Why Pain and Suffering?
Why is there pain and suffering in this world? This is a question that gets asked all the time. Another question that is asked many times alongside the pain and suffering question is ‘why do bad things happen to good people?’ In fact, many people wrestled with these questions. As Christians, usually we wrestle with a third question. That question being, ‘If God is all-powerful and good, then why does He allow people to experience pain and suffering? Why can’t He step in and put an end to all the suffering we see around us?’ These questions are good questions to ask and as followers of Jesus, we need to turn to the Bible to see how the Bible answers these questions about pain and suffering.
As we turn to the Bible, we learn that there are three reasons why people may experience pain and suffering in their lives. The first reason is because of Satan. Satan, the Devil, does cause us sometimes to experience pain and suffering. In Luke 13:10-17, we see a woman that Satan had inflicted with an infirmity for eighteen years and Jesus set her free. In the life of Job, we see Satan inflicting Job with physical pain and emotional pain. Sometimes Satan is behind our suffering, but this is not the main reason why people suffer.
Another reason why a person may experience pain and suffering in their lives is because of bad choices they make in their lives. Sometimes we experience natural consequences for the bad choices we make. If a person touches something hot with their bare hands, they will get burned. I could give you example after example of natural consequences but all you must do is watch “America’s Funniest Home Videos” to see people doing some questionable things and getting injured. Sometimes, we experience pain and suffering in our lives because of the choices we make. But again, this is not the main reason why we suffer.
The main reason why there is pain and suffering in this world is because we live in a sinful, fallen, broken world. Ever since Adam and Eve first disobeyed God (Genesis 3) this world has been cursed. Part of this curse is death, both physically and spiritually, but part of this curse is the fact that things break down. My own body is a good example of this. I am now 40 years old. My body just doesn’t work like it did when I was 20. I remember in high school how I could run for hours without stretching and then the next day get out of bed with no pain. Now, if I run for 10 minutes, I better stretch, or my legs will be so sore for the rest of the day. Our bodies break down, this world is breaking down. We have cancer and other diseases because this world is breaking down. The main reason why we experience pain and suffering in this world is because we live in a sinful, fallen world. Followers of Jesus, because they live in this broken world will experience pain and suffering right along with unbelievers, but our view and understanding of pain and suffering should be different.
One of the verses followers of Jesus love to quote when they are experiencing pain and suffering is Romans 8:28, which says, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (New King James Version). When people quote this verse, usually they are facing a difficult time and they say, “Something good is going to come from this. God has my back.” Usually the “good” a person is talking about is their definition of “good” whatever that may look like, i.e., a better job, more money, better health, etc. But is this what God really is promising? All we must do is look at verse 29 and see that God’s definition of “good” is totally different. Romans 8:29 says, “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren” (New King James Version). God’s definition of “good” is to be become like His Son Jesus. Do you realize that in God’s Sovereignty, He is able to use the pain and suffering we experience in our lives to mold us to become like Jesus? This is a totally different mindset than what we typically hear. When we experience pain and suffering in our lives, we first need to go to God and say, “God, use this in my life. May I become more like you and may you use me to point other people to you.”
A good example of this Biblical mindset of pain and suffering is Laura Story's song called "Blessings." Here is a link to a video of Laura Story sharing her testimony and singing the song https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKstHeh5FHA
Not only does the Bible give us a proper understanding of pain and suffering, but it also gives us hope because one day, God will end this sinful, fallen, broken world and recreate a new physical world. In Revelation 21:1-22:5 we see John’s description of this new world where there is no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying, nor pain, nor curse. Only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life get to experience this new perfect world. Here is John’s description:
Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
5 He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
6 He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. 7 Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children. 8 But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.”
9 One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.” 10 And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. 11 It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. 12 It had a great, high wall with twelve gates, and with twelve angels at the gates. On the gates were written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. 13 There were three gates on the east, three on the north, three on the south and three on the west. 14 The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.
15 The angel who talked with me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city, its gates and its walls. 16 The city was laid out like a square, as long as it was wide. He measured the city with the rod and found it to be 12,000 stadia in length, and as wide and high as it is long. 17 The angel measured the wall using human measurement, and it was 144 cubits thick. 18 The wall was made of jasper, and the city of pure gold, as pure as glass. 19 The foundations of the city walls were decorated with every kind of precious stone. The first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, the fourth emerald, 20 the fifth onyx, the sixth ruby, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth turquoise, the eleventh jacinth, and the twelfth amethyst. 21 The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate made of a single pearl. The great street of the city was of gold, as pure as transparent glass.
22 I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. 23 The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. 24 The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. 25 On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. 26 The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it. 27 Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.
Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2 down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. 3 No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. 4 They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 5 There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.
As a pastor, I get a front row seat watching people experience pain and suffering in this world. My heart longs for the day when God will make everything right. May we echo John’s plead at the end of the Book of Revelation. In Revelation 22:20, Jesus says, “Surely I am coming soon.” John’s response to Jesus’ word is “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!” What a hope God has given to us as His followers; even though we will experience pain and suffering in this world, we look forward to that day, when we will dwell with God in the new heavens and earth. Come quickly, Lord Jesus!