Why does God allow suffering?
John Harding from Frontline Church in Liverpool explores the question "Why does God allow suffering?"
The following notes were made by the Bible Reflections team, pleased leave a comment below.
We must seek to answer this question from an authority that is above and beyond our own feelings and emotions.
Book Recommendation: "The Problem of Pain" by C.S. Lewis
1. How do you respond to someone who is in the midst of suffering? When they are experiencing immediate pain and pain from past hurt?
Suffering is one of the great mysteries of life and one of the the great mysteries of faith.
What do you say to someone who is suffering? Probably very little…so what can you do? Just be there, weep when they weep and mourn when they mourn. When we come alongside people in this situation, we are ministering something of the love of God to people.
It's ok and normal to ask God the "why" question.
Job/Psalms - God can cope with us being honest and questioning Him. However, we must learn to guard our hearts in situations of pain so that we do not start to believe in lies about God. When we stand alongside someone in suffering we must cling onto prayer and the truths of God's word - We declare over them "He is not punishing you, He is with you, He has not abandoned you".
No matter what you go through, God does not change, He loves you,He is with you, He will carry you through.
- The gospel does not say everything will always be brilliant for you, but it does say that when you are in the fire or in the waters He is with you.
God chooses to with each of us, even down to the seemingly most insignificant of creation, He won't let any of us fall to the ground.
2. How do respond to someone who says "how could i believe in a God in a world of such pain and suffering?"
The correct argument for this is the Logical problem of evil and suffering…
Some people put the following case against God - you say that "God is perfectly love and perfectly powerful" - so therefore, if He is perfectly loving and there is still evil in the world then why doesn't He stop it? Can He not stop it - is He not powerful enough? or if if He allows it is He not all-loving?
We belief in God brings hope.
Q. Why has God let the world get into such a mess?
A. Genesis 1. God creates a perfect world - it is good - free from sin, pain and suffering. God places humanity into the perfect world to enjoy a loving and intimate relationship with Him. However, you can't have a loving intimate relationship without freewill. Without freewill we would all be robots - robots don't do evil but neither do they love. We have to have free will to love.
Genesis 3. Adam and Eve explout their free will and do evil - rather than love and worship they disobey. So God throws them out of paradise into a broken, hurting world, a world of death.
If God hadn't have acted in that way he would not be righteous and just and holy, he would not be God.
But God does not leave the story there - He is utterly redemptive - He always seeks to take the bad stuff and make it good. God sent Jesus into the world and He sends Him to die and in turn to receive the punishment and consequence of our sin so we could be free. God demonstrates His love for His creation by sending His Son. Then on the third day Jesus rose again into new life and with it defeats the power of sin and death (1 corinthians 15). Jesus defeats the outcome of where out suffering is heading.
The good news of the Gospel is redemptive.
3. How do we as christians respond to suffering?
- Both in terms of what we have been through and that which we haven't yet faced?
1 peter 1: 3-9 gives us a clue:
In this passage Peter is writing to a people group who have had to go through trials and tribulations - they were probably facing persecution under the emperor Nero. At this time Christianity became illegal because Nero blamed them for the burning down of Rome. So persecution of Christians spread. These people knew what it meant to suffer and endure pain for their faith.
What can we learn from this passage?
1. Suffering strengthens us - V.7 - God allows us to go through suffering to strengthen us and purify us to make us more like Him - gracious, compassionate, kind, loving - God uses, permits and redeems our suffering (does not send it) to make us more like Him. When you look back at trials it is then that you see a different perspective.
2. The hope of heaven - in the middle of suffering remember the living hope that comes through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
We respond to pain and suffering by fixing our eyes towards heaven - towards the great inheritance, towards the hope - the place of no more tears or sufferings or death. It is the hope of heaven that carries us through suffering. It's an eternal perspective.
2 Corinthians 4:17 - We remember that our present sufferings are only momentary compared to the eternal glory of heaven.
Maybe instead of asking the question "Why does God allow suffering", we should ask the question:
"As christians, how should we respond to Evil and Suffering? What should we do about it?
We can't necessarily respond to the why bit but we can respond to a God who loves us and is with us. We must hold onto the truth of his word. We respond to Jesus. We worship Jesus.