To the Seeker with Intellectual Questions
Why Does the Loving God of the Bible Allow Pain & Suffering?
Seven Biblical Principles that Address this Question Philosophically and Emotionally
by M. Tyner, M.A., Christian Apologetics
I. According to the Bible, We are to View Pain and Suffering from the Perspective of Eternity
The subject of pain and suffering is a part of the overall philosophical “problem of evil.” The classical argument often presented by skeptics and atheists is: “If God is loving and powerful, why would He allow pain and suffering?” The intent of the argument is to show that the presence of evil creates a logical inconsistency. However, the “seeming” inconsistency is resolved when we add more information and thereby correct the temporal perspective. The loving God of the Bible did not cause evil, but has allowed it temporarily for His eternal purposes. The Bible sets forth God’s redemptive plan for mankind — a plan that reveals He is indeed a God of mercy, grace, and LOVE! And for all believers, someday “God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying; and there shall be no more pain …” (Revelation 21:4).
II. We Live in a "Fallen" World, Yet God's Plan is to Defeat Evil and Restore Creation!
Today we live in a “fallen” world because men and angels fell. The Bible tells us that God originally created the world and people perfect. But sin and death entered the world when Satan fell due to prideful rebellion (Ezekiel 28:16-17) and when Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit in the Garden (Genesis 3:6). Hence, curses were placed on Satan and the human race (Genesis 3:14-19). All creation now suffers from “the Fall” and awaits God's future glory, His restoration, and redemption (Romans 8:21-23). When man disobeyed God, man’s rulership over the earth was forfeited to Satan. Now “the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one” (1 John 5:19b), who brings calamities and blames God for it. However, a glorious day is coming! Jesus, the One who is worthy, will take back the title deed to earth and restore creation (Revelation 5). In God’s perfect time, He will “gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth — in Him” (Ephesians 1:9-10)!
III. The Loving God of the Bible has Allowed Evil Temporarily, which Gives People "Free Will" Choices
God gave people the capacity and freedom to choose good or evil, and to accept or reject His love. The Bible tells us that our loving God created people for fellowship with Him. Since a forced love is neither real nor meaningful, God provided us with alternative choices. Without “free will,” people would be like puppets (or machines) that say “I love you” when their string is pulled. God is omniscient and looks at the Big Picture. There is a glorious eternal plan for everyone who chooses to love Him. It is critical that we consider what’s at the end of our earthly path — it is either glory (eternal life in Christ!) or utter desolation (separation from God forever!). Each of us has a choice. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).
IV. God's Ways are Sometimes Incomprehensible to Us, but He Can Always be Trusted
In the Bible, Job was not privy to the conversations between God and Satan (in Job 1-2). God boasted about Job, a blameless and upright man who feared God and shunned evil. God allowed Satan to attack Job with painful afflictions and tempt him to curse God. Yet Job persevered in his faith (Job 13:15; James 5:10-11). Even out of his darkest despair, Job cried victoriously, “For I know that my Redeemer lives…” (Job 19:25-27). Job glorified God in his trial! Although God never answered Job’s question about pain and suffering, He did reveal that He is SOVEREIGN over all creation and thus worthy of worship in whatever He does! In the end, Job was restored to double prosperity, and we have yet to learn of his eternal rewards. Our infinite God has declared: “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:9).
V. Jesus Christ Experienced the Greatest Pain and Suffering Known to Mankind - in Order to be Our Redeemer!
The punishment for the sins of all mankind was placed upon Jesus Christ. On the Cross at Calvary, Jesus was the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). What a display of God’s grace — unmerited favor toward us! God actually humbled Himself to become a man, and then died on the cross in order to reconcile us to Himself (Romans 3-5, Galatians 1:7). It cost Jesus a torturous death on the cross, betrayal, mocking, scourging, separation from God the Father temporarily, and agony of His soul. Why did God sacrifice so greatly for us? The Bible says that because of “the Fall,” every person is born with a sin nature and therefore commits sins. And the consequences of our sin is death. So Jesus settled the “sin issue” on the cross, and He now offers us a free gift: “... the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23)!
VI. Jesus Christ, Our True Sympathizer, Grieves When We Suffer
The Bible says we can come to Jesus in prayer at any time for comfort, mercy and grace. Only Jesus fully understands and empathizes with the pain and suffering we experience. He knows our infirmities and “(He) was in all points tempted as we are” (Hebrews 4:15-16). For example, when Jesus lived on earth, He wept with Mary and Martha as they grieved over the loss of their brother, Lazarus (John 11:33,35). Jesus lovingly walks with believers through all their trials in life, promising: “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5). Believers can have real peace in the Person of Jesus even during tribulation (John 16:33). And, Jesus tenderly invites all people: “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:28-29).
