Why Does God Allow Suffering?
By Gary Amirault
It does not take much time living on this planet before we are confronted with something that provokes us to cry that short question which never seems to be able to be answered with a short answer, "why?" How could this happen? What purpose does this serve? How could anyone be so cruel? Why did this have to be?
Very early in my life I found myself asking these kinds of questions. Having entered this world with my umbilical cord wrapped around my neck, my mother probably asked the question "Why?" I was born right after World War II in Nuremberg, Germany. My mother had just escaped the Russians who were deporting her to Russia. She spent many days as a teenager hiding in haystacks and closets probably asking the question "Why?" She escaped and made it to the American sector. She got pregnant and had a very sick little boy while at the same time her mother was dying some distance away. Because the medicine to keep me alive was so expensive, she couldn't see her mother before she died. My mother was raised in a good Evangelical family, went to church, believed in God, and had every reason to ask the question "Why?" Her religion did not give her a good answer. She stopped asking. To this day, she still hasn't heard a good answer to "Why?" How do I know? It is written on her face. I hope this short little article will remove that dagger in her heart called "Why?" She no longer verbalizes the cry, but it is still nevertheless there.
Like mother, like son, early in my life, I began asking the question "Why?" Why was I born a bastard? Why did my mother have to suffer so much? Why did the nuns in Catholic school never smile at me? Didn't they like my German accent? Why was I always the bad guy when we played World War II games? Did the fact that I was born in Germany have anything to do with it? Why did I have to be born into a rather poor family? Why couldn't I do the things the officers kids got to do? Why did they get better houses, more money, more respect? It's not fair!
I had dozens of questions like the ones above, but I had very few answers. The nuns had no answer except the switch. At the age of 12, we were living in a small Texas town near the military base called Fort Hood. In this little town the permanent residents were either Methodists or Baptists. I was invited to attend church. Both churches had their youth activities and programs to bring in newcomers. The free sandwiches and cool aid at the Methodist church did the trick for me.
One day I decided to go visit the House of God all by myself. My parents never went to church. My mother gave up on God back in Germany when she asked the question "Why?" and got no answer. I remember to this day the apprehension that I had. Entering a House in which His people worship Him sounded like a very important place and occasion. I entered the church with a healthy sense of awe and respect. I chose the last pew.
I don't remember the hymns, the offertory, nor a single word the pastor spoke. I remember some friends of mine playing cards on the other back pew. I remember some women eying one another's outfits and an old man trying to sleep while sitting up. I also remember as a little boy that that pastor had no interest in what he was saying. It was easy to see that his heart was not in it. The awe that I had when I entered the church faded away. I left that church thinking to myself that if this was the House of God, then He never showed up. I also came away with the feeling that the people and the pastor were all pretending. Somehow whatever "worship" was all about, it wasn't happening in this church. The other thing I remember was how nice the pastors home was. He often practiced golf in his nice backyard. I remember thinking to myself, "There, that is what he worships. There was joy about him there in his backyard that was not on his face in church. At age 12, I walked away from "church" and came to the conclusion there was no God. What went on in that little Methodist church was all an act, an act that little kids could see right through.
As I grew up, I still often asked the question, "why." Why war, why killing, why starving children, why injustice, why prejudice, why greed . . . All these questions without good answers turns a young man into an atheist and that is what I became. When I talked about God in high school I would talk in these kind of terms.
"If there is a God, he probably built this universe the way an architect would build it. First He would make a rough draft, a prototype. It, of course, would be rough, imperfect. When He finally had it all figured out in the rough draft, He went off somewhere else to build the perfect universe. I was stuck in the rough draft. Obviously, it wasn't the perfect one. Look all around you, this universe is full of mistakes with things falling apart wherever one goes." It was just my sarcastic way of saying there is no god.
Today, on this side of the Tree of Crucifixion, I view a world much larger than the one I looked at as a boy. I spend much time studying cultures, nations, world history, especially the ancient ones. I read about men roasting other human beings in molten bull statues. I read about an African king who wanted to be the wisest in his land, taking pregnant women and cutting them open to learn about the birth process. I have read about a king in India who was tired of the citizens in his capitol city so he kicked them all out. To visit him, one had to crawl on their knees past piles of dead bodies of those who displeased the king.
I have spent countless hours in Israel's and the church's history. It is a river of blood up to a horse's bridle. I have been able to see behind the scenes the activities of leaders in the Christian world, and they often wreak of corruption, greed, self-righteousness, and deception. Much of the suffering in the world is the direct result of the actions of Christian leaders and their organizations.
My mother stopped asking the question because she was tired of not getting answers that made sense to her. I stopped asking the question because I have been given some very good answers. Mama, I hope the Holy Spirit will open your eyes to understand these answers. Only He can add that extra something to make the pain go away. I pray that He visits you and takes away the "WHY?" buried deep in your heart. Oh, merciful Father comfort your children!
