God Allows Suffering

Over the weekend, my friends and I participated in a lively discussion about God’s role in a person’s suffering. My friends were of the mindset that God does not allow suffering. Considering all that my son has gone through these past few months with his health, and the automobile accident my wife experienced, I was of a differing opinion.

I expressed that suffering for a Christian is necessary and even welcomed, as it is God’s way to build faith within a person. God did not promise we would not go through trials in this lifetime. On the contrary, he promised that we would (John 15:20). And they would be fiery trials, the kind that molds us into his image and binds us to his spirit (1 Pet. 4:12-13).

The scripture I brought up was that of Job. Now Job, he was a righteous man, and there was a day that the sons of God came before God to give a report of their doings. Among them was Satan. God asked, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?” (Job 1:8 ESV throughout).

God loved Job, but at the same time, he wanted to test Job to see if his righteousness was true and not self-serving. He could have chosen to do that any number of ways. In this case, God was going to use Satan to bring calamity upon Job.

That does not sound right, does it? How could God do that to someone he loves?

Yet Satan, not knowing it was God’s plan all along, said to God, “Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face” (v. 10-11).

And so God said, “Behold, all that he has is in your hand. Only against him do not stretch out your hand” (v. 12).

In other words, God allowed Satan to touch Job’s life, destroy his property and kill his family, but he could not physically touch Job himself. It was not until later in the book that we find out that God eventually allowed Satan to affect Job’s health also.

From what I see, God is in control not only of Job’s suffering, but also of Satan’s ability to hurt Job. Saying it another way, God allowed Job to suffer.

God has reasons people suffer. For Job, he had to see how self-righteous he was before God blessed him with double his possessions and family. However, the one person who suffered the most in this world, and whom God allowed that suffering to take place, was Christ Jesus. For a moment in time, God had to let events play out while Jesus suffered the humiliation of a criminal, whipped until his flesh hung from his bone, nailed to a tree until he gasped for every ounce of life, and died to the pleasure of the Romans who crucified him.

But, and this was God’s plan all along, Jesus rose from the dead, took his seat at the right hand of the father (Eph. 1:20), and through him, believing in him, Christians have salvation (Acts 4:11-12).

No one on this planet can convince me that God does not allow people to suffer. It is unbiblical and a lie. What is not a lie is that all the apostles except for John died awful deaths, persecuted for believing in Jesus, so that their faith in God may strengthen those who come after them.

We, Christians, are those who come after them.

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6 thoughts on “God Allows Suffering

  1. Thank you for this post, Jack. I have observed a disturbing trend among many of today’s spiritual leaders who say things like, “The God I know would never allow… “, or “I refuse to believe in a God who… “. This is remaking God into their image of who they think He should he, instead of the God He is. We don’t understand it, because we do not have the mind of God, nor are we privy to the larger plan.

  2. I understand what you’re writing, Jack, but for me, I don’t think it’s the idea that God allows suffering that bothers me. It’s the idea of why should the innocent suffer so terribly, such as the morally outrageous and disheartening story I read in my local paper today. I have never, ever—and maybe never will—been able to resolve this issue of why god allows suffering. It seems to me there are two possible explanations that you didn’t explore: (1) that God is absent/dead/does not exist or (2) God doesn’t care. Frankly, two seems a lot worse. In any case, I cannot fathom why a deity would punish sooooo many people throughout the history of humankind, many of who were babies, children, or basically faultless for what happened to them, in order to bring them “closer” to God/himself. Yes, if we believe Jesus made a sacrifice, okay, but why does that mean God then has to let other people be punished for basically no good reason? Honestly, it makes God, if god is indeed real, seem like a perverse, mean-spirited, conniving, self-involved bully. I understand the free will argument as well, but it seems to me that if there were a loving God who allows us free will, that it/she/he would at some point grow so disgusted with the world in that the commandments (in Judeo-Christianity, anyway) he set down for people’s behavior are broken hundreds of times every millisecond across this earth. It’s a miserable place, yet also sometimes good. You don’t have to answer or even respond to this; I’m kind of just creating a space for myself to react to what you’ve said and in order for me to cope with all the depressing news in the world, not just personal news like that your family is suffering, which is bad enough in itself to process. Sigh . . .

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