the price because of our love for Jesus.
Those that are spiritually mature understand that suffering for God is a great honor.
All suffering comes from choice. Choices for ‘self’ will always end up hurting others and ourselves. Choices for spirit will also cause suffering as the world, the ‘self’ nature and the devil will all try to destroy faith. Thankfully God can redeem all suffering for His purpose of love. We will see this redemption of suffering only if we follow and obey His lead.
When we hear people ask, why does God allow suffering, we wonder what is the root of the question. For those that believe suffering has no redemptive value there is little we can say for unbelief has blinded them to the truth. For those who are yearning to know that there is a God who can turn their mourning into joy we offer you encouragement.
As a former addict I have caused great suffering to myself, my family and those around me by my selfish actions. I cannot undo the consequences of my actions but I have repented. God has forgiven my failings and together Jesus and I have worked hard to get rid of my ‘self’ nature. However, some consequences of my actions will be with me until I die. For the rest God has turned my failure into His success.
Through forgiveness, repentance, humility and faith the suffering that I endured, and caused, has turned around. What used to be a place of great pain and suffering is now a blessing God can work through to help others. Your story does not differ from mine in this manner. Whatever you have suffered God can turn into a blessing. The question is not, why does God allow suffering, but, when will we submit to God and allow Him to redeem our suffering.
Homer and Wanda