Causes of Suffering
- "By one man's sin the whole of mankind was involved in death . . .So then, the conclusion is that just as one man's act of sin resulted in condemnation for all men, so one man's act of righteousness resulted in life-giving acquittal for all men." (Romans 5:15,18; Barclay Trans.)
- "Cursed is the ground for your sake." (Genesis 3:18; New King James Trans.)
- "See now that I myself am He! There is no God besides me. I put to death and I bring to life. I have wounded and I will heal, and no one can deliver out of my hand." (Deuteronomy 32:39; NKJV)
- "I form the light, and create darkness; I make peace, and create evil; I the LORD do all these things." (Isaiah 45:7; King James Bible)
- "Behold, I Myself have created the smith who blows the fires of coal, and brings out a weapon for its work; and I have created the destroyer to ruin." (Isaiah 54:16; New American Standard)
- "A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the spirit, from the spirit will reap eternal life." (Gal. 6:7,8; New International Version)
- As a consequence from our wrong decisions. "But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. . . I know that it is my fault that this great storm has come upon you. . .in my distress I called upon the Lord and He answered me." (Jonah 1:3,12; 2:2; NIV)
- Because of character flaws. "So these three men stopped answering Job because he was righteous in his own eyes." Job says, "I am innocent, but God denies me justice." (Job 32:1, 34:5; NIV)
- To cause you to stop sinning. "Later Jesus found him at the temple and said to him, "See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you." (John 5:14; NIV)
- To show us our arrogance. "Indeed, all of you must, in your dealings with one another, wrap yourselves in the garment of humility. As scripture has it, 'God while setting his face against the arrogant, bestows his favor upon the humble.' Bow down, thee, beneath God's mighty hand, and he will lift you up at the appointed time. Cast all your anxieties upon him, because he is concerned about you. Be sober-minded, be watchful; for your enemy, the devil, roams about like a roaring lion, looking for a victim to devour. You, however, who are strong in faith must offer resistance to him, while being aware the same sufferings as you are enduring are laid upon the brotherhood all over the world. And God, the source of all grace, who has summoned you to his side, so that, after a brief time of suffering, you may be granted entry into his eternal realm of glory, will set you to rights, give you steadiness and strength, and establish you securely. (1 Peter 5:5-20; God's New Covenant)
- Suffering is part of the Creator's plan. "In my opinion whatever we may have to go through now is less than nothing compared with the magnificent future God has planned for us. The whole creation is on tiptoe to see the wonderful sight of the sons of God coming into their own. The world of creation cannot as yet see reality, not because it chooses to be blind, but in God's purpose it has been so limited--yet it has been given hope. And the hope is that in the end the whole of created life will be rescued from the tyranny of change and decay, and have its share in the magnificent liberty which can only belong to the children of God! It is plain to anyone with eyes to see that at the present time all created life groans in a sort of universal travail. And it is plain, too, that we who have a foretaste of the Spirit are in a state of painful tension, while we wait for that redemption of our bodies which will mean that at last we have realized our full sonship in him." (Romans 8:18-23;The New Testament in Modern English)
So we see that the Creator Himself takes the responsibility of the ultimate cause of the sufferings in this world. This primary cause left a rippling effect that touched all of creation. The Creator was going to make man in His own image. After man ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, the suffering began. At the same time the Creator said, "Behold, the man has become like one of Us, to know good and evil. And now, lest he put out his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever"--" My dear Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox friends, please note four very important things. First, the word Us. Second, man became like God as a result of eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Man was now responsible to make decisions which carried consequences. Third, notice in the verse following the above one, that man was removed from the garden lest he eat of it and live forever! Most of the church teaches the immortality of the soul. This teaching is a pure fabrication. Man at the present time, is not immortal. Fourth, please note that the above scripture (Gen. 3:22) is an incomplete sentence. Most translations place a dash there to show that. A few translations just put a period there. Most people do not catch that this is poor grammar. Can't God create proper English sentences? Of course He can. The sentence was left incomplete on purpose. He will complete it when it is time to complete it. Now religious man has not only filled in the blank, but has added many more sentences in addition to the blank. All of the add-ons the church has preached for the last couple millenniums will be disposed of and called what they rightfully are . . manure. (I'd like to use a shorter word here, but I might offend some religious folk, so I will refrain.)
