Suffering and Death: Why Does God Allow It?

by Tom Terry

Why does God allow suffering and death? This is the age-old question that has plagued man for thousands of years. It is a direct challenge against the goodness of God. That is, how can God be good but allow suffering, especially the innocent, to suffer?

In some cases, it depends upon what your definition of innocent is. When it comes to our relationship with God, “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Other than Jesus Christ there is no one who is not marred by sin. This even includes children, who also have a sin nature. Generally speaking, all people suffer because all people sin. Some sin greater than others, but sin is still sin and all sin brings suffering and death (Romans 3:10-18).

When it comes to our relationship with others there are certainly those who may not sin in a great a way as someone else, but sin still rules the day. So, God has provided ten reasons (maybe more) for why man suffers. All of us are in this list in one way or another.

Why do bad things happen? Here are ten perspectives. You will find yourself in this list whether you are a Christian or not.

  1. To humble us (I Peter 5:6; James 4:6-10)
  1. To discipline us (Hebrews 12:6-11)
  1. To get our attention (Jeremiah 7:25-26; II Kings 17:13-14)
  1. Because everyone in the world must experience suffering (including Jesus)
  1. Because people are naturally evil (Matthew 7:11; Romans 5:12)
  1. Because God wants to demonstrate his faithfulness to us in the midst of evil (II Thessalonians 3:2-3; Psalm 52:1)
  1. As a witness to others about God’s goodness (II Timothy 2:3; Hebrews 12:7; II Corinthians 6:4-10)
  1. As a chance for us to exercise faithfulness to God in the midst of great suffering (Genesis 22:12; Job 1:20-22)
  1. To mature us in trust and in the faith (Hebrews 5:8, 12:10-11)
  1. So that we may exercise true forgiveness (Luke 17:3-4; Colossians 3:13; Ephesians 4:32)

There is another answer to this challenge which I have not included in this list, but is actually a reason why many of the things in this list are true. God permits suffering so that we may know him more fully.

Think of it this way. If there were no suffering because of sin, then how could you experience God’s forgiveness? If no bad things happened to us, then how would we more fully understand God’s goodness in the midst of it? Frankly, our knowledge and experience of God would be greatly limited if not for the existence of sin and suffering. Certain aspects of God’s character would be unknown to us without these terrible things. God’s forgiveness and mercy and grace would not have expression to us if there were no sin and suffering. In this way, we get to know God’s goodness better than if we did without these things. And that, ultimately, is why bad things happen at all. Used by permission.

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