Why does God allow suffering, which He could prevent, thus making our lives happier?

J. Carl Laney, Professor, Western Seminary

Editor's Note: The following excerpt is taken from Dr. Laney's book, Answers to Tough Questions.

The Bible teaches that "God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose" (Rom. 8:28). It is reassuring to know that when God allows suffering, which He could prevent, He is accomplishing something good. Some of the good things God can accomplish through our suffering are as follows: building endurance and perseverance into our lives (James 1:3, Rom. 5:3), helping us grow in Christian maturity (James 1:4), proving our godly character (Rom. 5:4), developing Christ-likeness (Rom. 8:28-29), helping us grow in personal holiness (Heb.12:10), and giving us the assurance that we are His children (Heb. 12:7-8). We may not see the good that God is accomplishing. But we can be confident that His eternal purposes are being fulfilled through our trials. Sometimes the dark threads are as needful as the threads of gold and silver in the pattern God has planned. But someday, he will unroll the tapestry of our lives and we will see the beautiful work God has accomplished, partly through suffering. It is important to keep an eternal perspective when going through suffering. Paul wrote, "For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal" (2 Cor. 4:17-18).

God recognizes that sometimes greater glory will come to His name by permitting evil rather than disallowing it altogether. It is hard to understand from a human and earthly perspective why God will sometimes allow human suffering for the purpose of bringing greater glory to Himself. But if the purpose of our lives is to glorify God (1 Cor. 10:31), then we will accept suffering gladly to more adequately exhibit the greatness of our God. 

Dr. J. Carl Laney is Professor of Biblical Literature at Western Seminary in Portland, OR. For more biblical resources by Dr. Laney, please visit www.carllaney.com.

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