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Why does God allow suffering? This is a question that has plagued mankind through millenia. From illness to natural disasters, it seems like there are always things happening in the world that seem, to us, to be unfair or hurtful.
With every act of creation in Genesis 1, except the Sabbath which was called “holy”, we read that God saw that it was “good”. So if creation was good, why would God allow it to suffer? Why is death allowed to occur? Why does an evil enemy exist if creation was “good”?
The Bible tells us of a God who, through our own acts of adversity and rebellion, has been relentless in drawing us toward Himself. However, many people have trouble reconciling a God who loves us with a God who allows us to go through pain and illness and death.
So does suffering mean God doesn’t care or that God does not exist? Absolutely not! Read on to learn 7 ways to maintain faith in God during times of pain and suffering, especially in chronic illness and pain!
Does God Not Care That We Suffer?
When we go through suffering of any kind, one of the most common questions people ask is “does God not care about what I am going through”?
Well, it’s clear from His Word and what we know of Him that He cares, but it is difficult at times to feel that when you are in pain constantly.
However, there are different ways to look at that question and see what WE REALLY mean by it. Are we asking “Does God not care?” or are we really asking if God doesn’t care in the way we would like?
In other words, ‘does God not care to respond to this in the way I think He should?’.
First and foremost, does God want good things for us?
Yes! Of course He does! God created us for good things and for us to be in relationship with Him.
He would never want anything bad to happen to us. But He created a world where free will is given and sometimes our choices lead us to things like illness, suffering or devastation; if not as a result of our own actions then potentially as the result of someone else’s.
Our Choices Matter
For instance, my parents smoked all through my childhood; in the house, in the car, etc. If I had ended up with asthma or even cancer when I get older, I cannot blame God for that.
My father passed away from emphysema when I was 21. That was not neither God’s will nor His doing but it was a direct result of my father’s choices in his younger years of life; being a smoker. Unfortunately, when he realized he should quit, it was too late. The damage had already begun.
I cannot blame God for taking my beloved father from me and the suffering I went through losing a father so young. God certainly did not purpose for my father to be a smoker.
Yes, it is tragic and yes it hurts like heck but it was a result of choices made, not an act of God.
We have choices in life and sometimes we make poor ones which DO result in suffering and pain.
And those choices can affect our children and their children and even further down the line.
Sometimes we enter into rebellion against God and make really careless choices that cause us to suffer consequences throughout life.
Rebellion against God may not cause God to punish you (in some cases, like Jonah, that could happen!) but it MAY cause you to suffer the natural consequences of your actions.
When we are in deliberate rebellion against God in our lives, we cannot blame Him for what we go through as a result. He can redeem us from any sin but it doesn’t mean we won’t still have pain as a result of it.
Again, if we are rebellious and commit sexual sin, we may have some consequences later on in life from those actions. We may experience an unexpected pregnancy, an illness, etc.
If we understand that God doesn’t always “fix” what’s going on, it is an opportunity for us to learn from our actions and possibly be able to prevent further pain and teach our children (and others) as well.
Does God Allow Suffering?
Sometimes yes, God may permit suffering. We can see that in the Book of Job. But allowing something and willing it are two different things.
Sometimes suffering is needed in order to prevent further suffering or suffering on a grander scale.
We could put this in relation to a parent who, for their own good, might prevent a child from participating in a sport or going out on a weekend trip with friends because of something they have done.
For a teenager, this IS suffering, albeit not physical. But it is to teach a lesson that certain behavior will result in punitive action.
So sometimes we go through some degree of suffering, ranging from mild inconvenience to a real punitive action because we have not heeded God’s Word.
Why Does God Allow Suffering in Chronic Illness and Pain?
So aside from some sort of teachable moment or punitive action, why does God allow the pain you are going through in chronic illness?
Why does God allow us to go through agonizing pain that makes us feel as though we don’t even want to go on another day?
My friend, I know that pain. I know what it is like to wake up in the morning and dread putting your feet on the floor.
My Own Suffering and Pain
I have been dealing with pain and illness since 2013.
It started with some minor back pain and I was diagnosed with spondylolisthesis in my lumbar vertebrae. That minor pain developed quickly into major pain just a few years later. It became so bad that I had to withdraw from school where I was planning on pursuing a nursing degree.
In 2019, I suffered an ischemic stroke and was hospitalized for a week and then had visiting nurses and occupational therapists at my house on a regular basis. I had to have a speech therapist to help me develop my ability to speak normally again.
