The problem of pain and suffering is probably the greatest cause for people losing faith. That makes sense. It does seem like a good God who is also an all-powerful God should snuff out suffering and prevent it from ever happening. Terrible things happen to some really wonderful people, and it doesn’t always make sense. So how can we continue to live by faith and trust in God?
The existence of suffering comes down to these three realities:
- We are not robots. God created us with freewill. Every Christian believes this (not only Arminians). It is incredibly ironic to criticize God for allowing suffering while also shaking your fist at him and telling him to stay out of your life. You can’t have it both ways… God gave us responsibility, and we need to own that.
- We make a train wreck of our lives and of the world. Pointing all the way back to the first humans, Adam and Eve, we have a way of choosing sin over righteousness. We aren’t as sinful as we could be, but we are all sinners and that has effected everything in our world: our relationship with God, with others, with ourselves, and with nature. We know things aren’t “the way they’re supposed to be,” but our efforts often make things worse, not better. God must intervene somehow.
- God has a greater dream for our lives than we could imagine for ourselves. While we try to define a successful life by our bank account, or family, or power, or influence, or whatever… God has a greater dream for us. The truth is, our dream is not too big for God, but too small! Because of sin, there will be a day of judgment to make things right, and suffering is often God’s warning light calling us to repentance now before it’s too late.
Here’s were suffering comes into play:
- It remind us we were made for more than the promises and comforts of this world. They shout at us, “WAKE UP!” when we are lulled to sleep by the worldly promises. They warn us constantly, because this life, this body, this world is not our greatest treasure.
- It demonstrates to others that our hope and peace and joy is in God, not in our comfort of worldly success. Because Jesus is greater than anything this world offers or promises, we endure suffering differently. We still suffer, and we don’t minimize it… but we suffer with hope that our suffering will one day be swallowed up by glory. Will we still trust God and worship him when we suffer, or only when he gives us what we want? Because Jesus is our treasure (not this world), we often experience joy and peace even in the midst of great suffering.
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him,
who have been called according to his purpose.”
Remember that “the good” that God works through our suffering isn’t our comfort or easiness… but the eternal inheritance we receive by faith. God causes all things to work together to draw his children deeper into their eternal hope and away from worldly false-hope… and suffering is often the way he does that.
This does NOT mean we should assign blame, as if our suffering is always God’s specific warning. This world has fallen under the curse of sin, therefore we suffer. If you are suffering, be careful about drawing conclusions like, “I’m suffering because _______.” Instead, recognize that suffering flows from our fallen and broken world that is crying out for God’s restoration… and allow your suffering to fuel your hope and longing also.
“Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,”for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children.”