God and Suffering
God and Suffering – Why do the innocent suffer?
Two of the most frequently asked questions we hear about God and suffering are: “Why does God allow suffering?” and “Why do the innocent suffer?” The questions come in all forms: Why did God allow my child to be born with severe birth defects? Why did my husband lose his legs in the war? How could God have allowed all those little children to be killed by that evil man? Why was my teen daughter raped? The questions are often filled with extreme grief and come from people who are in their darkest hour. These questions are very hard to answer.
The suffering of a child or an innocent bystander seems more heinous than other forms of suffering. Why is that? Do we expect children to be exempt from suffering? Perhaps we simply wish that was true. That’s how we’d want it to be if we ruled the world.
God and Suffering? Who is Innocent?
Wait. What do we mean by “innocent”? Is anyone truly innocent? The Bible is very clear that our hearts are deceitful and wicked (Jeremiah 17:9) and that every one of us has sinned (Romans 3:23). So, if by “innocent,” we mean sinless, that isn’t possible. No innocent person exists. We have all been impacted by sin and sin is the very reason that suffering exists.
When people refer to the “innocent suffering,” they aren’t inferring that the person is sinless. They are simply inferring that the person didn’t deserve the trial that came their way. They are inferring that the suffering isn’t fair. It doesn’t fit into the world as we would like it.
Why Do the Innocent Suffer? Why does God allow Suffering?
So why do seemingly innocent people suffer? What’s the purpose? If we believe God is sovereign over all things, why doesn’t He simply stop the suffering? Here are some points to think about…
Jesus talked about trials in John 16:33: “…In this world you will have trouble…” Trials are not uncommon; they are part of everyone’s life. As hard as it is to accept, we can expect trials to come into our lives.
Pain and suffering draw us to God and we cling to Him. I’ve never heard someone say that they became closer to God during a time of complacency. Instead, people often say that they became closer to Jesus during times of suffering. It is during those times of heartache that we reach out to God and cry to Him for help and comfort. Through suffering, God refines us. Isaiah 48:10 says, “See, I have refined you, though not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.”
Suffering gives us opportunity to help others when they suffer. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 says, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.”
Through suffering, God proves that our faith is real. When our faith is tested through suffering, how we react determines the genuineness of our faith. We need not be crushed by suffering. Although there may be a time of questioning, we can come out of the trial with a deeper view of God’s goodness and peace. James 1:2-4 says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” 1 Peter 1:7 says, “These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.”
“That which should distinguish the suffering of believers from unbelievers is the confidence that our suffering is under the control of an all-powerful and all-loving God. Our suffering has meaning and purpose in God's eternal plan, and He brings or allows to come into our lives only that which is for His glory and our good.” – Jerry Bridges, Trusting God
- Suffering gives us a new perspective. When we take our eyes off our personal suffering and place them on Jesus, our perspective changes. We are called to think eternally and not be caught up in the things of this world. Romans 8:18 reminds us: “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”
God and Suffering? How can we survive?
Do you feel like you are suffering for no apparent reason? I encourage you to cry out to God. He already knows your heart. He knows your thoughts. He already knows your questions. Speak to Him and let Him fill you with His peace. He wants you to trust Him and He is waiting with open arms.
What is your response?
Yes, today I am deciding to follow Jesus
Yes, I am already a follower of Jesus
I still have questions