Hardship has been part of the human story since Adam and Eve disobeyed God in the Garden and sin entered the world. But, why? Our all-powerful God could prevent every evil and difficulty if He chose. So, why doesn’t He? Why does God allow suffering in the lives of believers?
Everyone has asked these kinds of questions at one time or another. Especially recently, in light of COVID-19. While the Bible doesn’t fully answer all our questions, it does give us some solid answers.
3 Foundational Truths about Suffering in the World
- God is still and always in control (Psalm 77:14, Jeremiah 32:17, Ephesians 1:18-21) – Our God is all-powerful. No thing, no one, and no circumstance is stronger than Him or beyond His ability to stop. Even COVID-19 and all its effects. Nothing happens in this world or your life that God does not allow.
- God is NOT surprised by trouble and evil in the world (John 16:33, 1 Peter 1:6) – We live in a broken world. God’s creation was perfect until humanity chose their own way over God’s. Sin has affected everything. Things like natural disaster, disease, evil, death, violence, persecution, and war are the consequences. Jesus told His followers they would experience trouble in this world. He warned them – and us – to expect it. But, praise God, we can also count on Jesus to fulfill His promise. He will give us His overcoming peace in the midst of trouble (John 16:33).
- Christians will be persecuted by the world (John 15:18-20, 2 Timothy 3:12) – The world hated Jesus because His righteousness exposed its sin. Many in the world will hate Christians for the same reason. Our right standing with God reminds them they are at odds with Him. Some will come to repentance, but many will choose to lash out instead. From ridicule and scorn to hatred and violence, believers will experience persecution until Jesus returns.
Why Does God Allow Suffering? 5 Reasons from Scripture
- God works through our difficulties to display His power and faithfulness (John 11:4, 40) – When Jesus’ friend Lazarus became ill, Jesus waited until he died before going to him. Many wondered why Jesus did not come earlier, did not heal Lazarus when he was sick. Jesus simply stated that God would be glorified through Lazarus’ death. Then Jesus resuscitated Lazarus and called him from his grave! We certainly don’t see God act in such a dramatic fashion very often, but He still works through our trials today to bring honor and glory to Himself. In fact, every trial we encounter is an opportunity for God to prove Himself powerful, faithful, and gracious. So, watch for His activity in your trials today!
- God uses our pain and trials to bring about His greater purposes (Genesis 50:20, Acts 17:24-27) – Joseph, a prominent figure in the book of Genesis, faced severe trials in his life. He was sold into slavery by his jealous brothers, falsely accused of attempted rape, and unjustly thrown into prison. Yet, God worked in and through these circumstances to eventually place him in a position of power that would enable him to save all of Egypt and his own family from starvation. Although a dramatic example, it illustrates the truth Paul talked about to the philosophers in Athens. God works through people, nations, and history to carry out His eternal purposes. The most significant purpose being that people will seek and find Him (Acts 17:27).
- God uses everything He allows into our lives to purify and grow our faith (James 1:2-4, 1 Peter 1:6-7, Romans 5:1-5) – Christians are like unrefined metals, full of impurities that hide our beauty and limit our use. God must rid our lives of these impurities so He can fully use us for His purposes and make us more like Jesus. Like metal refiners use crushing and heat to purify gold and silver, God uses the pain, grief, and difficulty He allows into our lives to purify and strengthen our faith. We often feel as though we are going through a blast furnace! But in the midst of this refining, we can rejoice that none of our pain is wasted. God uses it all to shape us into the people He wants us to be.
- God uses persecution to point the lost to Jesus (1 Peter 2:11-12) – Only God can sustain and strengthen a believer to stand firm in the face of persecution. When the lost see a Christian suffering for their faith, yet continuing to cling to Christ, it is a brilliant testimony to God’s power and faithfulness. Through the history of the church, God has saved countless souls through the persecution of His people.
- God sometimes works through pain to discipline His children (Hebrew 12:7-11, Deuteronomy 8:5, Proverbs 3:11-12) – Just as a loving parent disciplines a child for her protection and growth, God disciplines His children for our good. Sin is so destructive and God wants to protect us from its effects, like a parent wants to protect a child from a hot stove. Not only does sin bring its natural consequences, but God also intervene to bring His children back to obedience. Painful circumstances are not always God’s discipline, but they can be. Prayerfully consider if any trials in your life might be the result of sinful actions or attitudes. If they are, submit to God’s discipline and let Him do His work. Yes, discipline is painful. But it is temporary and the results are worth it. We’ll look more and more like Jesus.
While these truths, don’t answer all our questions, they do help us trust God with what we don’t understand. Oh, and there’s one more very important truth to remember. God sees you. He knows about every aspect of your life. He cares about every detail. Every hurt. Every tear. (See Matthew 6:25-34, Hebrews 4:15, and Philippians 4:19.) Cling to these truths and trust God with the gaps.
Why does God allow suffering? Which of these truths most helped you answer that question today?
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