I don’t get a lot of questions about religion, but a few months ago, one of my best friends asked me, “If your God is so great and merciful, why does he allow suffering and pain and hurt in the world?”
A real stumper, that one.
Sometimes people try to trip us up with questions about the bible that don’t frankly make sense even to us. But this one, luckily for me, was a question I too had been pondering. The answer is a lot longer, but a lot simpler, than I would have thought. Let’s take a look at a few verses.
Jeremiah 29:11 says “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”
Romans 5:3-5 expands on this, saying, “More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”
So God uses pain and suffering to inspire us, mainly, to do better for ourselves and the world. No matter what happens to us in the real world, God has a wonderful plan for us, be it tomorrow or in ten years. He puts these trials in front of us to test our faith. It’s up to us to power through these obstacles, and to ask God for help doing so. Ask, and you shall receive.
James 1:2-5 says it this way, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.”
Let’s make this crystal clear: God did not create evil and suffering. Now, it’s true that he did create the potential for evil to enter the world because that was the only way to create the potential for genuine goodness and love. But it was human beings, in our free will, who brought that potential evil into reality.
God allows pain and suffering and evil because He has a plan. The end result is that He is redeeming and restoring all the evil, pain and suffering of this sin-sick world. He will set all things right in the end. The last chapter of the Bible makes it clear that there is a happy ending to what is NOT a fairy tale. What started out as a Three-Personed holy hug of the Father, Son and Spirit loving each other, while still remaining one God, will be a hugely enlarged circle of love that includes millions, ns possibly billions of people. People God made in His image, marked "Mine," and drew them into the divine circle to love and be loved forever.
Heavenly Father, help me through my times of trouble, for I know it is only through my everlasting faith in You that I can endure Your trials. I know You have a glorious plan set for me. So I give you all that I am. If I lose hope, remind me that Your plans are better than my dreams. I’m trusting You, now and forever. Amen.