Why is There Suffering?

Why? This one word question haunts humanity and is usually accompanied by a deluge of questions. Why is there suffering? Why do bad things happen to good people? Why?

If we had to take a stab at providing an answer for this question, it would have something to do with love and freedom. God wanted a love relationship with mankind and in order to have that – he had to give us the freedom to choose. Choices have consequences.

Doesn’t really answer the question, does it?

That’s why we love the words of Paul.  This guy suffered. He was beaten and imprisoned. He didn’t have an easy life. He deserved to stumble over this question, and yet he said:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7

In all the wonderings of life only God provides peace that transcends understanding, peace that does not require understanding. Paul knew first hand that much of life is outside the scope of our ability to understand.

Instead of getting stuck on – Why do bad things happen to good people? – it may prove more helpful to ask a different question. “What do good people do when bad things happen?”

There are no easy answers to this question either, but we have a few observations to share:

  1. We all suffer loss – Pain and suffering is widespread in the human condition. Some loss is the natural flow of life. Some losses are unwarranted. Some are catastrophic.  Jesus told his followers, “In this world you will have trouble.”  Trouble knocks on every door. Jesus went on to say, “But take heart! I have overcome the world.”  (John 16:33) As painful as our losses are, they are not the end of the story.
  2. We can choose how we respond – Victor Frankel was a Holocaust survivor. He suffered more than most of us can fathom and yet he wrote of how the power of choice sustained him.  No matter what his captors did on the outside, they couldn’t take away his freedom to respond. The inner world is ours to choose.
  3. We can know God is with us – Christianity stands unique among the world’s religions in that our God took on flesh and walked among us. Our Savior suffered. He identifies with us in our pain and loss. He is Emmanuel, God with us.
  4. We can allow God to expand us – Pain can be transformed into perseverance in the hands of God. The very things we thought would destroy us can become our catalyst for growth. (James 1:2-4) Amazingly, our journey through the difficulties of life can bring hope to others. (2 Corinthians 1:4)
  5. We can trust God to bring good – We have an amazing promise in Romans 8:28 that in all things, God is able somehow to work for our good.  That is not to say the suffering is good. God is good. He alone can redeem and restore all that has been lost. Our future in heaven is not the consolation prize for the life we never had on earth, it is a restoration of the life we dreamed of having.

This is the first in a series of six messages addressing the biggest questions on the planet. Please join us at the North campus Sundays at 9 or 11 or at the South campus at 9, 10:45 or 12:30. Join a small group where you can discuss this series in depth. We may not have all the answers but we can work through the questions together.

This is Part 1 of a series
Click to read Part 2 How Do I Grow in Faith?