Why Do People Suffer — and Where Is God When It Happens?
By Amanda DeWitt
Everywhere we turn we are confronted with an unprecedented amount of suffering. The news and social feeds make us more aware of suffering than ever before. More people need humanitarian assistance than we have seen in decades. COVID-19, wars, and disasters have left millions struggling to survive.
With so much suffering we cannot help but ask why — and where is God in it?
Scholars have wrestled with these questions throughout the ages. They are hard and weighty. But even our toughest questions are not without answers.
We Live in a Broken World
The problem of suffering is not new. Just three chapters into the biblical narrative, pain and sorrow gripped the world. It was not God who caused it. Instead humanity chose to go their own way, and everything fell apart.
You may know the story (Genesis 1-3). The first man and woman, Adam and Eve, enjoyed life in an untainted garden. They had plenty of food, water, and shelter. They had fulfilling work to do. They enjoyed harmony with God, each other, and all creation.
But they also had free will. And despite the loveliness that surrounded them, they made a choice. They succumbed to the temptation to attempt to be like God, eating from the one tree He told them to avoid.
In that moment everything shattered. Adam and Eve felt shame for the first time. Their relationship fractured as they blamed each other. All creation recoiled.
Today we are still groaning under Adam and Eve’s choice — and our own. Humanity continues to do things that cause harm to ourselves, others, and the world. And as a result, brokenness and suffering continue.
God Allows but Does Not Cause Suffering
The Bible is clear. Everything that happens in this world passes through God’s sovereign hand. But just because God allows suffering does not mean He causes it (James 1:13-18). Instead He uses all of it to accomplish His perfect plan.
When life fell apart in the Garden of Eden, God was not surprised. He knew what Adam and Eve would eventually choose. And so “before the foundation of the world” He made plans to fix it (Revelation 13:8).
God would send His Son, Jesus, to fix everything that had broken in the world He made. But it would not happen the way humanity expected.
Jesus did not come to rehabilitate the world order. Instead he lived amidst the messiness of it and died a cruel, unjust death. And when He did, He took all our brokenness onto Himself — giving us an opportunity to experience wholeness in Him.
All Things Work Together for Good
Amidst pandemics, wars, and disasters, God is still at work. He has a plan and will complete it, even amidst pain and suffering.
The Bible reassures us “that for those who love God all things work together for good” (Romans 8:28). Suffering is not good. Sorrow is not good. Death is not good.
But for those who have experienced the eternal hope of Jesus, it is all going to work out — in the end — for good. The suffering of this life is making us more like Jesus, who suffered everything on our behalf. And when this life is over, we will finally experience life as it was meant to be experienced in the beginning.
There will be a new heaven, a new earth, and Jesus will be the perfect ruler over all of it. What was broken will be mended. Until that day comes, we hope in Him and trust He will fulfill His promises.
In the meantime we ask honest questions. We seek real answers. And we do our part to relieve suffering and reveal hope to those in need until everyone knows someone who follows Jesus.
Rush Help and Hope to People in Closed Countries
Over the past year COVID-19, wars, and disasters have driven more people than ever into poverty. Currently, Unto® has 13 HUGE containers of lifesaving aid ready to send within the next 90 days. They are going to 11 tough places, including two new closed countries where we just gained access to ship supplies. You can help put meals, clothing, blankets, medical supplies, and more into the hands of suffering people — and share the hope of Jesus.
Published February 1, 2022
Amanda is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in Gift for Leadership, Kindred Spirit, and Christianity Today publications. She holds a M.A. in Media and Communication from Dallas Theological Seminary.