Why Does God Allow Pain?

For waters break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert. Isaiah 35:6

Last October, I found myself in another hospital waiting room. My husband had surgery to repair a ruptured Achilles tendon. He couldn’t walk or drive for 6 weeks. You don’t plan for these things. They just happen.

Sometimes they happen more frequently than others.

When I look over the last year, I can’t help thinking of how many precious family members and other loved ones have spent hours and days in hospital rooms. I have been fortunate enough to just take up space in the waiting areas. While my heart aches for them, these people I love have felt it physically.

Pain. Nausea. Discomfort. Weakness. Weariness. Fear.

In those moments of heartache and pain, we naturally grasp for an answer to a tiny yet profound question. Why?

And in this world where Christianity is often touted as a direct link to blessing and prosperity, believers can be tempted to doubt God’s promises.

I get it. I’ve been there myself, wondering if God’s Word could really be true—wondering how a loving God could allow hard things like pain, suffering, and loss.

But I’d like to take a few moments to look at difficulty from God’s perspective.

For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake. Philippians 1:29

Beloved, scripture teaches that sometimes God grants you— and me—the gift of suffering. As a believer, a son or daughter—heir of the kingdom—God has chosen you for suffering.

The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. Romans 8:16-17

Dear one, with or without Christ, this world produces suffering. But in Christ our suffering has purpose. Suffering with Him provides the means to establish us in our inheritance—to take hold of the promises available to us in Christ as co-heirs of all that God has given us.

You see, our promises aren’t just meant for heaven. We’re supposed to experience them here. And adversity provides the opportunity for us to do that.

Stick with me here. Ephesians 1:3 promises that God “has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.” But God wants those blessings lived out “on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). He wants our heavenly position to be evident on earth as He reveals His glory through us.

God’s glory becomes evident when we do what Jesus did: We face our spiritual enemy on earth and overcome.

Beloved, every spiritual blessing available to us in Christ remains a theory if we don’t grab hold of it and use it. Our trials provide an opportunity to prove our heavenly position and manifest our blessings on earth.  We conquer fear when we face it and choose faith in spite of it. We’ll only experience the peace that surpasses all understanding (Philippians 4:7) when we face circumstances that rob our peace.

Our suffering allows us to live out the promise of John 16:33.

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

Everyone will hurt and suffer in this life. But in Christ, God has granted us a glorious opportunity! In our struggles, we can draw on our heavenly inheritance and overcome, putting our enemy firmly under our feet.

David offers a good example of this in scripture. The Philistine army had the Israelites trembling in fear because of Goliath. The giant defied their God and challenged a man to fight him. If he won, Israel would serve the Philistines.

But David knew the Word of the Lord. Intimately. He knew the inheritance available to him as a child of God. So, he didn’t let the appearance of his circumstances overpower him. He drew on God’s promises, faced Goliath head on, and established his spiritual promise of victory as his earthly reality. (See 1 Samuel 17)

Our opening scripture reveals an important truth: living water bursts forth in desert places. If God has allowed suffering in your life, dear one, it isn’t because He has abandoned you or doesn’t love you. He has provided an opportunity for you to take hold of your inheritance and live it out on this earth.

Suffering provides an opportunity to release our spiritual blessings in the earthly realm. Click To Tweet

Without the suffering of this past year, I would never have experienced the miracle of His peace. I would not have recognized the selfishness still rooted in my heart, and I wouldn’t have learned how to pray from my inheritance in Christ and see heaven move. I wouldn’t have known the joy of my Comforter, or watched spiritual chains fall from my loved ones.

God is for you, beloved. He has granted suffering as an opportunity to experience His presence and witness glory. And when glory reveals itself, suffering fades. And you experience the wonder of resurrection life.

Redeeming Love

Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” John 13:7 ESV

I need to be honest with you. The last few weeks have been hard. People I love are hurting. Amid the usual struggles of life’s joys and hardships, loss and heartache have descended in a torrent.

A friend and sister servant in ministry at my church received a call recently that shattered her world. Her beautiful 23-year-old daughter had gone to sleep the night before like she did every other night. Only this time, she never woke up—at least not here. She closed her eyes to the blackness of this earth and opened them to the splendor of heaven and the beautiful face of Jesus.

Unimaginably wonderful for her. Devastatingly sorrowful for those left to grieve her.

Two other families close to me have lost loved ones to the ravages of cancer. And I recently received word that the disease has come calling on one of my dear family members for a second time.

Our human nature begs the answer to a desperate question: Why? Why must the body of Christ endure such pain? How do we reconcile God’s love with so much suffering?

I don’t have an answer, dear one, at least not one that will satisfy. If I did not know my God so well, I might be tempted to question Him myself.

But I do know Him well. I know the tenderness of His love. I know His comfort in my own brokenness. I know He is faithful, and I know His Word remains true.

I also know He wastes nothing and intends to bring a good work from every pain.

I recently read this quote from Christian philosopher Dallas Willard:

“Winter comes, but nothing irredeemable can happen to you. Nothing beyond the redemption of God can happen to you.”

Do you believe in the power of a God who redeems?

Beloved, God didn’t choose for this world to become ravaged by the evils of sin. Man chose it. Adam, chasing after a desire whispered into his heart by the deceiver, chose to disobey God and step out from under the safe covering of His protection. And now this world still reaps the consequence of that choice.

You see, that’s the nature of sin, dear one. It grows. It becomes stronger. Eventually it ends in death.

…desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. James 1:15

And now in this world so decayed and corrupted by sin, pain abounds. It leaves its mark on both guilty and innocent. But God never intended this pain for us; Satan did. Why? Because Satan hates what God loves, and God loves people.

Maybe we should take a moment to ponder the enormity of John 3:16.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

Love led God to give His Son so you and I could live. Really live. Sin and death were never His choice for us. He created us in life and chose to offer it again, poured out on a cross in love to redeem man’s mistake. Jesus suffered death Himself so He could rescue us from it. Unbelievable.

We have trouble grasping love that gives like that. We can’t wrap our mind around such utter selflessness. So we hesitate to trust it.

But you can trust it, dear one. God loves perfectly—even when we can’t see or understand what He’s doing at the time. And He will never allow a heartache that He can’t redeem and bring something beautiful from. Never.

My heart remains full of hope because I know that God isn’t working evil in this world. He’s redeeming it. We’re still dealing with the consequences of our choice, but He remains faithful.

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

Jesus has overcome what we cannot. Beloved, as long as we live on this corrupted earth, we will experience suffering. But in Christ we have glorious hope! Whether we experience His healing touch here or when we see Him face to face, we win. Hope abounds. Love overcomes. Life triumphs.

And for those of us left suffering in this broken world, Jesus offers the means to overcome. When we run to Him in our pain instead of from Him, He redeems it. He exchanges our ashes for beauty, our mourning for gladness, our despair for praise (Isaiah 61:3).

What the enemy intends for evil, God desires to rescue and redeem. Will you let Him, dear one?