Why Does God Allow Suffering?

Dear Friends,

In our current study in the book of Acts, we are examining the first Christian martyr, Stephen. His life and death raise some critical questions like this one:

Dear Pastor Steven,

“Yesterday I sat on the edge of my seat when you preached and I was hoping to hear the answer to what bothered me for so long…John the Baptist was a MAN of GOD. I can’t find any misdeed he did in his life…Why was GOD not at his side to rescue/prevent such a horrible death? Was there something that God punished him for?”

Stated succinctly, the question is: “Why does God allow the innocent to suffer?”

Please consider the following:

1. When someone is suffering, it does not necessarily mean God is punishing them.

The Jews erroneously believed that, but Jesus corrected them.

“And his disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ Jesus answered, ‘It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him’” (John 9:2-3).

2. No one is truly “innocent.”  

According to the Bible, “the heart is wicked and deceitful above all things” (Jeremiah 17:9) and “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Therefore, no one is innocent in the sense of being sinless.

Sin entered the world when Adam and Eve rebelled against God in the Garden of Eden, and mankind has been in rebellion ever since. Sin affects everything, and the suffering we see all around us is a direct result of that sin.

3. Godly people often suffer unjustly.

Read once more in Hebrews 11 about the great heroes of the faith.

“They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated—the world was not worthy of them” (Hebrews 11:37-38).

4. Our Lord never allows us to suffer pointlessly.

Our loving and merciful God has a perfect plan to use suffering to accomplish His threefold purpose.

First, He uses pain and suffering to draw us to Himself so that we will cling to Him.

Jesus said, “In the world you will have tribulation” (John 16:33). It is in times of despair and sorrow that we reach out to Him, and, if we are His children, we always find Him there waiting to comfort and uphold us through it all. An added benefit is that as we experience God’s comfort through trials, we are then able to comfort others in the same way (2 Corinthians 1:4).

Second, suffering is a test which will prove (or disprove) the reality of our faith.

Those who truly know God—“the author and finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2)—will not be crushed by suffering, but will come through the trial with their faith intact having been “proven through fire” so that it “might be found to praise and honor and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:7).

Finally, God uses suffering to take our eyes off this world and put them on the next.

Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36), and those who follow Him must not see the things of this life, either good or bad, as the end of the story. Even the sufferings we endure and which seem so terrible “are not worthy to be compared with the coming glory to be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18).

Could God prevent all suffering? Of course! But He assures us that “all things work together for good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).

  1. Our Lord did not exempt Himself from suffering for our sin.

If you struggle with my explanation, at least you must take encouragement from the fact that Jesus did not exempt Himself from the same and even more suffering.

Isaiah predicted Jesus’ suffering: “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:3, 5).

This passage specifies the reason for Jesus’ suffering—for our transgressions, for our healing, and to bring us peace.

Dear friends, remember that His plan is perfect, His character is flawless, and those who trust Him will never be disappointed.

In the love of the Lamb,

Pastor Steven