Why God Allows Suffering

There is no such thing as pointless pain in the life of the child of God. This is the value of suffering – an unhappy non-negotiable of life in a fallen world. Before we go on, first, the one question everyone asks at some point about God.

Q: How could a loving God who is good allow so much pain in this world?

A: God is sovereign in all things. This loving God loved us enough to give us freedom of will. Each of us has a choice, God or this world. God gave us a choice. His ways are not our ways, his thoughts are not our thoughts. We have to trust that he has it in control, even when it seems that everything is out of control.

Here’s the thing… Suffering makes us LIKE Christ… I’m sure Jesus thought, ‘hey how about saving me from this cross a little earlier than my death and burial.’ But in the process, He saved the world.

1: Suffering Prepares Us to Be the Bride of Christ

Jesus has a big job to do, changing us humans into a glorious bride worthy of the blameless Lamb. The end goal is to join us and Himself as His radiant bride for our groom, flawless without stains or wrinkles (Ephesians 5:26-27).

Suffering develops holiness in unholy people. Getting there is painful. But the end result is eternal and perfect – I’d take temporary pain for eternal intimacy with God over gaining any of a fallen world.

Pearls have always been my favorite earthly element – not just because they’re preppy and radiant, but because of the long-suffering journey it takes for them to become something beautiful.

Pearls form inside oysters when an irritant – usually a parasite – works its way into an oyster. As a defense mechanism, a fluid (which becomes the pearl) is used to coat the foreign object. Layer upon layer of this coating is deposited until a lustrous pearl is formed. It can take up to 3-5 years of this struggle for the pearl to reach its full size.

Pearls become pearls after undergoing a gritty long-suffering process. If they didn’t endure this process, they would never become something magnificent…

“I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death.” ~Philippians 3:10

Developing holiness in us is a worthwhile, extremely important goal to God. We are enabled to share in His holiness through the discipline of enduring hardship (Hebrews 12:10), as discipline is a sign of God’s love (Hebrews 12:6). Oswald Chambers reminds us that “God has one destined end for mankind—holiness. His one aim is the production of saints.”

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” ~Matthew 7:13-14

Let’s face it, left to ourselves we are dirty, messy, fleshly humans, and we desperately need to be made pure. As hurtful as it is, suffering can purify us if we submit to the One who has a loving plan for the pain.

Jesus wants not only a bride that is pure, but matured as well—and suffering produces growth and maturity in us. Trials produce perseverance, which makes us mature and complete (James 1:2-4). And we can actually rejoice in our sufferings, because, again, they produce perseverance, which produces character, which produces hope (Romans 5:3-4). The Lord is creating for Himself a bride with sterling character, but it’s not much fun getting there. I like something else Oswald Chambers wrote: “Sorrow burns up a great amount of shallowness.”

Suffering is part of a well-planned courtship. God does know what He’s doing . . . we just need to trust Him.

“So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.” For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children. And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering.

The Future Glory

Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later. For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are.”  ~Romans 8:15-19

2. Suffering Allows Us to Comfort & Help Others

Suffering prepares us to minister comfort to others who suffer. Feeling isolated is one of the hardest parts of suffering, and empathetic tears bring comfort in a way that someone who has never known that pain cannot offer. “I’ve been in your shoes, it gets better” is a magical statement to someone in the thick of hardships.

When we’re in pain, our world narrows down to mere survival, and it’s easy for others to judge us for not “following the rules” that should only apply to those whose lives aren’t being swallowed by grief. Those who have suffered tend not to judge others experiencing similar suffering. There’s more compassion. There’s more empathy.

Not being judged is a GREAT comfort to those who hurt because many carry unbearable anger and lack for compassion is a by-product. So showing unconditional love is an incredible help, because sadly, authenticity & unconditional acceptance is not seen as often as it should be in churches and among Bible-fearing communities.

Those who suffer can comfort others with the comfort that we have received from God (2 Cor. 1:4) because we have experienced the reality of the Holy Spirit being there for us, walking alongside us in our pain. Then we can turn around and carry others through pain, showing the compassion that our own suffering has produced in us.

