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There is so much suffering in the world, how can people believe in a loving God?
Thank you so much for your question. These kinds of questions can be very difficult ones to wrestle with, but I'm glad that you are willing to do so and are seeking an answer in the best place possible by asking what God says about these things. Let me tell you straight away that God is not afraid of your question, and nor is He angry that you have asked it, but He wants you to find the answer that you seek, and the real freedom that the truth will bring you. I warn you that parts of the answer may not be easy to accept, but I urge you to submit yourself to the truth of God's Word, and in doing so you will find real freedom.
Though there are many different aspects of suffering it is possible to generalise the question along with many others to something like this: 'If God is all powerful, why doesn't He stop all the pain and suffering in the world?'
I want to answer your question with three statements of truth:
1. God could stop all the pain and suffering at any moment if He chose to.
First let's recognise the truth that the God of the Bible is in control of all of the suffering that takes place in this world. In fact He is above everything, as the Bible tells us, there is nothing 'too hard' for God (Jeremiah 32:27). It is perfectly within God's capabilities to stop any sickness, pain, suffering or death if He wanted to. In a few moments I can assure you that this truth has the potential to be a real comfort to us, but for now I understand that it leaves you with the question 'why doesn't He stop it all then?' This brings us to our second point:
2. God doesn’t wipe out suffering because He has a purpose in it for those who will trust Him.
The Bible is full of verses with relatively short one-line statements that literally transform our view on life, and one of these is found in Romans 8:28:
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
If you think about this closely it does literally transform the whole of life. Life is full of pain and suffering: some situations are big, life shaping ones which can cause deep suffering for those involved. Other circumstances can be tiny, little more than minor annoyances along the way.
What this verse tells us is that in all of that pain and suffering God is there weaving together His incredible plan for those who love Him, and transforming what feels and seems like a bad situation into a good one.
What this means is that no matter what life feels like, for those who trust and love God there are no longer any bad situations, only good ones, because God is always there behind the scenes redeeming the evil in this world and using it for good. Is that not potentially the most amazing encouragement for all of us as we go through the hard times in our lives?
However, my next question for you my friend must be this: do you love and trust in God? If you already do then that is fantastic news, but it is possible that you may not at this point. You may ask me: 'what reason do I have to trust in God?' That's a good question - let me tell you the answer. 2000 years ago, God came down to this world, and His name was Jesus Christ of Nazareth. God saw the mess that we were making of His world in our sin and rebellion, and He came down to do something about it.
You see another amazing truth is that God doesn't just look down from heaven on our suffering with a sense of mystery because He can't understand it; God knows what we're going through because He's been through it all Himself. Jesus came to earth as the son of a poor family, He worked a common job for years, and then later on in His life, though He'd just spent 3 years teaching people, healing sickness and casting out demons, Jesus was wrongfully arrested, tried, and though He was innocent of any crime He was executed on a Roman cross.
There can be no doubt God completely understands our suffering, but what is even more breathtaking is the fact that as Jesus hung on that cross He was not just suffering so He could identify with us, He was also suffering so He could save us.
The Bible teaches us that though we are sinners and rebels against God, Jesus paid the ultimate price so that we wouldn't have to be punished for our sin because He has already borne it. 1 Peter 3:18 says this:
For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God.
Our sin and rebellion separates us from God, and renders us worthy of nothing but the righteous justice of God in punishing our sins. The pain that we experience in our lives is nothing compared to the suffering that we deserve because of our sin, but Jesus was willing to suffer the pains of hell in our place on the cross.
My friend, why would you not trust a God like that? He's not demanding that you match up to the standard He's set to be loved by Him - He knows that you could never match up to the standard on your own, and He loves you anyway. He's done everything necessary to purchase your salvation, and bring you into a relationship with Him as His son or daughter for all eternity.
So I urge you right now to put your trust entirely in the God who loves you and gave Himself for you. Whether it's for the first time or a reaffirmation of a faith that you have had for years, place your life into the hands of the only one who is able to bring you safely through the twists and turns of this life. It won't always be a painless journey, but you can be sure that even when life hurts, He is at work in you, moulding and shaping you into the person He created you to be. Then, when this life comes to its conclusion, you can be absolutely sure that you will be welcomed into God’s house - heaven, forever and ever, and it's this that brings us to our 3rd truth:
3. God will one day wipe out all the pain and suffering for good.
This is the ultimate promise of the Gospel - God has declared to us that death no longer has any hold on us when He rose Jesus from the dead, and so we too can now partake of the eternal life that God gives to those who trust Him. This world has never been exactly as God designed it from the moment that Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, but there will be a day when He will create a new perfect world, as the book of Revelation says:
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:3-4)
Having this eternal perspective is such a help as we seek to deal with this problem of suffering. So often our problem is that too much of our hope is placed in this life, and so if it begins to fail us for whatever reason, then it's a disaster. However the true Biblical perspective is that this life is momentary, like a breath, and it is so much more important for us to prepare for the next life which lasts forever. The Apostle Paul (who suffered more than most) says it as well as anyone could when he says it like this:
For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:17-18)
Our problem with suffering in this life can often have to do with the problem of injustice, but in this new world that God will create, this will no longer be a problem - the God of all justice will set everything to rights, and those who have trusted Him will live in paradise forever.
So, let me close by simply once again urging you to put your trust entirely in the Lord Jesus Christ. He has given Himself for you, and demonstrated that His love for you is an everlasting love. No matter how hard life may be, no matter how much suffering God allows in your life, that love will never change, and you can know, whether you understand what is happening or not, that God is working it for good if you will trust Him.
Here are some more Bible Verses for your further consideration:
- 1 Peter 1:3-9
- Romans 5:1-5
- Romans 8:18-39
I hope this answer helps you to find peace with God through Jesus Christ. If you want to know more about what Jesus has done for you please watch the video on the main part of our site: Watch the video
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*All Scripture references are taken From The English Standard Version of the Holy Bible unless stated otherwise
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