Why does God allow suffering?

This is a BIG one.  Maybe the biggest or most common question people have about God, and if we can't think of why God would allow suffering, it can sometimes make us wonder if God's really there at all.

 

I remember when one of our girls was younger and she would get out of bed, come to the top of the stairs where the stairgate was, and she would call down to us, "Muuumeeeeee!  Daaadeeeeee!  Cuggle!  Cuggle!"


She wanted more cuddles.


In those moments we knew exactly what our choice was:


One thing we could have done was to give her what she was asking for.  What could go wrong with that?!  I mean, there's nothing wrong with cuddles is there?  And we DO love her after all!  


But we knew that if we did that, she'd calm down for a minute, we'd tuck her up in bed, come downstairs and sit down, and then she'd be right back up at the top of the stairs again asking for more cuggles.  And we'd do that same dance over and over again all night long until we were even more worn out.  And the next day we'd all be ruined.  No good for anything.  Miserable!  All our good plans for the next day would go out the window because none of us got the sleep we needed.  And it wouldn't be the most LOVING thing to do for her either.


The other thing we could have done (and this is the thing we learned to do), was to ignore her.  


What?!  Ignore her?!!!  I know it might sound unloving.  Cruel even.  But for us, we knew that if we managed to ignore her for 5-10 minutes, she'd usually give up, head back to bed and get a good night's sleep.  And then we'd have a great day the next day because she'd have all the energy she needed.


Now, I know this is NOT the way it is for all families!  Some kids just don't sleep!  And if you're a parent who knows this little strategy would never work for you or for your kids, then maybe this illustration won't be the one that helps you.  Or you'll have to use your imagination!  (And well done for managing to find time to read this blog even!  I'm guessing you might be hiding in the loo right now!)


For me,  this experience helped me understand a little more what God might be doing when he seems to be ignoring us... 

 

All our little girl wanted was cuddles.  But we wanted better than that for her.  All she could see was the moment, but we were thinking about the MORNING.  Some nights she'd be crying and genuinely sad that we weren't giving her what she asked for.  But because of all the good things we had planned, which we weren't prepared to sacrifice for a cuddle right now, we didn't do it.  We'd already done more than enough to make sure she could understand how much we loved her.  And we knew she would be ok.  


The Bible says God loves us, created us to know him and be like him and be WITH HIM and be part of his amazing plans!  But the Bible also says something has gone really WRONG with this world and with each one of us, so that there's all kinds of suffering and evil going on.  God totally knew this would happen and he allowed it to happen.  Sometimes when we pray for what we want, God doesn't give it to us.  Sometimes this is painful.  Sometimes it's REALLY PAINFUL.  


We have a choice in those times: Do we trust that God has good reasons beyond our understanding for allowing awful things to happen and keep talking to him?  Or do we assume he's not there and stop talking to him?

 

If we do the first thing, I believe God will come close to us and give us peace and help.  He doesn't promise to get us OUT OF suffering but he does promise to get us THROUGH IT.  And I know I'd much rather face my hardest days WITH GOD rather than without him.

 

If we do the second thing (start assuming God isn't there), then I think we have a whole load of new problems on top of the struggles we face.  As well as suffering being painful, we also have to give up on the idea that there's any good reason for it.  No God means no purpose or big plan.  Stuff just happens.  Some people get lucky and others don't.  We just have to deal with it.  Or not.  It doesn't really matter.

 

Yikes!


It's a good thing God's actually real and makes the most sense of everything!  It's a good thing God himself turned up as one us (Jesus!) and suffered with us, died for us!  And it's a good thing (the best thing really) that he's bigger than death, came back to life again and is sticking to his big forever plans for us!  

 

Here's some things the Bible says about what God has in his mind when we face suffering and struggles in this world...

 

1 Corinthians 2:9-10

It is written that

“no eye has seen,
    no ear has heard,
and no human mind has known.” (Isaiah 64:4)
    God has prepared these things for those who love him.

10 God has shown these things to us through his Spirit.

The Spirit understands all things. He understands even the deep things of God.

 

Romans 8:18-21

18 What we are suffering now is nothing compared with our future glory. 19 Everything God created looks forward to the future. That will be the time when his children appear in their full and final glory. 20 The created world was held back from fulfilling its purpose. But this was not the result of its own choice. It was planned that way by the one who held it back. God planned 21 to set the created world free. He didn’t want it to rot away. Instead, God wanted it to have the same freedom and glory that his children have.

 

Revelation 21:1-5

I saw “a new heaven and a new earth.” (Isaiah 65:17) The first heaven and the first earth were completely gone. There was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem. It was coming down out of heaven from God. It was prepared like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. I heard a loud voice from the throne. It said, “Look! God now makes his home with the people. He will live with them. They will be his people. And God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death.’ (Isaiah 25:8) And there will be no more sadness. There will be no more crying or pain. Things are no longer the way they used to be.”

He who was sitting on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down. You can trust these words. They are true.”

 


We might be asking for cuddles.  But God is thinking about the morning.  He's thinking about FOREVER with us!  His love is big enough and his plan is big enough to get us there. 


Will we trust him???


A video by Dave on this topic (aimed at secondary school age or older)


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