Does God Allow Suffering?
My family sometimes jokes about having a “black cloud” constantly hovering overhead. We joke because laughing is sometimes better than crying. Recently our garage door broke, costing over $1,000 to repair. Then the toilet in our bathroom stopped working, followed by the bathroom sink. If those repairs weren’t bad enough, we found bees living in the side of our home just outside our daughter’s bedroom. We used three full cans of “bee spray” to kill the hive, but inadvertently had over 40 angry bees escape into our house. To top it all off, our roof started leaking in our son’s bedroom. We crawled into the attic to inspect the leak and found that we had carpenter ants. Each of these things happened within a span of several weeks!
After the dust settled, I could recognize that these problems were fixable. A financial burden, yes, but at the end of the day, fixable. This recognition helped me cope with the “bad things” I was experiencing.
What about the “bad things” that have unfixable consequences? Hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, police shootings, terrorism, people shooting police… the list goes on. Simply turn on the news, and you’ll see all the “bad things” happening in our world.
I’d like to take it a step further. Some of my friends were born “typical” per society’s labels, but through illness or an accident, they became permanently disabled and lost their “typical” label. If I’m honest, when I hear their stories, I want to question God. I think to myself, They are good people that come from good families. Why, God? Why would you allow this to happen to them? It doesn’t seem fair, it isn’t right. I’m left confused and, at times, angry.
Why do bad things happen to good people?
As I searched Scripture trying to find the answer to this age-old question, I discovered a somewhat shocking reality – God allows both suffering and disability.
This wasn’t the answer that I wanted to find. I wanted to find that it was Satan’s fault; blame the bad guy! I wanted to find that God is our mighty protector, and that He would never allow bad things to happen to us. Unfortunately, that wasn’t what I found.
Take for example the classic exchange between God and Satan surrounding the treatment of Job in the Old Testament. First, it is mind blowing to consider that Satan can walk into heaven to talk with God. Secondly, God allows Satan to inflict suffering on Job.
It can be hard to make sense of this. Perhaps it is an Old Testament thing – weird stuff happened in the Old Testament that makes little sense. Can we chalk it up to that? Surely when Jesus arrived on the scene in the New Testament, the concept of God allowing suffering went away, right? Wrong.
Luke 13:11 describes another situation where God allowed Satan to afflict someone with suffering and disability, “…and a woman was there who had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not straighten up at all.” (NIV)
Why would a loving God allow bad things to happen to good people? Why would God allow His people to suffer and become disabled? These are tough questions.
I love what Joni Eareckson Tada says about this dilemma, “God allows what He hates to accomplish what He loves.” How true is this? We find repeatedly that God is more interested in our holiness than our happiness.
Both Job and the woman in Luke 13 were being tested. Both were given an opportunity to either grow in their faith or become bitter. I love what Scripture tells us in Luke 13:13, “Then He put His hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God.” God was praised by this woman. God was glorified. God desires our praise and trust. God wants to be glorified above all else.
Because God is God, He has the power to heal. But God doesn’t always choose to heal. We possess the ability to choose our response to our circumstances. We can choose to praise God, trust God, and give Him glory despite our suffering. The question is, will we choose to praise Him if He doesn’t bring the healing we desire?
* First posted on http://irresistiblechurch.org/bad-things-happen-good-people-part-1-4/