Why does God allow suffering?

The last few years have been difficult for many of us as we’ve lost near and dear ones to Covid. We’ve been hearing a lot of calamities across the world, storms, earthquakes and much more. These are all external events that have brought pain, misery and suffering on top of the everyday struggles we experience personally. There’s illness, broken relationships, heartache, abuse, betrayal, sorrow, disappointment, anxiety. And the obvious question we ask ourselves is
“Why me? Why now?”

Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.

1 Corinthians 13:12

In our current state we may not see things clearly, we may not understand or comprehend the situation we are in and sometimes we never will. It may be difficult to understand things from our finite perspective. But there are some things that help me when the “why” question comes up.

God is not the creator of suffering

We’ve been blest with free will and so much of the world’s suffering results from the sinful action or inaction of ourselves and others. For example, people look at a famine and wonder where God is, but the world produces enough food for each person to have 3,000 calories a day. It’s our own irresponsibility and self-centeredness that prevents people from getting fed. And then there are things like wildfires, earthquakes, cyclones and hurricanes that cause suffering. But these, too, are the indirect result of our choices in dealing with nature. Through the pandemic, the world added 607 new billionaires or more than three billionaires in two days, while India added 55 new billionaires or one billionaire every week whilst data has shown that 170,000 people lost their jobs every hour in the month of April 2020

The question we may ask is “Couldn’t He have foreseen all this?”. Oh yes, He definitely did. There is this beautiful analogy of parents that comes to mind. Even before having kids, parents ponder over the possibility of pain, disappointment, heartache. Their kids may one day leave them, walk away from them, dump them in a home for the aged. But they still had kids because they also knew of the potential for tremendous joy and deep love and great meaning. The analogy is far from perfect but it does help me understand that despite knowing all that we would do, He still bestowed on us free will.

God fulfils His purpose through our pain

When I look back at my own life, I clearly see the hand of God at every stage. He takes the negative circumstances of our life and creates something good from them. He is able to work through offenses to fulfill His purposes in your life and in the world. He may use our suffering to draw us to Himself, to mold and sharpen our character, to influence others for Him. He can draw something good from our pain in a myriad of ways … if we trust Him to work all things together for good.

I remember a very touching story that I read in one of the editions of Chicken Soup for the Soul.

LONDON – JULY 5, 1975: Arthur Ashe of the USA holds up the championship trophy for men’s singles of the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships after defeating Jimmy Connors 6-1, 6-1, 5-7, 6-4 July 5, 1975 at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club in London, England. (Photo by Focus On Sport/Getty Images)

The legendary Wimbledon Player, Arthur Ashe, was dying of AIDS, which he got due to Infected Blood he received during a Heart Surgery in 1983! During his illness, he received letters from his fans, one of which conveyed:  

Why did God have to select you for such a bad disease?

To this Arthur Ashe replied : 
⁃ 50 Million children started playing Tennis, 
⁃ 5 Million learnt to play Tennis, 
⁃ 500 000 learnt Professional Tennis, 
⁃ 50 Thousand came to Circuit, 
⁃ 5 Thousand reached Grand Slam, 
⁃ 50 reached Wimbledon, 
⁃ 4 reached the Semifinals, 
⁃ 2 reached the Finals
and when I was holding the cup in my hand, I never asked God:
“Why Me?”  

So now that I’m in pain how can I ask God:“Why Me?”

The next time the going gets tough, instead of “Why me?” let’s Trust Him, Flex our Faith and strive to say “Try me!

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