Question: Why does God permit suffering?
Key Verses: James 1:2-4; 1 Peter 1:6-7; 2 Corinthians 1:3-4
Answer: There are numerous reasons why God permits human tragedy and suffering. People are not robots. God has given each person the ability to think and act. He permits individual choices, some of which result in injury, pain, and the death of innocent children. In John 9:2, Jesus’ disciples asked whether it was the sin of the man or his parents that he was born blind. Jesus told them that it was not sin that cause the blindness, but it was “so that the works of God might be displayed in him” (John 9:3). God can use suffering to bring glory to Himself 1) by means of those who come to Christ as a result of the suffering and 2) through the witness of believers who are depending upon Him in the midst of suffering.
Mankind is always accountable to God for any decision. God is never the author of sin. But He does permit human tragedy and suffering. Some reasons believers suffer are:
- To encourage faith (1 Peter 1:6-7)
- To identify with Christ’s sufferings (1 Peter 4:12-13)
- To provide a witness for the gospel (Phil 1:12f)
- To develop compassion for others (2 Cor. 1:3-11)
- To prove that God is just (Job 1:10-11)
- To promote spiritual maturity (James 1:2-4; 2 Tim. 2:3)
- To develop patience (1 Peter 1:6-7)
- To learn obedience (Hebrews 5:8)
- To keep down pride (2 Cor. 12:7-9)
- To discipline a carnal believer (1 Cor. 11:30-32; Heb. 12:4-11)
God also provides protection in times of distress. There are many ways the believer can endure suffering:
- By making certain there is no unconfessed sin in your life (1 John 1:9)
- By reckoning ourselves “dead to sin,” but alive to God (Rom 6:11-13). We grieve, but are not to be overcome by grief as those without hope.
- By defensively putting on the armor of God (Eph. 6:10-16). The armor of of God protects us during spiritual warfare, but does not prevent it.
- By offensively using the sword of the Spirit—the Word of God (Eph. 6:17) as illustrated by Jesus in His temptation (Matt. 4)
- By prayer (Matt. 6:13) “Lead me not into temptation…”
- By resisting the devil (James 4:7; Gen 39)
- By making no provision for the flesh (Rom 13:14).
- By eliminating sources of temptation (Acts 19:11-20).
- By concentrating on wholesome thoughts (Phil. 4:8-9; 2 Cor. 10:3-5
- By applying faith in the blood of the lamb (Col. 2:15; Rev. 12:11)
- By living a positive and consistent Christian life (Mt 5:14-15)
- By maintaining a selfless, humble attitude (1 Tim 3:6; Rom. 12:2)
- By developing personal discipline (Gal. 2:20).
- By giving thanks to God in and for your suffering (1 Thes. 5:18; Eph. 5:20)
God guarantees that the intensity level of our tragedies and suffering and sorrows will not be greater than we can bear (1 Cor. 10:13). In addition, this verses states that God always provides a way to escape (endure) during times of suffering. This is not saying that He will remove the suffering. Rather this is a promise that He will provide the power to endure it.
Forgiveness of those who had a part in or caused our suffering is essential. We cannot learn the intended lesson from our suffering unless we are willing to forgive those who caused it. We must leave the judgment of evildoers with God (Rom. 12:19-21). We can also learn from Romans 8:28, that “all things work together for good” for those who are called of God and have learned to love Him.
We must maintain an attitude of thankfulness, even in times of suffering (1 Thes. 5:18; Eph. 5:20). Job is a wonderful example of this principle. He didn’t blame anyone. He accepted His suffering as from the Lord and praised Him in the midst of it.
Naked I came from my mother’s womb, And naked I shall return there. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord (Job 1:21).
Through suffering, God awakens the hearts of many. For believers, it is an opportunity to grow closer to the Lord. For unbelievers, it is a time when they may be more open to the Gospel.