So we see from Romans 8:18-23 and many other passages, that the Creator wasn't "caught off guard" by man's stupidity or Satan's scheming. He was well aware of it all. If He knew all this; if He knew that the consequences of Adam and Eve's choice would bring so much pain and suffering to the world, what possible purpose might He have in allowing all this to happen? Is He a sadist? Why not start all over? Just kill Adam and Eve and try again. But He allowed civilization to continue and according to the church, His decision to allow them to propagate will result in billions of people going to a place He prepared in which the vast majority of mankind will suffer far beyond the original curse of "eating bread in the sweat of your face and returning back to dust." Let us see what possible benefit might come from the course mankind was plunged into.
The Purposes of Suffering
& "Cursed is the ground for your sake!" If we look at this scripture in a superficial way, it doesn't seem to make sense. Why would He curse the ground for my sake? The city of Sodom provides the answer. Most of us think of homosexuality and sexual depravity as the sin of Sodom. But God says in Ezekiel 16:49, "Look, this was the iniquity of your sister Sodom; She and her daughter had pride, fullness of food, and abundance of idleness; neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. And they were haughty and committed abomination before Me; therefore I took them away as I saw fit." Please note that God will eventually return Sodom to her former estate (Ezekiel 16:53-63). Idleness of time, not devoted to helping the poor and needy leads to degeneration. Look at the Western world and you will begin to see Sodom's condition magnified and for the same reasons! And so lack of provision can keep us too busy to create systems like Sodom.
& To develop gratefulness: I could write on this subject for days, but I must be brief. Prior to my coming into fellowship with our Creator, I was one of the most selfish people on earth. I felt I deserved to be on top of the world. I had the brains, strength, and manipulative abilities to get what I wanted and I lived in a country which would allow me to step on as many heads as I needed to get where I wanted to go. I felt I earned everything I got and as a result, I was not grateful for anything. I earned it all. Why should I be grateful to anyone? Fortunately, God did not have to take all of it away before he showed me how ungrateful I was. The attitude of feeling that everything you have belongs to you because you earned it and therefore deserve it, is an attitude built on pride. It will most surely come down. Why? Well, the scriptures have a lot to say about pride, all in the negative. One day we will all learn, one way or another, that all things belong to Him and He does with them as He pleases.
& To learn we are our brothers keepers: To discover that we need each other, God has to allow penalties to exist to show what happens when we don't care for each other. It seems mankind has a long way to go to fully learn this important truth.
& To bring us back to God: God has separated us from Him really only in our minds: Apart from His existence we could not take the next breath. Very often at the height of our pain here on earth we cry out to Him and He answers. When things go well, there is a tendency to go our own way, ignoring His existence and right to intervene in our lives. Unsolvable problems which cause much suffering often turn our attention back to Him. My problem of alcoholism is what brought me as an atheist to cry out to Him. I didn't really believe He existed but I had no other place to go so I cried out, He heard and He answered me. I was given a complete deliverance from alcoholism instantaneously.
Most of the rest of the reasons why the world is full of suffering can really only be appreciated by those who God has revealed Himself to. Most of you reading this publication have had a personal encounter with Jesus Christ. To fully appreciate the purposes listed below, one must have had a personal revelation from the Savior of the World through the Spirit He sends. The intellect cannot truly grasp the realm of the spirit wherein is true reality.
& To learn to live for the will of God: "Therefore, since Christ suffered in His body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because He Who suffered in His body is done with sin. As a result, He does not live the rest of His earthly life for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God. For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do.--live in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry. They think it strange that you do not plunge with them into the same dissipation, and they heap abuse on you. But they will have to give an account to Him Who is ready to judge the living and the dead." (1 Peter 4:1-5) Our past suffering from sinful living has shown us there is no life apart from God.
& To make room for God's vengeance: "Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and finally say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven." (Matt. 5:11,12) "Everyone who wants to live a Godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil men and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived." (2 Tim. 3:12) "Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, 'Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,' says the Lord. Therefore 'If your enemy hungers, feed him; if he thirsts, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.' Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good."
& For purification of carnal man: "If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. The Lord will judge His people. It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God." (Heb. 10:26-39) "It is actually reported that there is a sexual immorality among you, and such sexual immorality as is not even named among Gentiles . . . deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus." (1 Cor. 5:1,5)
& For testing and establishing our faith: "In this you greatly rejoice, though now you may have to suffer grief in all kinds of trials, these have come so that your faith--of greater worth than gold, which perishes, even though refined by fire--may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ in revealed. Though you have not seen Him, you love Him; and even though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and are filled with inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls." (1 Peter 1:6-8; NIV)
& To qualify for reigning with Him. "If we suffer, we shall also reign with Him." (2 Tim. 2:25)
& As a testimony of God's power in us and for His power to be made perfect in us. (See 2 Cor. 11:16-12:10)
& To prevent us from becoming prideful because of our revelations, gifts, etc. "And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure." (2 Cor. 12:7)
& To help us learn obedience: "During the day's of Jesus life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the One Who could save Him from death, and He was heard because of his reverent submission. Although He was a son, He learned obedience from what He suffered and, once made perfect, He became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey Him and He was designated by God to be high priest in the order of Melchizedek." (Heb. 5:7,8)
& To make us more fruitful: "I am the true vine and My father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in Me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit He trims clean so that it will be even more fruitful." (John 15:2)
& As preparation for future ministry: The scriptures are full of examples of the great suffering and persecution our Father's servants went through before He used them. A look into the lives of Joseph, Moses, David, and Paul will reveal that suffering even at the hands of your own friends and family is necessary to be a servant of the most High God.