VII. God Temporarily Permits Pain and Suffering for His Good (Eternal) Purposes
For Unbelievers - (Eternal benefit):
To get their attention, so they may obtain eternal salvation! (See Romans 10:9; John 3:16, 8:32.) It is the Lord’s sincere desire that ALL should live eternally with Him and not perish (2 Peter 3:9, Matthew 16:26; 1 Timothy 2:3-4).
For Believers — (Eternal benefits include):
(a) To prepare them for eternity, conforming them into the image of His Son, Jesus Christ (Romans 8:28-29; Philippians 3:10).
(b) To test and build believers’ faith (James 1:2-4; 2 Thessalonians 1:3-5; Acts 14:22; Isaiah 48:10; Daniel 11:35).
(c) To encourage believers to trust and obey Him (2 Corinthians 12:8-9; Psalm 119:67,71).
(d) To produce in believers patience, character, hope, joy, generosity, etc. (Romans 5:3-4; 2 Corinthians 8:2).
(e) To prepare believers to share in His glory someday (Romans 8:17-18; Hebrews 2:9-10; 2 Corinthians 4:17-18).
(f) To mature them to be witnesses to the world of the life, love, grace, and comfort of Jesus (2 Corinthians 4:10, 1:4; 1 John 4:12; Colossians 1:24).
(g) To humble believers and draw them nearer to Himself (2 Chronicles 33:12; James 4:6-8a; Psalm 34:18; Philippians 3:10).
(h) To provide opportunities for them to bring glory to our great God! (1 Peter 4:12-13,16; John 9:3; Philippians 1:12, 27-30).
For both Unbelievers and Believers —
Sometimes they suffer as a natural consequence of the choices they make in life, “reaping what they sow” (Galatians 6:7-8).
Jesus Christ voluntarily died on a Roman cross 2,000 years ago to pay the penalty for our sins, which demonstrated His divine love for us! Jesus is God Himself (Second Person of the Trinity) who fulfilled with 100% accuracy the 330 Old Testament prophecies concerning the promised Messiah! Jesus offers every person the free gift of eternal life, as well as an abundant life here on earth (John 3:16, 10:10b). The Gospel of Grace is: Whoever believes in and receives the biblical Jesus — who lived, died, and then three days later was resurrected — will have eternal life in heaven. Christianity is founded on a Person, not on a teaching as with “religions.” Christianity is relational. God longs to have a personal relationship with each one of us now and forever through His Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus is calling: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in and dine [fellowship] with him and he with Me” (Revelation 3:20). (See John 1:12, 3:16, 11:25; 1 Corinthians 15:3-4.)
Human/temporal point of view:
Life just isn’t fair!
God’s eternal point of view:
You’ll find out that everything in this life had a purpose!
Human/temporal point of view:
Pain is not necessary!
God’s eternal point of view:
You’ll find out pain was necessary
and I went through it with you!
C.S. LEWIS QUOTE ON FREE WILL:
“God has made it a rule for Himself, that He won’t alter people’s character by force. He can and will alter them — but only if the people will let Him... He would rather have a world of free beings, with all its risks, than a world of people who did right like machines because they couldn’t do anything else. The more we succeed in imagining what a world of perfect automatic beings would be like, the more, I think, we shall see His wisdom.”
Sample Prayer to Receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior:
“Lord God, thank You for Your awesome love and grace. I realize that I am a sinner and that Jesus died on the cross for my sins and rose from the dead. Jesus, please forgive me, cleanse me, and be my personal Lord and Savior. I want to follow You and have a relationship with You. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”
Sample Prayer When Experiencing Pain or Suffering:
“Dear Lord, thank You for being the Father of mercies and God of all comfort! I need your tender touch right now. I know that You love me, and You’re always with me, and that Your plans for me are for good. You bought me at a price, Jesus, now I want to live for You. I pray that this trial will somehow bring glory to Your name. Lord, I know You experienced more pain than I ever will, for You are the Man of Sorrows acquainted with grief. So You understand exactly how I feel. Only You can give me peace and even joy in the midst of this storm. I love You and I will trust in You no matter what. For You are the God of the Big Picture! In Jesus’ name, Amen.”
“I rejoice in knowing that ... there is no oil without squeezing the olives, no wine without pressing the grapes, no fragrance without crushing the flowers, and, no real joy without sorrow.” [author unknown]