As I was continuing to recover from the stroke, in July of 2019 I was hospitalized again for numbness on my left side. I was in the hospital for several days and then had to spend a week in a rehab facility as I had cervical spine damage. I had to have ACDF surgery in September of 2019 to fix that damage.
Even though the pressure on my spinal cord was relieved by the surgery, the pain persists.
I have also been diagnosed with C.diff three times since the fall of 2020. As I write this post, I am actively fighting this horrible infection that I contracted due to antibiotics a month ago.
I know what it is like to sit and cry because of a life of agonizing pain where you try so hard to be “normal” and do the things you normally do.
I know what it is like to try to keep your family running like it should, to try to be a good wife and mother or husband and father and yet feel like you are failing.
I know this sounds like little consolation when you are suffering greatly but God created you for a purpose in life and sometimes yes, that purpose is in our pain.
It doesn’t mean He CAUSES pain in order to use it, but He can take that which is broken and use it to help other people.
He is using my pain right this minute as I write to you.
A loving God would never take pleasure in our suffering and pain. The Bible tells us that He sees every tear we cry because in Revelation 21:4 it says:
If God, in the Olam Haba (the World to Come) wipes away every tear from our eyes then that means He sees them. He sees our faces. He sees our tears. He sees our pain. He sees our mourning, whether it be for the loss of a loved one or the loss of our own health and physical abilities.
He not only sees the tears we cry, but it pains Him so much that He personally wipes them away from our eyes.
This tells us He is a loving, caring Father who desires to give us a world with no pain or suffering or death. A world where we can live out His original purpose for us as people.If God, in the World to Come, wipes away every tear from our eyes then that means He sees them. He sees our tears. He sees our pain. Click To Tweet
God is Good But We Live in a Broken World
Facing personal pain and suffering leads many people to question the existence of an all-powerful, loving Creator. In some cases, these doubts can lead to abandoning their faith altogether.
We need not abandon our faith simply because we experience human limitations or hardships that are common among all people.
Rather than seeing God as being distant from us when difficulties arise, we should look upon Him with joy and gratitude for His abiding presence in spite of our struggles!
He gives us strength and courage to face what’s ahead–no matter how difficult it may seem at times.
God is good but this life is far from perfect.
He loves us and wants good things for us but the world is broken and in need of redemption. We may not yet know why He allows suffering and pain but we do know that God is with us through the good times and bad!
Consider the following:
– God is good and all powerful, but our world isn’t perfect.
– The Bible tells us that while it’s not always clear why He allows suffering and pain to happen in this earthly life, we know for certain that Yeshua can heal you spiritually when your faith (and physical health) wavers.
– Sometimes things are bad because of choices people make on earth–including sin or wrongdoing. Other times there may be a reason hidden from view that only God knows about at the present time which will come into the light one day when everything is made right again!
Whatever the case might be, as long as you’re still breathing, each new moment with Him offers another opportunity to trust His love and receive peace through His Spirit.
Even if it’s hard to believe in a loving God when you’re hurting and your life doesn’t make sense, remember that He wants the best for you.
Suffering Helps Us Learn Compassion and Empathy
We can often find it difficult to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes and even believers in Yeshua can struggle with showing compassion and empathy to others when we can’t identify with their pain.
We have all experienced that friend, co-worker, boss, that, at best, had a difficult time understanding our pain and our illness or, at worst, had disdain for it. Maybe they thought we were using it as an excuse or that deep down we were just lazy.
When we go through various trials in life, it helps us develop that compassion and empathy for the hurts of others. Again, God may not cause our pain for that reason but He can use it to develop these spiritual traits in us.
The Talmud says that compassion is so central to the world that it is one of the 10 elements that the world was created through. (Chagigah 12a)
So it is not just a “feeling” or emotion but one of the foundations of existence.
The Problem of Evil
God did allow suffering in Job’s case but He did tell the enemy to keep his hands off Job’s life and the Lord restored everything Job had lost and then some.
In the face of evil, it’s easy to start doubting everything. You might think that there’s no point in continuing on with your faith when you’re suffering and in pain. Or perhaps you believe only an all-powerful God could stop what is happening around us and yet doesn’t – but then how can we ever trust Him?
Although He is a good God He may choose not to eliminate every bad thing from our lives.
He has His ways for dealing with them so we just need to keep looking toward Him and trusting Him as we strive towards goodness while living out our lives well here on earth, loving our neighbor as ourselves and loving God above all else.
