Pain and Suffering: Why Do They Exist?

By Alex McFarland   •   June 25, 2009   •   Topics:

I once talked to a young man who was angry with God because he lost his parents in an automobile accident. “They were good people,” he said. “They were tax-paying citizens, punctual employees, and good parents.”

His parents had “played by the rules,” so to speak. He couldn’t understand why such a loving God would allow this tragedy to happen to his family.

The problem-of-pain question is often preceded by personal pain.

So, people ask: why is there pain and suffering?

There are several incorrect, commonly-given reasons for this:

God. Even though we might not say this in so many words.

Satan. Once, I was traveling to a speaking engagement and discovered I had a flat tire. When I finally made it to the event, the pastor of the church said the devil came and flattened my tire. Actually, I think I just hit a nail. Make no mistake – Satan is a real enemy of our souls—but some of our pain and suffering is simply a result of living in a fallen world.

Fate. There is no such thing as fate or happenstance because we have a sovereign, heavenly Father. The term, sovereign, means “far above, but able to reach.” God is sovereign—He is able to reach down and work through our circumstances.

Ourselves. I have spoken with parents who had problems with their teens. Many of them will say they are a failure as a parent. Sometimes we can take the blame for things that go wrong, but we cannot control other people who chose to rebel against God. Let’s look at Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden with the heavenly Father: even in a perfect environment, the fall of man took place because of their choice to sin.

Others. This is not a good reason because we must accept responsibility for ourselves and our actions.

It is also worth mentioning that atheism explains pain and suffering by citing the absence of God. Atheism tells us there is no God, no absolute standard, and no objective truth. It also tells us we are merely the product of time and chance.

However, there is a problem with that explanation. To be void of the existence of God’s goodness, then evil, pain, suffering are not actually those things – it is all “stuff.” It would make no sense to praise virtue or condemn vice. There would be no difference between the actions of Adolf Hitler and those of Mother Teresa.

Know that God does everything He does because it is right and because it is good. We know God will act in accordance to His nature and will. He cannot sin because He is holy. He is also wise and powerful.

In Charles Spurgeon’s most famous quote, he said, “God loves us too much to hurt us, and He is too wise to make a mistake. When we can’t trace his hand, when we don’t understand, we can trust his heart.”

Many people will ask, “Why can’t God just fix it?” C.S. Lewis answers:

“What are you asking God to do – wipe out all past sins? Give people a fresh start? Offer supernatural help for everyday living? But God has done this – through Calvary.”

God doesn’t act on our timetable. He doesn’t follow our agenda. “He who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep” (Psalm 121:4, NIV).

One of the great comforts of Christianity is that Jesus knows and understands every pain we endure in the world. His brothers rejected him. If you have been rejected, He understands. He was abused, spat upon, and hurt. If you have been abused, spat up on, and hurt, rest assured, He understands.

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