God loves, so why do people suffer?

Why would our one, all-loving God allow people to suffer? Why would He allow children to suffer illness and disease? Why would He allow people to undergo harsh trials and tribulations in life? Why do bad things happen to good people? These questions are often pondered by many, and they are definitely good questions. The answer to these questions is neither crystal clear nor black and white, but can we find anything in Scripture that would possibly help us understand?

Let’s separate the topic of human suffering into three categories:

  • Human suffering at the hands of others
  • Human suffering due to illness and disease
  • Other trying situations (financial difficulties, natural disasters, etc.)

Human Suffering at the Hands of Others

A good example of this could be a bank robbery. Let’s say an individual robs a bank and shoots me while I’m standing in line. What was the cause of this? The truth is that God gives people free will to make decisions. Because of that free will, people do evil things. The greatest example of a righteous man being inflicted by evil men is the crucifixion of Jesus Christ:

“The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against his Christ. For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, For to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done.” – Acts 4:26-28 KJV

Jesus was perfect and without sin, yet God had a greater plan through His pain and suffering (Psalms 22). If Christ had not died at the hands of evil men, then we would not have a savior. We would not have the forgiveness of sins, as it was Christ who bore our sins on the cross:

“Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.” – 1 Peter 2:24 KJV

Another example is the story of Joseph. Joseph was sold into slavery by his evil brothers and, through trials and tribulations, ended up being an Egyptian governor and well admired by the Pharaoh (Genesis 38-39). Because of him, the people of Egypt survived a 7-year drought and they were saved. God used Joseph’s suffering for the fulfillment of a greater plan:

“But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.” – Genesis 50:20 KJV

Human Suffering Due to Illness and Disease

What about illness and disease? First, we have to understand that illness and death entered into the world as the result of the fall of Adam:

“And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field”  – Genesis 3:17-18 KJV

“Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned” – Romans 5:12 KJV

Prior to the fall of mankind, there was no illness or death in the world. But after sin entered into the world through Adam’s transgression, along with it came the stain of sin on all mankind resulting in illness and death (both physically and spiritually). Except Jesus Himself, no human being that has ever lived is righteous – we all have fallen short of God’s glory (Romans 3:10, 12, 23).

So why do humans suffer through pain and death? It is a consequence of sin on both the world and our mortal bodies. But why does God allow people to suffer? Why does God allow such pain? It is a difficult question to answer, but the Scripture gives us some insight:

  • Suffering produces a deeper relationship with God:

“I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee.” – Job 42:5 KJV

  • Suffering refines us:

“Behold, I have refined thee, but not with silver; I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction.” – Isaiah 48:10 KJV

  • Trying of our faith results in patience:

“And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.” – Romans 5:3-5 KJV

“My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.” – James 1:2-4 KJV

  • We are conformed unto God’s image:

“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.” – Romans 8:28-30 KJV

  • When we suffer and cope, it allows us to comfort others:

“Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ.” – 2 Corinthians 1:3-5 KJV

The apostle Paul also wrote about his “thorn in the flesh,” which was apparently some infirmity of his own. Paul wrote that the strength of the Lord is “made perfect in weakness”:

“And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” – 2 Corinthians 12:7-9 KJV

Other Trying Situations

What about the other types of trials and tributations in our lives? The truth is God allows certain things to happen for several reasons – some of these reasons we know, and some we don’t. But what can we glean from Scripture? Let’s look at a few others reasons why God allows us to experience trials and tribulations, which can also apply to illness and disease as well:

  • God disciplines and teaches us:

“My son, despise not the chastening of the LORD; neither be weary of his correction: For whom the LORD loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son in whom he delighteth.” – Proverbs 3:11-12 KJV

“The ear that heareth the reproof of life abideth among the wise. He that refuseth instruction despiseth his own soul: but he that heareth reproof getteth understanding.” – Proverbs 15:31-32 KJV

“For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.” – Hebrews 12:6 KJV

  • God allows us to suffer to drive us to repentance:

“And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD: and the LORD delivered them into the hand of Midian seven years.” – Judges 6:1 KJV

“And Israel was greatly impoverished because of the Midianites; and the children of Israel cried unto the LORD.” – Judges 6:6 KJV

“They wandered in the wilderness in a solitary way; they found no city to dwell in. Hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted in them. Then they cried unto the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them out of their distresses.” – Psalms 107:4-6 KJV

  • God teaches us his will:

“It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes.” – Psalms 119:71 KJV

“I know, O LORD, that thy judgments are right, and that thou in faithfulness hast afflicted me.” – Psalms 119:75 KJV

  • God promotes His glory. In John 9, Jesus healed a blind mind – he was part of the greater plan:

“And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth. And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind? Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.” – John 9:1-3 KJV

God promotes His gospel:

“As for Saul, he made havock of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison. Therefore they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word.” – Acts 8:3-4 KJV

Conclusion

The bottom line is we will never fully know the reasons God allows certain things to happen. We just have to trust that His plan is greater than ours. Ponder these situations:

You hit a deer on your way to work and you’re late. Maybe you missed an accident down the road.

Your pet got sick and died. Maybe that saved your child from running after it across the street and getting hit by a car.

Your child got very sick and maybe even died, but you clung to God and your faith. Maybe the nurse who cared for your child was so moved by your faith that she accepted Christ and then led her entire family to Him.

Just think about those situations. We will never know our mighty God’s plan – all we have is our trust and faith in Him:

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” – Isaiah 55:8-9 KJV

“And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.” – Revelation 21:4 KJV