How a God Who is Good Allows Suffering
A common concept that Christians often struggle with is the idea that God, who is indeed good and just, allows suffering in this world. Unfortunately, many are unable to defend their beliefs when asked this important question. Unbelievers would say that a God who allows suffering is contradictory and therefore proves that there is no God — this is why it is so important as believers that we know how to respond. The answer to this question stems from understanding how God relates to His creation and how He uses suffering in this world for the good of those who trust in Him.
Man in Relation to God
C. S. Lewis, my all-time favorite author, summarizes this whole idea in the best way possible. In his book, The Problem of Pain, he says:
“Man is not the center. God does not exist for the sake of man. Man does not exist for his own sake. “Thou hast created all things, and for their pleasure, they are and were created.” We were made not primarily that we may love God (though we were made for that too) but that God may love us, that we may become objects in wh ich the divine love may rest “well pleased.””
When a person asks how a good God can allow suffering, they are implying that all things exist for man’s own sake. In other words, they assume that man is at the center of things. However, I believe that this is not the case — we exist for the glory of God, not ours. But God is love, and as C. S. Lewis wrote, we were also created so that God may love us. I believe that when we suffer, especially as Christians, God uses it for our good because He loves us.
How God Uses Suffering
The Lord sanctifies His people — not merely by His Word in Scripture and through the preaching of His Word, but also by discipline. In one of my favorite psalms, Psalm 103, David states, “As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him.” A father loves his children in many ways, and not all of them are very pleasant. It is the same with God — His purpose for us in our affliction is not simply to punish us for our sins. My pastor, Chuck Rennie, said in a sermon that God has three purposes in our suffering. 1) That we may learn more about ourselves. We are completely poor and needy, and we rely on God for everything that we have. 2) That we might know Him better — God is our Help and Deliverer, and through our suffering, we can actually experience that ourselves. 3) Lastly, God intends that our affliction teaches us how to view our lives in this world. The earth is not our permanent home — as Christians, we are pilgrims, slowly running the race set before us to our true Home in Heaven, where there will be no suffering.
Through our suffering, God intends to sanctify us and strengthen our faith in the One who keeps His promises. God desires that we grow in our love for Him because He first loved us. In all of our trials, God truly is completely in control — and not only does He afflicts us for His own glory, but out of His grace, mercy, and love, He does it for our own good.