& Suffering produces perseverance. "We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. (Rom. 5:3)
& That we may share in His Holiness. It produces righteousness and peace. "Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline) then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. Moreover, we have respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in His Holiness. No Discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it."
& For the glory of God. "Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped His feet with her hair. So the sisters sent word to Jesus, 'Lord, the one You love is sick.' When He heard this He said, "This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God's glory so that God's Son may be glorified through it.'" (John 11:1-4) Lazarus died and Jesus raised him up 4 days later.
& For our glory. "For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all."(2 Cor. 4:17)
& That we might aid those who are tempted. "For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted. (Hebrews 2:18)
& That we might learn to love unconditionally. "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 'For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do so? Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect." (Matt. 5:43-48)
A final thought by Derek Calder:
"If there's a God, why is there so much pain and suffering in the world?"
Such is one of the classic questions of the unbeliever which, in one form or another, most Christians have been confronted with and struggled to answer.
I believe that those who have been granted a revelation of the reconciliation of all through Christ have a distinct advantage in formulating an answer to this sincerely difficult query. For their answer can at least explain that the suffering experienced in this world will end and eventually all will be soothed and compensated. And they can also show that the suffering and pain experienced in this walk on Earth is a part of God's purpose to teach us the evil consequences of sin and selfishness, and will result in the race being perfected, able to choose good over evil with full knowledge of the consequences.
Yet there is an ancillary question that still lingers:
"Why do some (whether members of the ecclesia/church, or unbelievers) in this life suffer greatly, even through no direct sin of their own, while others, including some who sin greatly, suffer little?"
This inequity of suffering seems, upon first blush, to conflict with the fairness of God. Furthermore, it raises this problem: how could any single person amongst this various mass of individuals ever hope to experience and learn ALL of the lessons of sin? Would not an unbeliever who lived a long, comfortable life, loved by friends and relatives, neither sinning greatly nor ever feeling the corresponding conviction, be, upon his eventual reconciliation to God, eternally deficient in his PERSONAL experience of sin (and the corresponding wisdom gained by such)?
Yet I believe that God has begun to show me an answer to these difficulties. The answer is contained in passages like these:
"Bear one another's burdens..."
"There is ONE body
"Bear with one another in love..."
"so that the body of Christ may be built up
until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ."
"I pray that they may be one, as you and I are one."
"The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body."
In other words, it is through our unity with each other that the experiences of individuals become the experience, lessons, and wisdom of all! Yes, by God's sovereign decree and plan, we all go through various degrees of pain and suffering in this world; some less, some more so. But by the incredible unity that is, first of all, for the ecclesia, and eventually, for ALL, we are privileged to be able to BEAR (experience, identify with, participate in) with Christ ALL of mankind's burdens and so ALL of humanity will learn the full measure of the sickness of sin, and even better, the full redemption and contrasting grace and love of our Father! When we are all become truly one body in Christ, knit together, there will no longer be an issue of fairness for the things suffered in this world: each will identify, truly EMPATHIZING, with one another, each helping to bear the other's pain. The lessons and wisdom gained from the experience of the world's full history of sin will be everyone's to share.
This thought is awesome to me even as I write. It gives new meaning to "unity" and "bearing with one another in love"! It puts "love one another" in a new perspective: we are all one! Our brother's pain should be our own! We should take our sister's burden as seriously as if it were our own! And our gracious Father will help us to bear it all, to walk through it all, in the strength of His grace!
Most precious Father, help us to renew our commitment to our brothers and sisters! Let us grow into the unity that you share with Your Son Jesus! Let us, as ones who have been undeservedly blessed with many blessings, and undeservedly spared much of the pain that is common to mankind, seek to ease the load of others by identifying with and helping them to bear their pain and suffering! Guide us into the good works that you've prepared from before the world was laid! May your Love and Grace flow from us
unblemished and undiminished!
Praise be to our Father, and to our Lord!
"...I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.
Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.
Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.
There is one body and one Spirit-- just as you were called to one hope when you were called--
one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all."
May we learn to identify ourselves with our brothers and sisters in all things, and so attain the fullness of the unity the Father has planned for us in Christ!