Why does a loving God allow pain and suffering?
This is one of those questions that don’t have a complete answer. Many in the bible, including Job asked this same question. However, we can derive from the bible some partial answers at least to this question.
One of the answers to this question seems to be rooted in that God gave us free-choice. In other words, as human beings, we have the ability to act on our selfishness and self-centeredness or on God’s commands. Much like Adam and Eve in the Garden, we have choices to do good or evil. In the Garden, they chose what they wanted rather than what God told them. As a result, they suffered the pain of following their own desires rather than God’s. It wasn’t that God was punishing them, but rather with every choice, there is a consequence or what the bible refers to as the “sowing and reaping” principle.
We see this same dynamic at play everyday when a child doesn’t listen to his or her parents who have more wisdom. Parents give directions to help and protect their children. But the child always has the choice to listen to his parents and stay out of harm’s way or disobey, often resulting in getting hurt or feeling pain.
Sometimes it is someone else’s bad choices that cause pain for us. Sometimes people are “innocent” victims. We see this with crimes. An innocent person is robbed or raped by someone else acting out their own selfish and sinful desires.
We see this in human relationships. One person may be dealing with various issues or hurts, and they take these “out” on a friend or family member who didn’t cause their pain or have anything to do with it.
We certainly see this in war, terrorism and other acts of violence. So much of our pain or another person’s pain seems to be the result of someone else’s pain or bad choices.
So it seems that one of the reasons why a loving God allows pain and suffering is because He puts so much value on allowing us the freedom to make choices for ourselves – whether they be good or bad. Another aspect of free choice that God seems to treasure is that true love can only be an expression of choice. It can’t be forced or made to happen. This whole idea leads us back to the real truth that God values relationship with us over anything else.
A second possible answer – or at least a partial answer to this question is that suffering and pain is used by God to bring us to Himself. The bible seems to make it clear that God values relationship with us over our own comfort.
C.S. Lewis objected to God during his atheistic days because he concluded that there could be no God because of suffering. He came to see in his own life that God used suffering to speak to his empty soul and to shape him into the person he would become.
Most people will admit that the hard times or painful times of their lives are when they grew and became a better person. So God, in his infinite wisdom, certainly can and seems to use pain and suffering to draw us to Himself and shape us into the person He has designed us to be. If this is the case, then pain and suffering serve a far greater purpose than we often imagine.
One final thought as to why a loving God allows pain and suffering. It really goes back to free choice. The bible talks about a fallen angel named Lucifer who is also known as Satan or the devil. He was an angel who had the choice to serve God or serve himself. He made the very wrong decision to serve himself. As a result, he has become the epitome of evil. He opposes God and the righteousness of God more than any other creature. He not only hates God, but hates anything God loves.
Because of this, he and his evil forces wage war against God and his people and the world He created on a daily basis. Therefore, we live in a war-zone – a spiritual war-zone. People who live and fight in a war zone are going to get hurt, feel pain and sometimes suffer. This is another explanation as to why a loving God allows pain and suffering. He is allowing us to make choices as to whether we are going to follow Him or Satan.
All of these may only be glimpses into the real answers to this question that people have wrestled with this question since the beginning of time. But one thing is true for sure and it is this – God was willing to allow His Son, Jesus Christ, suffer the ultimate pain at the cross so we can be redeemed. God does use suffering for our good. And the bible promises us that because of Christ’s ultimate suffering, for those who trust in Him, all pain and suffering one day will be no more!