Justin was a typical ten year old boy. He liked Leggos, trains, and watching TV. He had red hair, freckles, and a huge smile. Justin was a great kid and everybody loved him. Because of cancer, he didn't live to see his eleventh birthday. His mom Mary, who had watched him suffer for months, held her son in her arms when he died. Every day, for the last two years, she has lived with the grief of her loss and the memories of Justin's suffering.
This issue of suffering is the most common argument against religion. People often ask, "If there is a loving God, why does He make people suffer?"
I firmly believe that God does not cause sickness or pain. He doesn't make people hurt, and He doesn't want them to suffer. The life of Jesus proved this. He cured people; He did not make them sick. Why, then, are so many in pain??
There is no easy answer. To try and understand, I step back and look at the big picture. God made everything perfect. Then man sinned and that perfection was spoiled. Now we live in a world where evil abounds. We are subject to the evil actions of sinful people and to the natural consequences of those actions. This is not at all what God intended for the world He created.
God can and does intervene in some events, but why not others? Only He knows that answer, but the Bible teaches that there will be a time when He will put an end to ALL death, sadness, pain, sickness, and suffering.
Below are some possible reasons that people suffer.
1) We do things ourselves that cause us pain. We don't eat right, so we have heart attacks. We drive fast, so we have accidents. We smoke, so we get cancer. We start wars, we break laws, we don't show love to our fellow man. Much of the sorrow in this world, we bring upon ourselves by our own actions.
2) But what about innocent children who are not responsible for their suffering? Why do they get sick? This is a tough question. What I know for sure is that when God created this world, He intended for us to have strong, healthy bodies and freedom from pain and suffering. When evil entered the picture, it brought with it suffering. That is not to say people suffer because of their own personal sins, necessarily, but the world is changed, due to sin being part of the world. Jesus said, "In this world, you will have tribulation."
Just as in the case with Job, I believe that evil forces attack us and cause much suffering in an attempt to get people to blame God and turn away from Him. (Job 2:3-9)
3) God gives us rights as individuals. Because He allows us to choose for ourselves how we'll live, He had to also allow us the freedom to sin. This means He had to allow the consequences of our behaviors, too. Some of those consequences are diseases caused by toxins, accidents caused by risky behaviors, and natural disasters caused by things like changes in the ozone layer, which we have brought about.
4) Though some people think God punishes us by making us suffer, Jesus said that a blind man He healed was born blind, not because of his sin or his parents' sin, but "that the works of God should be revealed in him." (John 9:3) God didn't cause the blindness, but He used it to show His power to all who saw Jesus heal the man.
5) Another possible reason God allows suffering is so that our faith in Him will grow, our compassion for others will increase, and we'll be better able to encourage other hurting people (2 Corinthians 1:3-5).
6) Romans 1:22 says that God gives rebellious people over to their own foolishness. He lets us go, hoping that we will return to Him after we hit bottom and see the error of our ways. Giving His permission is not the same as causing the problem. God doesn't cause people to stubbornly refuse to follow His way. He doesn't want us to go ever deeper into degradation, but He does permit us to have our way when we are determined to choose our own path.
BUT WE ARE NOT WITHOUT HOPE:
Though this world is no longer perfect, God will create a perfect world some day in heaven. He will get rid of everything that is not HIS. Suffering, sin, pain, tears and death are not HIS. "When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: 'Death has been swallowed up in victory.'" (1 Corinthians 15:54)
We have HOPE that all suffering will be relieved when we go to spend eternity with God. But this promise of eternal bliss is only for those who know, serve, and love Him.
God doesn't cause suffering; Satan does. When we get angry at God, it's exactly what Satan wants. By blaming God for evil, we're actually following the one who IS responsible.
"Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings. And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will Himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast." (1 Peter 5:8-11)
Our souls are of greater importance to God than our bodies are. Though He cares about our physical suffering, healing our soul is more urgent because it is the soul that lives forever. Our relationship with God is what determines where that soul spends eternity. If only those who suffer here on earth would seek God and the true healing (of the soul) that He offers!
In this world, bad things happen to good people. Those who have a personal relationship with God are better able to cope. We can live without fear, even though we do not know what the future holds, if we know the one who holds the future in His hands. When we discover the great love God has for us, we can let go of fear.
Psalm 27:1 says "The Lord is my salvation. Whom shall I fear?" Jesus triumphed over death, and He alone can save us from eternal death. He can also see us through all the trials of life and bring us safely to heaven.
I don't have all the answers. I just hope that, in sharing what I've learned through my own experience, I've helped you to feel more at peace knowing God has ultimate control in every circumstance. He is GOOD, no matter what evil befalls us. We can trust in the one who is full of compassion and loves us more than we can imagine. Without that knowledge, I don't know how anyone could cope with the trials of life.
No one can comfort the depths of our sorrows except God. I'm convinced that if you read His promises in the Bible, your heart will be encouraged.
Author Marsha Jordan is founder of a nonprofit charity called Hugs and Hope for Sick Children (http://www.hugsandhope.org). More of her articles on depression are in her book, Hugs, Hope, and Peanut Butter, a compilation of thought-provoking essays illustrated with drawings by critically ill children.
In this book, the author combines hope with humor, drawing upon her own experience of living with chronic pain and depression for thirty years. She opens her life and her heart to share everyday experiences and the lessons God has taught her from them.
A wonderful mix of the serious and the humorous, this book warms the heart and lifts the spirit. PROCEEDS BENEFIT SICK KIDS! This book was written to encourage anyone who faces disappointment -- which is EVERYone! Some essays in the book include "What Did I Do To Deserve This?" "What Was God Thinking?" "More Than I Can Handle," and "Ten Tips For Beating Depression" Order the book or learn more at http://www.hugsandhope.org/book.htm