God has a purpose for seasons. He is leading us through trials. Keep moving toward Him. Keep choosing Him. This is a beautiful verse about how God tenderly loves and leads us through trials.

The Lord’s Love for Unfaithful Israel

14 “But then I will win her back once again.
    I will lead her into the desert
    and speak tenderly to her there. 
15 I will return her vineyards to her
    and transform the Valley of Trouble into a gateway of hope.
She will give herself to me there,
    as she did long ago when she was young,
    when I freed her from her captivity in Egypt.
16 When that day comes,” says the Lord,
    “you will call me ‘my husband’
    instead of ‘my master.’
17 O Israel, I will wipe the many names of Baal from your lips,
    and you will never mention them again.
18 On that day I will make a covenant
    with all the wild animals and the birds of the sky
and the animals that scurry along the ground
    so they will not harm you.
I will remove all weapons of war from the land,
    all swords and bows,
so you can live unafraid
    in peace and safety.”

~Hosea 2:14-18

3. Suffering Develops Humble Dependence on God

Marine Corps recruiter Randy Norfleet survived the Oklahoma City bombing despite losing 40 percent of his blood and needing 250 stitches to close his wounds. He never lost consciousness in the ambulance because he was too busy praying prayers of thanksgiving for his survival. When doctors said he would probably lose the sight in his right eye, Mr. Norfleet said, “Losing an eye is a small thing. Whatever brings you closer to God is a blessing. Through all this I’ve been brought closer to God. I’ve become more dependent on Him and less on myself.”

This sounds really hard, even when I learned about Norfleet, I was like – yeah, but I WOULD BE A MESS. But what’s the other option?! We can either wallow or worship.

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9)

Suffering is excellent at teaching us humble dependence on God, the only appropriate response to our Creator. Ever since the fall of Adam, we keep forgetting that God created us to depend on Him and not on ourselves. We keep wanting to go our own way, pretending that we are God. Suffering enables us to de-throne ourselves and place the crown of our hearts upon the true King.

Sometimes we hurt so much we can’t pray. We are forced to depend on the intercession of the Holy Spirit and the saints, needing them to go before the throne of God on our behalf. Instead of seeing that inability to pray as a personal failure, we can rejoice that our perception of being totally needy corresponds to the truth that we really are that needy. Hardships and sufferings happen “so that we might not rely on ourselves – but on God, who raises the dead.” (2 Corinthians 1:9)

Suffering brings a “one day at a time-ness” to our survival. We get to the point of saying, “Lord, I can only make it through today if You help me . . . if You take me through today . . . or the next hour . . . or the next few minutes if You hold me and walk me through it.” Suffering develops a total, humble dependence on God.

As painful as it is, suffering strips away the distractions of this life. It forces us to face the fact that we are powerless to change other people and most situations. The fear that accompanies suffering drives us to God like a little kid burying his face into a Father’s chest. Recognizing our own powerlessness is actually the key to experience real power, because we have to acknowledge our dependence on God before His power can flow into our lives.

The disciples experienced two different storms out on the lake. The Lord’s purpose in both storms was to train them to stop relying on their physical eyes and use their spiritual eyes. He wanted them to grow in trust and dependence on the Father. He allows us to experience storms in our lives for the same purpose: to learn to depend on God.

I love this paraphrase of Romans 8:28: “The Lord may not have planned that this should overtake me, but He has most certainly permitted it. Therefore, though it were an attack of an enemy, by the time it reaches me, it has the Lord’s permission, and therefore all is well. He will make it work together with all life’s experiences for good.”

4. Suffering Displays God’s Strength Through Our Weakness

God never wastes suffering, not a scrap of it. He redeems all of it for His glory and our blessing. The classic Scripture for the concept that suffering displays God’s strength through our weakness is found in 2 Corinthians 12:8-10, where we learn that God’s grace is sufficient for us, for His power is perfected in weakness. Paul said he delighted in weaknesses, hardships, and difficulties “for when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Our culture disdains weakness, but our frailty is indicative of God’s workmanship in us. It gets us closer to what we were created to be—completely dependent on God. Instead of despising our suffering, weakened and compromised as it makes us, we can choose to rejoice in it. Consider how the Lord Jesus was the exact representation of the glory of the Father—I mean, He was completely dependent on the Father, choosing to become weak so that God’s strength could shine through Him. And He was the strongest person the world has ever seen. Not His own strength; He displayed the Father’s strength because of that very weakness.

