Listen: Chris Witts presents Morning Devotions.
By Chris WittsWednesday 10 Nov 2021Morning Devotions with Chris WittsDevotionsReading Time: 4 minutes
It is very distressing to hear horrible stories of people suffering, especially when it’s no fault of their own. How do you feel with this word ‘suffer’?—ugh! We don’t like that word very much.
We often speak to each other about our successes, but how often do we share our sufferings? Not much at all. But when we hear of a 10-year-old girl dying from brain tumour, or a 38-year-old father of three kids dying of stomach cancer? And the car accident that kills people on a regular basis? It becomes very personal when we know relatives or close friends who have to attend the funeral service.
Jerry Sittser went through his own hell one day in a car accident in the US which claimed three generations of his family—his mother, his wife, and a young daughter were tragically killed one day. It was horrible, senseless and puzzling. A 1991 head-on collision one night claimed three lives plus the wife of the drunk driver—four people in total wiped out. The emotional pain for Jerry was unbearable as he had to continue living the best way he could, arranging three funerals—his wife, mother, and daughter. He was the victim of a terrible and senseless tragedy.
Why does God let people suffer?
We each will need to handle some kind of suffering in our lifetime. Some is inevitable. But what about others like terminal illness, disability, divorce, rape, emotional and physical abuse, mental illness, and unexpected death? Suffering can be so random. And if you’ve had this type, I am sorry. I think it’s natural to ask a personal question in the midst of all this: Why does God let people suffer so much pain? What was God doing letting this happen? Couldn’t he have stopped the drunk driver?
Welcome to this complex and difficult topic—the riddle of suffering. This difficult topic has been talked about for centuries. In later years, Lee Strobel, author of The Case for Faith, commissioned George Barna, the pollster, to conduct a national survey in which he asked a scientifically selected cross-section of adults: If you could ask God only one question and you knew he would give you an answer, what would you ask? The top response, offered by 17%, was, Why is there pain and suffering in the world?
For many people, this is the question that keeps them from God. How could a good and loving God allow so much suffering and pain and death and horror? They give up their faith in anger and disgust. The question has been around for centuries and has been argued by great philosophers and theologians. The argument revolves around the nature of God and the presence of suffering. How can God be both good and powerful and suffering exist? I can’t really give you a comprehensive answer in four-and-a-half minutes.
A time with no more suffering
The Bible tells me that right back at the beginning of creation, God saw everything he had made, and thought it was very good. (Genesis 1:31). But Adam and Eve—our first parents—rebelled and rejected God, and this caused a huge problem. They wanted to go their own way. And God’s response was like this: If you want to do life without me, then it will cost you your lives. But that is the choice you have to make. So when humans got out of step with the creator God, it was not just men and women who were affected, but the whole world.
God still keeps the world going, but things are not as they should be. We told him to get lost. Death, sin and suffering have entered our world. The whole world was cursed—perfect creation was stained and broken by our sin. We live in an imperfect and fallen world where diseases kill and disasters happen randomly. Lots of suffering is the result of living in an imperfect, fallen world. Sickness, accidents and death occur all the time.
That’s the way it is—our universe is out of whack with its Creator. But there is a time coming when things get better. The New Testament says in Revelation:
God will make his home among his people. He will wipe all tears from their eyes, and there will be no more death, suffering, crying or pain. These things of the past are gone forever. (Revelation 21:3-4 – CEV)
For now, God understands your pain. He suffered—God allowed his own Son Jesus Christ to be murdered by the Romans; a brutal crucifixion at Calvary. Jesus died for you and me. So God knows the pain of unanswered questions, like the riddle of suffering.
Christianity invites you into a loving relationship with God who loves and understands your loss. He brings comfort to those who suffer today because he has been there too.