The world is filled with suffering of every kind. In fact, billions know little else. Yet God allows vast numbers of human beings to suffer. Think of disease, poverty, war and natural disasters. If God is all-powerful, and a God of love (I John 4:8, 16), why has He not stopped the terrible suffering that afflicts so many, and since men have existed? Is there a reason God does not intervene?
The ministers and theologians of traditional Christianity cannot explain the purpose of human suffering. Many theorize that Adam and Eve were created perfect and complete, until they “fell” because the devil overthrew God’s Plan by tempting them into sin. This idea continues with the explanation that God’s Plan is to restore men to their pre-fall condition—but the devil keeps disrupting God’s progress.
Yet this is false. God is not desperately trying to repair damage brought by Satan’s unforeseen attack on a Master Plan. The God of the universe is in complete control of all aspects of His Creation.
Human suffering is a result of wrong causes. There is no use trying to remove wrong effects when the causes are ignored. In all physical and spiritual matters, man only addresses the bad effects engulfing the world today. He does not understand the causes behind the world’s woes.
The Holy Spirit defines God’s character. Notice: “The fruit of the [Holy] Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance...” (Gal. 5:22-23). But how can God’s character include longsuffering? How does God suffer?
Before He flooded the world in Noah’s time, “it repented the Lord that He had made man on the earth, and it grieved Him at His heart” (Gen. 6:6). God felt mental pain (grief) at what mankind had chosen—and become. He brought the Flood to put man out of his misery, stating He would never again do this.
The Bible plainly says, “The Lord is longsuffering” (Num. 14:18). God wants us to understand that even He suffers. But this verse does not reveal why.
First, all those with children stop and think! When you see your child hurt or sick, how do you feel? It grieves you. You suffer your own anguish at their pain. God is no different. He is a parent with children. When His children—mankind—disobey Him, directly hurting themselves in the process, it hurts Him. He feels pain!
Mankind’s suffering is no accident. This world is cut off from God (Isa. 59:1-2; Jer. 5:25). This is why so many people, including innocent children, suffer so horribly. God is only working with a tiny few today. He is not delivering and protecting the masses—yet! Man is being given time to learn that his ways do not work. He is learning the slow, painful lesson—for when God calls all mankind later—that when you keep God’s holy, spiritual Law it keeps you, and when you break that Law it breaks you.
Another reason for suffering is that it is a marvelous tool within God’s Plan of producing sons who have developed His character within them. The purpose for every human being’s life is to develop the perfect, righteous character of Almighty God (Matt. 5:48). Suffering is tied to character building. Since God is longsuffering, no person is complete in the development of His nature and character until he has learned the value of suffering!
Wise King Solomon recorded one of the Bible’s great truths: “In the day of prosperity be joyful, but in the day of adversity consider: God also has set the one over against the other…” (Ecc. 7:14). God did this! He designed life so we would face “adversity,” and be forced to “consider” our circumstances. Certainly adversity is no fun. It is sometimes very difficult, hard, painful, even traumatic, to endure. Yet God said He engineered the human existence to include adversity!
However, nothing we endure in this life even remotely compares to the eternal life of supreme happiness in God’s kingdom awaiting those who serve Him: “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” at the Resurrection (Rom. 8:18).
To learn much more about this subject, watch The World to Come broadcast “Why God Allows Human Suffering”