Why does God allow suffering?

This is the question everyone who has chronic pain or loves someone with chronic pain, wrestles with. The wording might look different, but the heart is still the same:

God, why did you let that person get behind the wheel that night?
Why does cancer exist?
Why can’t you just make the pain stop?
Why me?

The curse of sin is the reason for the pain we experience on earth. When God created the world, He made it “very good,” without any sin or suffering (Genesis 1:31).

Through human disobedience, sin entered the world and with it death and pain (Genesis 3, Romans 5:12). Although God could have stepped back and allowed suffering to remain unchecked in the world, He stepped into it. Isaiah 53:3 describes Jesus as “a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.” Jesus took all the suffering we deserve from sin on Himself, making it possible for us to have a relationship with God and to look forward to the day when our pain will be gone forever (Revelation 21:3-5).

So why the wait? Why hasn’t Jesus come back and fixed everything yet? God is patiently growing us and bringing more people to Himself. Our suffering will one day be made right. Perhaps our faith in our suffering will cause more people to look to Him than ever before (2 Corinthians 1:6, Romans 8:28).

Why won’t God just heal me? What “good” can come of this?

The Bible says God is a perfect Father (Matthew 5:48). Try to imagine what a perfect Father would be like. Would He enjoy seeing His children in pain? Absolutely not! If God allows something as terrible as chronic pain in our lives, He must see that the payoff is going to be worth it (Romans 8:18, 2 Corinthians 4:16-18).

Pain, as it cuts to our core, is one of God’s sharpest tools to accomplish His good, pleasing, and perfect plan (Romans 12:2). For example, God uses it to humble us, to teach us the importance of rest, to rid us of self-reliant thoughts, and to pull us out of destructive relationships and lifestyles. The Bible speaks about God’s use of suffering again and again (2 Corinthians 1:3-11, James 1:2-4, Romans 5:3-5).

God promises, through our relationship with Him, that we will be healed — whether in this life or the next (Philippians 3:21, 2 Corinthians 5:1-4). Ask God for healing, ask Him what He wants to teach you through the pain, and remember that as His child, your suffer- ing will not last forever.

Am I being punished? Did I do something wrong?

God punished someone for everything we ever did wrong — Jesus. Romans 8:1 confirms, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” If you are a Christian, God might be refining your character through illness, but He is not condemning you.

Hebrews 12:7 says, “Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as His children.” To endure hardship as discipline means we should examine ourselves and see how God wants to grow us through our pain. Our suffering gives us the dignity of being God’s children. God would not go through the trouble of shaping us into who He made us to be if He did not count us worthy of His name (Acts 5:41).

Often your suffering is not the result of a specific sin (John 9:1-3, Job 2:3-7). When suffering is not a consequence of our actions, God shows up in a special way (John 9:35-38, Job 42:10-12). Hang onto that hope.

Is it OK to take pain medication?

Everything we know about the human body, we know because God allowed us to discover it (Proverbs 2:1-6). God is not surprised by our scientific discoveries, and medication might be the method God wants to use to heal you. Taking pain medication to manage your symptoms responsibly is no different than the apostle Paul telling a young pastor named Timothy to drink a little wine to relieve his chronic stomach problems (1 Timothy 5:23).

Healing is miraculous whether it comes as a result of medicine, prayer, or both. If taking pain medication allows you to live a more productive life, it’s worth a try. If the medicine turns you into a couch potato, ask God for wisdom for what to do next (James 1:5).

God has a purpose for our lives, and every moment we spend on earth is an opportunity to be part of God’s work (Philippians 1:21- 25). Your new normal will be different than before your illness, but God will help you find a way to make a difference.

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