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Why Does God Allow Suffering? - The Purpose Behind It
by Jack Wellman
2010-05-23 08:56:15
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Why does God allow suffering that He is fully capable to stopping? This question has not only challenged mankind for centuries. Witnessing atrocities and worldwide suffering on such catastrophic levels, can be a major stumbling block even for believers in Christ. If God is supposed to be an all-powerful and all-loving God, then why doesn’t He stop it? Is He powerless, is He tired, is He even there...or maybe He's asleep."

eborg2.comsdss_400Being a Christian is no insurance against cancer, disease, disability, and an unexpected death. In fact, Jesus clearly stated that we will suffer. Finding out why is often beyond our human comprehension. No human can ever wrap their mind around What and Who God is. That is precisely what makes Him God. There is infinity in Him. We are simply finite. The answers to our questions may not be fully known until Christ returns. For unbelievers, it may prompt them to seek God or His way of calling them to Jesus Christ (John 6:44).

For humans, suffering sometimes portrays the idea that God is far from us and has abandoned us, however it often drives us to our knees. Contrary to conventional thinking, suffering can actually reveal His uttermost love and concern for His children. He is shaping and molding us. Romans 8:18 says that the sufferings of our life today are not even going to compare to the glory that will be eventually revealed to us. There appears to be a connection between suffering now and glory that will be revealed in us in heaven.

I can not speak for you, but for me, trials drive me to my knees and make me acknowledge my utter and desperate need for God. Ironically, this is exactly what God desires. It is pleasing to Him, as it would be any parent, to say “Oh, father, I need your help desperately”, “I can not go on without you“. What parent would not respond to that?. Its important to know that there will be storms, and you can't always take them personally or as if God is punishing you. There can be storms of correction but more often they are storms of perfection. Regardless of which storm it is, you can take comfort in the idea that neither of these storms are intended to hurt you; conversely, they are designed to help you. God can hear your cries; He already knows your sorrows (Ex. 3:7) and He listens to our groans (Ex. 6:5). God is not so much interested in working with the external, which soon will pass, but the internal, which is meant to last forever (Rom 8:18).

Jesus was called “…a Man of sorrows, acquainted with grief in every way” (Ish. 53.3). Jesus certainly groaned, He wept, and He was sorrowful when He saw suffering. In fact the earth “groans and travails earnestly in a state of decay while awaiting its own redemption, which will come with the manifestation (or appearance) of the sons of God” [that would be us] (Rom. 8:22-23).

A good deal of suffering is because it’s a fallen world. There was an original choice given to humans. The choice of being obedient to God or that of making decisions for themselves. Humans decided that they wanted to rule over their own selves. Human societies are pushing God further and further out of society, television, and movies. They have also thrown God out of the schools, out of the government, and now even in the market square. And when disaster strikes, they ask “Where was God!?” I believe that society has thrown Him out of about everywhere but church!

Humans complain of suffering, however no one has suffered like the Messiah or like the Father of that One and Only Son of His who was illegally tried, convicted and put to death in the greatest travesty of justice ever. The most unjust, inhumane, cruel, humiliating, brutal and torturous death of Jesus Christ was the most unfair thing of all. He was without sin and did nothing worthy of death. Those stripes really should have been ours. Why did God allow such terrible suffering of His Son? To pay a penalty that we could never pay for ourselves...that of atoning for our sins and enabling us to have a relationship with God that sin had made impossible. That is because He is far too Holy for a sinner to approach Him.

According to the majority of ancient Historians, no human ever suffered to the extent that Jesus Christ did. His death was the greatest travesty of justice that has ever or ever will occur in history. Because God so loved us, He even sacrificed His One and Only Son, so that we could have relationship with Him, forever (John 3:16-18). Not only was this not fair to Jesus, but neither was it to us, since we deserved the punishment. That is exactly why the Father allowed His Son to suffer and die; He took our place. Just how excruciating was His death? Read Isaiah 52: 10-15 and 53: 1-12.

