Why does God let people suffer?

Whitney Hopler

Suffering is an unavoidable reality in this fallen world. God never causes suffering; it's a byproduct of sin that has infected creation. Sometimes God intervenes in human affairs to alleviate suffering, but sometimes He allows suffering to take place. God knows how hard suffering is; He had to endure a great deal of it when He came to Earth as Jesus. But sometimes suffering accomplishes purposes that wouldn't be fulfilled otherwise.

Here are some reasons why God lets people suffer:

  • Suffering often motivates people to seek God, and as they draw close to Him, they can understand Him better. Often people won't pay attention to God unless they're suffering and are acutely aware of their need for Him. Turning to God can open the door to strength, courage and miracles.
  • When people make wrong choices, God allows them to live with the just consequences of those choices - which often means suffering. God is righteous, and a loving parent to all people. Like any good parent, He disciplines those He loves to help them grow. God will forgive anyone who seeks His forgiveness, but He won't always remove painful circumstances that wrong choices have created. Choosing to follow God's guidance leads to a life of peace, and even joy.
  • People's wrong choices affect not just them, but also many others. Victims of other people's sin can turn to God in prayer and trust Him to bring good out of bad situations.
  • Suffering helps people identify with Jesus, who suffered greatly during His life on Earth. Suffering helps people develop compassion. Studying how Jesus responded to suffering will help people face life's harsh blows, and emerge stronger from them.
  • God often uses people's suffering to comfort others, who can be encouraged by observing or hearing about those experiences.
  • God often builds people's faith when they observe and hear testimonies of how people have been drawn closer to Him through suffering. Other people can catch glimpses of God's power and mercy, and be inspired by how people who are suffering trust God.  
  • Suffering broadens people's perspectives so they can see some of how God views situations. Suffering focuses attention on the contrasts between this world and life in heaven.  
  • Suffering puts faith into practice, leading to deeper trust in God.  

-- By Whitney Hopler

Adapted from Why God Lets People Suffer, copyright 2000 by Nancy C. Gaughan. Published by Magnus Press, Carlsbad, Calif., 1-800-463-7818.

Nancy C. Gaughan is a Bible study teacher and speaker. A Messianic Jew, she writes and speaks through His Truth Ministries.



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