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A God Who Allows Suffering

March 28, 2021

“Christ Crucified” by Gian Lorenzo Bernini (c. 1655), Basilica of Escorial, Madrid, Spain (CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication)

As we enter Spring and finally begin to turn the corner in the fight against coronavirus, it is only fitting that we acknowledge the suffering this pandemic has caused.

During the 25 years I practiced law, I witnessed a great deal of suffering.  It took many forms:  brain damage; paraplegia; rape; child molestation; death by cancer, by explosion, by decapitation, by fire, by scaffolding collapse, by head-on collision; loss of an eye, of an arm, of a leg, of a child.

Some of the most heart wrenching cases for me were the ones involving poverty issues – eviction, foreclosure, consumer fraud, unsafe housing, denial of public benefits.

Those issues meant fathers unable to keep a roof over their children’s heads; mothers driving themselves to exhaustion, in an effort to put food on the table; children already deprived of hope; lives destroyed by drugs and despair.  The working poor, running hard just to stay in place.

How can a good and loving God allow such suffering?

RBC Ministries answers the question this way [1]:

1. Suffering Comes with the Freedom to Choose

Loving parents long to protect their children from unnecessary pain.  But wise parents know the danger of over-protection.  They know that the freedom to choose is at the heart of what it means to be human, and a world without choice would be worse than a world without pain…

2. Pain Can Warn Us of Danger

We hate pain, especially in those we love.  Yet without discomfort, the sick wouldn’t go to a doctor…Without pangs of conscience, the daily dissatisfaction of boredom, or the empty longing for significance, people who are made to find satisfaction in an eternal Father would settle for far less…

3. Suffering Reveals What Is in Our Hearts

Suffering…has a way of revealing what is in our…hearts.  Capacities for love, mercy, anger, envy, and pride can lie dormant…As gold and silver are refined by fire…the human heart is revealed and developed by enduring the pressure and heat of time and circumstance…

4. Suffering Takes Us to the Edge of Eternity

If death is the end of everything, then a life filled with suffering isn’t fair.  But if the end of this life brings us to the threshold of eternity, then the most fortunate people in the universe are those who discover, through suffering, that this life is not all we have to live for.  Those who find themselves and their eternal God through suffering have not wasted their pain…

5. Pain Loosens  Our Grip on This Life

In time, our work and our opinions are sought less and less.  Our bodies become increasingly worse for wear…Yet, if death is not the end but the threshold of a new day, then the curse of old age is also a blessing.  Each new pain makes the world less inviting and the next life more appealing…

6. Suffering Gives Opportunity to Trust God

The most famous sufferer of all time was a man named Job.  According to the Bible, Job lost his family to war, his wealth to wind and fire, and his health to painful boils.  Through it all, God never told Job why it was happening…When God finally did speak…[He did not] apologize for allowing Satan to test Job’s devotion…Instead, God talked about mountain goats giving birth, young lions on the hunt, and ravens in the nest…Job was left to conclude that if God had the power and wisdom to create this physical universe, there was reason to trust that same God in times of suffering…

7. God Suffers with Us in Our Suffering

…No one has suffered like the One who paid for our sin in the crucified body of His own Son.  No one has suffered more than the One who, when He stretched out His arms and died, showed us how much He loves us.  It is this God who, in drawing us to Himself, asks us to trust Him when we are suffering and when our own loved ones cry out…

8. God’s Comfort Is Greater than Suffering

The apostle Paul pleaded with the Lord to take away an unidentified source of suffering.  But the Lord declined saying, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness’…Paul learned that he would rather be with Christ in suffering than without Christ in good health and pleasant circumstances.

9. In Times of Crisis, We Find One Another

No one would choose pain and suffering.  But…[n]atural disasters and times of crisis have a way of bringing us together…Suddenly we remember our own mortality and that people are more important than things.  We remember…that, above all, we need God.