Another thing to consider is that suffering purifies our faith (I Pet. 1:7), sorrow keeps us in a humble attitude (II Cor. 7:10), trials allow us to fellowship with Jesus (Philip. 3:10), to be partakers of His sufferings (I Pet. 4:13), and to be partakers of His reign (II Tim. 2:12). So our suffering is really nothing compared to what Jesus endured, but our suffering will be revealed to us in glory and honor at His appearance (I Pet. 1:7, Rom 8:18). "Our light affliction is but for a moment, works (this is a verb, an action) in us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory (II Cor. 4:17). And compared with the glory we'll encounter in Heaven, we'll look back on our problems and think, why did I worry so much (Rom 8:18)? In II Corinthians, 1:3-7, God answers (through Paul) at least in part, as to why He allows suffering, even with Christians.

Our sufferings can make us feel God is punishing us or has left us alone, even as Jesus momentarily felt forsaken saying "My God, My God, why have you abandon me? (Good News Mark 15:34)”. But He has said that He will never, ever leave us or forsake us.

Jeremiah, the so called "the weeping prophet", was one of several prophets and thousands of saints who wanted to just give up and die. They couldn't take it anymore, but they kept going, usually after encouragement from God. Today we can know that we are sharing in some of the sufferings that Jesus endured. Suffering and misery love company, and if you have suffered or currently are suffering (and what Christian hasn't?); you are in most excellent company. And it creates an utter dependence upon God, which is what He desires: That we fully depend upon Him for everything! It is not written anywhere that life is fair, including in the Bible. Even the godly get what they don't deserve and the sinner receives what the saints seem due (Eccl. 8:14). If suffering drives us to our knees, to beseech God for His help and we develop character through endurance, then we are beginning to understand the purpose of suffering. If it takes suffering to drive us to our knees before God and to fully depend upon Him, then we are beginning to understand the purpose of suffering and that it is actually the will of God.

From Chapter Four of “Do Babies Go To Heaven?, Why Does God Allow Suffering?” by the author, from Amazon.com and other online book stores.  Funds raised for loca homeless ministry.


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Emanuel Paparella2010-05-23 14:00:36
Indeed Jack, but I have a slightly different theological take on suffering. Philosophically it remains a mystery and can only be described as a necessary evil allowed by God who is not a masochist or a sadist and can draw good even out of evil, as He does in the story of Joseph and his brothers where we see that what is intended as evil by the brothers “God meant it for good” but that does not make the evil good in the eyes of God or in the eyes of reason; it remains evil. But evil. as the Bible clearly infers, was never intended by God since at the beginning everything he created was “very good” and there was nothing that was bad. Were I to teach Christian doctrine to children I would begin with that original blessing and innocence and then go on to the original sin or curse predicated on man’s freedom of choice (what Kierkegaard calls his existential dread) which ushers in suffering and the earning of one’s bread by the sweat of one’s brow. One of the brothers Karamozov of Dostoyevsky who is an atheist defends his atheism by pointing out that a good God, if He existed, would never allow innocent children to suffer, this is the age-old classical argument of all atheists, to which the other brother who knows his Christian theology replies that God being all seeing and all good could indeed have created a universe wherein the possibility of suffering would have been excluded and innocent children would not have had to sufferer, but then from such a predetermined universe the possibility of freedom would also be absent and man would be a robot without freedom; when freedom is absent there is only natural necessity and no moral action is possible; absent moral action so is love; hell is in fact not a fiery place under the Vesuvius but the absence of love and in our sad times one finds it here on earth as well as in the beyond. The lagers and the gulags of our brave new world are its perfect icons.

A-Gonzaga2010-05-23 20:43:00
Thanks for your truthful “Sundry Reflections on the Immigrant Experience in the EU and the US” and “Berlusconi's Ego-Land”, Prof. Both of them are really sensational and eye-opening.

Emanuel Paparella2010-05-24 05:22:04
Aloysius, thanks for the kind words and stay tuned for some musings on the tragic loss of the spiritual legacy of Europe which I have sent to the magazine recently. If you have the time to read them I'd be interested in your take on it.

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