We do not exist on this planet for our own pleasure nor have we been promised a life of ease without any pain.
We need to trust God and put the enemy out of our homes, our minds, our lives. We need to be a warrior and trust that God is the Potter and we are merely the clay and we were never promised a pain-free life this side of Heaven.
Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we are not wrestling with flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against rulers of darkness of this world, in spiritual hosts.We do not exist on this planet for our own pleasure nor have we been promised a life of ease without any pain. Click To Tweet
Trust that we worship a good God! The enemy wants you to curse God, to lose faith, to give up! I know! I have been there and I am still there but we have GOT to have faith!
The enemy brings death but Yeshua came so that we could have life! And until Yeshua returns there WILL be human suffering in this world.
7 Ways to Maintain Your Faith in Chronic Illness or Pain
- Read the Book of Job, Isaiah and the Psalms. These Books of the Bible are rich in their telling of God’s redemptive power. The first 40 chapters of Isaiah speak of the suffering of Israel and then the second part of Isaiah (referred to by scholars as 2nd Isaiah) speaks of reconciliation.
In these books you will see how God DOES in fact care. Suffering can help us see God at work in that reconciliation and healing and can help deepen relationship with Him.
- Start a blog, make videos on YouTube or write in a journal. Get your thoughts out there and find others with similar problems. Talking about your struggles and pain, sharing it with others and helping others can give purpose to your suffering.
- Pray daily for God to give you the strength and courage to face your illness. Pray for healing. Pray for God to put someone in your path that will help strengthen you, and to put people in your path that YOU can strengthen.
- Tell others in your faith community about what you are going through so they can pray for you too. Don’t feel as though you have to suffer in silence. God gave us community so we have brothers and sisters to pray for us.
- Find a church or faith community that will understand, love and support you no matter where life takes you. We need others around us. Isolation leads to depression.
- Keep in touch with your friends who know exactly how it feels like to go through chronic pain – don’t isolate yourself from them! They’re there because they care about YOU; not just someone else’s symptoms but YOUR SYMPTOMS TOO!
Share their burdens as well by listening when needed. If possible, try volunteering together (perhaps with an organization which helps people with chronic illness or pain).
- If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the presence of suffering – be it physical, emotional, spiritual – remind yourself that God has not abandoned us; He is close at hand to help when we ask Him for strength. We are never alone!
Romans 5:3-5 (ESV)
"Not only that, but 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."
1 Peter 4:13 (TLV)
"Instead, rejoice insofar as you share in the sufferings of Messiah, so that at the revelation of His glory you may also rejoice and be glad."
1 Peter 4:19 (TLV)
"So then, those who suffer according to God’s will—let them trust their souls to a faithful Creator while continuing to do good."
1 Corinthians 10:13 (ESV)
"No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it."
Psalm 119:71 (ESV)
"It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes."
Job 13:15 (TLV)
"Even if He slays me, I will wait for Him; I will surely defend my ways before Him."
Job 2:10 (TLV)
"He said to her, 'You speak as any foolish woman would speak. Should we accept the good from God and not accept the bad?'"
Isaiah 55:8-9 (CJB)
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, and your ways are not my ways,” says Adonai.
“As high as the sky is above the earth are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
James 1:2-4 (CJB)
"Regard it all as joy, my brothers, when you face various kinds of temptations; for you know that the testing of your trust produces perseverance. But let perseverance do its complete work; so that you may be complete and whole, lacking in nothing."
2 Corinthians 12:7 (ESV)
"So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited."
God Sees You in Your Pain
With the right spiritual tools in place, we can maintain our faith through hardship. Chronic pain and illness are never easy to deal with – but God is there for us every step of the way! We just need to keep seeking Him and He will give us strength when needed!
We need to remember that we are not alone and God is always with us – no matter what! He has given us the strength of the Spirit, wisdom, power, knowledge, faithfulness.
We can lean on Him when life gets tough.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the presence of suffering, be it physical emotional or spiritual, remind yourself that God has not abandoned us; He is close at hand to help when we ask Him for strength. You are not alone!
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CJB – Taken from the Complete Jewish Bible by David H. Stern. Copyright © 1998. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Messianic Jewish Publishers, 6120 Day Long Lane, Clarksville, MD 21029. www.messianicjewish.net.
Tree of Life (TLV) – Scripture taken from the Holy Scriptures, Tree of Life Version*. Copyright © 2014,2016 by the Tree of Life Bible Society. Used by permission of the Tree of Life Bible Society.
ESV – “Scripture quotations are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”