Why Does God Let People Suffer?

oklahomatornadoAttempting to answer this question is tricky, so let’s get one thing straight right up front: For any question that begins with …Why does God, the correct answer is I don’t know. That is the correct answer for everyone to give – me, you, your pastor, and Franklin Graham. Now, we may choose to speculate somewhat based on things we are taught in the Bible. The better Biblical reference we have for the topic at hand, the more credible the speculation. For example, if the question is Why do I exist, I can quote Revelation 4:11 in providing a reasonably Bible-based answer that you exist because it was God’s good pleasure to create you, like it or not. Give me a four-year old child’s response to that answer and ask me …Why did it please God to create me, however, and I am right back at I don’t know.

I can speculate based on certain scriptures, though. The Bible tells us we were created in God’s image. That must mean we are like him in certain facets of our being. Personally, I have never had the desire to have children – but I have known people who have. If I had given those people a doll with a pull-string that says I love you, it would not have satisfied their desire for children. Apparently, God is the same way. It is reasonable to assume He wanted real children who freely choose to love Him.

This necessitates that we possess free will. God wanted to make real people who have free will. Angels, too. It is, therefore, inevitable that some of us will choose to exercise our free will in acts of rebellion. Angels, too. So, you get what we have now. There is no other way. To have real love there must be free will, and where there is free will rebellion must inevitably exist side by side with real love. Where you have rebellion you have conflict, undesired consequences, and, ultimately, suffering as a result.

Can God eliminate all suffering? Yes, and someday He will, but as a reward for His intelligent creations who choose to love him. There will be a separation in the end. Those of us who love Him and place ourselves under subjection to His will are going to have the temptation of rebellion removed from us someday. It is important to understand that this is something we want. It is, therefore, truly a reward. Those who do not want this will not receive it. Our free will is ultimately respected. Unfortunately, those who choose rebellion haven’t thought the situation through. When the rebellious are separated from the loving, and are left with only their rebellion for all eternity, they may very well come to realize that what they wanted was not so desirable after all. But it will be too late.

In the meantime, we have suffering here on earth, which is the result of rebellion. It cannot be eliminated without infringing upon our free will. Those of us who submit to God want part of our free will removed; that rebellious part of us we hate so much, the part that results in suffering.

But God is also merciful, here in real time as well as in the eternity to follow. Prayer has tangible consequences which can be observed now. The Bible tells us this, and encourages us to pray. God steps in and alters many details in the lives of many as a result of prayer. If He didn’t, there would be no point to making supplications to God. An immeasurable amount of suffering has been relieved as the direct result of specific prayers.

I recently gave a eulogy at  my best friend’s memorial service. This guy was only 47 when he died. The last 3-4 years of his life were marked by tremendous suffering. He had Multiple Sclerosis, the worst kind. The last two years of his life were spent in a nursing home, bedridden, kept alive by a surgically-implanted feeding tube through his naval. He was not allowed to have any food or drink, at all. So, the poor guy could not even have a drink of water to relieve his dry mouth. Through it all, he still confessed faith in Christ. Being in his mid-forties, the horrible thought of him continuing like this for another forty years or more was unbearable to me. I prayed for healing many times, but then I started asking the Lord to either heal him or take him home. I believe the Lord answered my prayer and mercifully ended his suffering.

Now that my friend is in heaven, I see the good in all of this. He went through a divorce and the breakup of his family shortly before being diagnosed with the disease, and had turned to destructive behavior as a result. He started hanging out with bad people and doing drugs. It is quite possible this entire MS thing happened as a way to save him from himself. It was all over in just a few years’ time, looking back, and at the funeral God gave me words to say which just rocked the house (including an invitation to accept Christ). Things that seem terrible to us now, which we cannot understand, will become clear one day. Many people can testify to having wonderful things happen in their lives as a result of their most difficult trials. If we all had the proper perspective on things, we should all be more than willing to give our lives up if others would get saved as a result. This life is short.

Prayer changes things. God is merciful. Rebellion has created a hostile environment here on earth, but this is all necessary in order for God to have real children – the kind He wanted to have. The suffering we see around us is all because of man’s rebellion, but it can be eased, and much of it is, through prayer and faith. Psalm 64:9 reminds us that one day we will all agree with everything God has done, and marvel over it.

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