The reason His strength can shine through us is because we know God better through suffering. Reality is learned through trials, faith comes through trusting God in difficult circumstances. We can truly know Christ through suffering.

I once heard Charles Stanley say that nothing attracts the unbeliever like a saint suffering successfully. Joni Tada said, “You were made for one purpose, and that is to make God real to those around you.” The reality of God’s power, His love, and His character are made very, very real to a watching world when we trust Him in our pain.

5. Suffering Gets Us Ready for Heaven

Pain is inevitable because we live in a fallen world, we are “destined for trials” (1 Thessalonians 3:3). We don’t have a choice whether we will suffer—our choice is to go through it by ourselves or with God.

Pain teaches us the difference between the important and the transient. It prepares us for heaven by teaching us how unfulfilling life on earth is and helping us develop an eternal perspective. Suffering makes us homesick for heaven.

Deep suffering of the soul gives us a taste of hell. After many sleepless nights wracked by various kinds of pain, we see what we were saved from. Many Christians only know they’re saved without grasping what it is Christ has delivered them from. Pain brings an appreciation of the reality of heaven, therefore, an eternal perspective.

Paul explained what happens in 2 Corinthians 4:16-18:

“Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, for what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

One of the effects of suffering is to loosen our grasp on this life, because we shouldn’t be thinking that life in a fallen world is as wonderful as we sometimes think it is. Pastor Dick Bacon once said, “If this life were easy, we’d just love it too much. If God didn’t make it painful, we’d never let go of it.” Suffering reminds us that we live in an abnormal world, a place we weren’t made to dwell in. Suffering is abnormal—our souls protest, “This isn’t right!” We need to be reminded that we are living in “Plan B.” The perfect Plan A of God’s beautiful, suffering-free creation was ruined when Adam and Eve fell. So often, people wonder what kind of cruel God would deliberately make a world so full of pain and suffering. They’ve lost track of history. The world God originally made isn’t the one we experience. Suffering can make us long for the new heaven and the new earth where God will set all things right again.

Sometimes suffering literally prepares us for heaven. Suffering dispels the distractions of this life and puts things in their proper perspective.

Write a Survivor Story

You can choose to see the universe as friendly or out to get you. Notice which version of yourself you give power to: the VICTIM or the SURVIVOR. Write a survivor story about how you overcame something – hard times in your life HURT, but they produce pure strength, so write that story like you’re giving a speech at the foundation of whatever you care about – inspiring millions of people. I promise, when you give that speech (in front of your mirror) in a(n imaginary) Dior gown, you’ll have more self-compassion for being a total BOSS and overtime, owning that story will develop a deeper respect for yourself. Don’t say “I struggle” say, “I’m overcoming.”

In Summary

If we turn toward God in our pain, He can use our suffering to mature our faith. We see this biblical truth illustrated through the persecuted church. After hearing their testimonies, few would deny that suffering produces beauty and maturity of spirit.

Simply put, when we seek God through His Word and prayer, we find Jesus. Remember, Jesus understands our pain because he, too, suffered.

We read the words of Psalm 22:1: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning?”

God can handle our anger. He knows that from our microscopic perspective, it seems as though we’ve lost it all and can’t possibly love a God that would allow such pain. He does want us to still choose to believe in Him and ask Him to hold onto us until we are ready to rekindle anything we lost.

Did God abandon His Son in His hour of need? We find the answer three days later—God raised Him from the dead! Because of this promise, we have hope for our future.

How will YOU reframe your trials and look at it from God’s point of view?


  • Oswald Chambers, Our Utmost for His Highest, September 1. Chambers, June 25.
  • National and International Religion Report, Vol. 9:10, May 1, 1995, 1.
  • Joni Eareckson Tada, When Is It Right to Die? (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1992), 122. Tada, 118.
  • Probe.org offered some insight into this post, more HERE.
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