Each time we discover God’s comfort in our own suffering, our capacity to help others is increased…

10. God Can Turn Suffering Around for Our Good

…Through the rejection, betrayal, enslavement, and wrongful imprisonment of a man named Joseph, we see someone who eventually was able to say to those who had hurt him, ‘You meant evil against me; but God meant it for good’…”

[1]  RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI  49555-0001, http://www.gospelcom.net/rbc/, “10 Reasons to Believe in a God Who Allows Suffering”, Copyright © 1993 Bible Class.

Our prayers go out to the victims of the latest mass shooting in Boulder, CO and their families, as well as the thousands of Rohingya refugees left homeless in Bangladesh after a massive fire swept through their camp.

See, https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2021/03/22/boulder-shooting-police-report-active-shooter-colorado-grocery-store/6956943002/ and https://www.cnn.com/2021/03/22/asia/rohingya-refugee-camp-fire-bangladesh-intl/index.html.

READERS CAN FIND MY VIEWS ON ABUSE AND ABUSE-RELATED ISSUES AT ANNA WALDHERR A Voice Reclaimed, Surviving Child Abuse  https://avoicereclaimed.com

36 Comments
  1. I finally found your blog on WordPress reader. I was searching for it for long, as I am more comfortable in reading blogs in the WordPress reader. So glad to find it finally.

  2. Whenever I suffer, I feel like Gold in God’s hands. I know he is purifying me, making me better.

    • You put me in mind of a Scripture verse: “…I will bring through the fire; I will refine them like silver and test them like gold. They will call on My name, and I will answer them” (Zech. 13: 9).

      • Yes, this is the inspiration behind my thought. Jesus is the guiding force behind all the good in me.

  3. Thank you for this, Anna. Reblogging At Sunnyside.

  4. The eternal question!

  5. I agree with you in every sense. LG Marie

  6. As much as I hate even the concept of pain and suffering, and as much as the real life stories of suffering go beyond my scope of comprehension, I have to choose to cling to a good God who hates it more than we possibly can in order to do what he did on the cross in order to allow us to choose a life free of pain and suffering in eternity. I love those 10 points. Thanks

    • Regardless of what we may experience here, Christ’s sacrifice on the cross for us was greater. Glad you liked the post, Gary.

  7. Thanks for this undoubted blog, it is relevant and appropriate.

  8. Lamentable and true but it’s due to mankind’s rebellious nature and greed. God has given us free will…a most important and interesting article.

    • You are always very kind to me, Francisco. And you are so right. This is a flawed and broken world. Our hope rests in Christ.

      • Without a doubt Anna…thank you. I truly enjoy your posts and your opinions and especially our conversations. Take good care, enjoy the week and all the best to you,
        FBC

  9. “Only a suffering God can help us…’ Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in his writings from prison.

    Thanks Anna, for these probing points as we approach Good Friday and Easter Sunday.

    Like Tony Campolo I often say these days, ‘It’s Friday… but Sunday’s comin!’

  10. Elizabeth permalink

    I enjoyed your article. I found a article that I thought you might like. Here it is https://www.jw.org/en/library/magazines/g201107/life-without-suffering/.

  11. Elizabeth permalink

    Hi Anna, How are you?

  12. This reminds of my favourite line.
    “And as he stands in victory, sin’s has lost its grip on me,
    For I’m his and he is mine
    Bought with the precious blood of Christ”

  13. It’s a joy to read your thoughtful encouragement in the Lord.

  14. You and I were on the same wave length as we prepared our posts the week before Easter, Anna! Number ten on your list is definitely in its appropriate place: the best for last. How incredible to think that NO suffering is ever wasted in God’s kingdom. He WILL use it to bring glory to his name–somehow. There is much comfort in that promise alone!

    • I agree, Nancy. When we feel our suffering is pointless, it becomes too difficult to bear. That it has purpose in the greater scheme of things makes all the difference.

  15. Suffering is something that we all go through no matter who we are. My family and I appreciated the following link, it answers the question will suffering ever end? https://www.jw.org/en/library/magazines/awake-no2-2020-jul-aug/will-suffering-ever-end/

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. A God Who Allows Suffering – Tonya LaLonde
  2. A God Who Allows Suffering by Anna Waldherr – At Sunnyside – Where Truth and Beauty Meet

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