Does God Allow Suffering?

                                                                  by Russell J. Schmidt

Let me answer that question in one word— No! But, I say that not to discourage you or make you feel bad about yourself. On the contrary it's a great encouragement to know that it's not from God and that you can change your circumstances! Praise God!

God does not choose to allow suffering— not from disasters, sickness, birth defects, or whatever type of suffering you may point to, including death, I assure you God did not choose to allow it— Adam and Eve did and every human being who ever lived after them (with the exception of one, Jesus Christ! Praise God!), chose to follow Adam and Eve and allow sin in their lives. Again, that's not to condemn you or myself, who are both born into a sinful nature and no matter how hard we try we WILL fall short of God and open the door to pain and suffering.

Some pain and suffering can have nothing to do with us or something that we may have done. Some bad things happen even if we are fully in God's will, because we live in a fallen world.

Many religious leaders when asked, will say they don’t know why God allows suffering, but then go on to tell you that suffering is good for us and they will point to Scriptures such as James 1:2-4, which reads,2) My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, 3) knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. 4) But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing” (NKJV– New King James Version), and further confuse the situation by saying God puts suffering on you to build character— to make you a stronger person, or to perfect you.

Notice what the apostle James says here in verse 2 of the above Scripture, “when you fall into various trials”— it is important when reading a Scripture that the context is taken correctly. The original Greek word for “fall,” is “peripipto”— according to Strong’s Concordance, the definition is, “to fall into something that is all around.” The NIV (New International Version) translates the word as “face”, although you can “face” things that are all around you, the original Greek word means “to fall.” By using the correct definition, it helps to see the point that I am making here.

What James is referring to here, is that we live in a fallen world, due to sin. And the consequence of living in a fallen world are trials and suffering. These trials are not created by God, but they are a result of breaking God’s law. Many trials are a direct result of personal sin— sin that causes consequences to ourselves. But, as I mentioned above, many times we fall into trials that are not necessary a result of our own doing, it is a result of this fallen world. Sometimes good people reap the consequences of someone else’s actions.

God does not bring on, or put these situations into our lives. Can God avert these situations in our lives? Certainly He can! But, if He did, He would violate His own law that He put into effect at the start of creation— that is “freedom of choice.” But, once into that trial, God will utilize it in our lives to develop patience. What kind of patience? Patience to wait on God to answer your prayer and know that He is God. This is the test of faith that James describes. And this is where much of the misconception comes from that God puts those things on you.

James 1:2, says, "My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials." How do you count it all joy? Well, many people misinterpret that as well. James certainly doesn’t expect you to celebrate your misfortunes. What he does mean, is that you should look at those situations as a character building situations and to determine yourself to allowing God’s perfect work to come to fruition. It is a good feeling knowing after a trial is done that you have passed the test of faith and clearly saw God’s hand in helping you through that trial. Faith is trusting God in all situations and not having to feel as though you are on your own, and take matters into your own hands. It’s then, when you take things into your own hands, that you get into trouble and mess things up. Just wait on God, He will never let you down.

There is no indication by the apostle James that God purposely allows trials of any kind that leads to suffering—on the contrary, James clears that notion up in verses 13-14,13) Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. 14) But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed.” How do you get drawn away? Through the choices that you make! In Deuteronomy 30:19, God says, “I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live;”

God promises in Psalm 91:1-2, that He will protect those who seek Him as their refuge and fortress. How do we seek God? By studying His Word, the Bible. 2 Corinthians 10:5, tells us, “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”

By studying God’s Word, we gain the knowledge of God and we then can use that knowledge to deflect Satan’s attempt to corrupt our minds. We do this by taking every thought captive and filtering it through the knowledge of God that we gained through studying His Word. We then can determine if that thought passes the test of God or if it is a thought that is conjured up by the prince of the power of the air— a thought that is self-serving. Do not fool yourself, Satan is cunning— his temptations can be very subtle, and if you do not prepare yourself daily with God’s knowledge, I assure you Satan will win many battles with you.

Temptation is all around us, Satan is not prejudice, he is an equal opportunity tempter. He doesn’t care what color your skin is, or what nationality you are, his only concern is that you have your share of temptation. Even Jesus had His share, Hebrews 4:15, tells us, “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.”

Do you think Jesus needed temptation to build character or to perfect Him? When we read Scripture we can see clearly that Satan was no match for Jesus. Yet, He had to endure temptation. Is there a benefit to temptation in our lives? Sure! But, there’s also benefit to putting your hand on a hot stove grill—and that is, learning not to do that again. But, does that mean that that was a good way to learn that? Certainly not! Would your mother or father tell you as a child to put your hand on the hot grill so you will learn the hard way? I would certainly hope not! The best way to learn Godly truths is to study your Bible and training yourself to live according to the Holy Spirit within you, not by suffering with cancer.

If your parents wouldn’t want to teach you the hard way, why would and all loving God put suffering in your life for you to learn the hard way? It doesn’t make sense. And for these religious leaders to tell this to those who look up to them, is disconcerting to say the least. Jeremiah 29:11, says, “For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (NIV). Then why would He use evil to try and promote character in us, because all suffering is a product of evil— a product of a fallen world, resulting from sin.

Now some will say, what about sickness and disease, not all people who become sick or diseased have sinned to promote it. Certainly, the new born, who has been born with a severe deformity hasn’t sinned to deserve that suffering? I agree with that one hundred percent! But, does that mean it is of God? No! We live in a fallen world and some problems are inherited, like genetic deformities. Of course, the new born did not deserve it, but look at the Arab, Israeli conflict. Many innocent people of those nations today are dieing because of one man's poor decision in not waiting on God, who live thousands of years ago, Abraham.

That conflict stems from Abraham’s sinful union with Hagar. God promised Abraham a child in his old age, but Abraham was impatient, as well as his wife Sarah, who was old in years and was for some time unable to conceive. Fearing that she would not produce this child for Abraham, she offered him her maidservant Hagar, who wound up bearing Abraham’s first son Ishmael, the father of the Arab nations.

After some time, finally, Sarah did become pregnant and bored Abraham a son named Isaac. Shortly there-after, out of jealousy, Sarah wanted Hagar and Ishmael gone. So, the next day Abraham packed some food and water and sent them away— yet God promised Hagar that Ishmael would become a great nation. This was the start of the Arab, Israeli conflict. You can read the whole story in Genesis chapters 15 through 21.

There will also be others, in an attempt to justify suffering, that point to verses such as, Exodus 15:26, which reads, “If you diligently heed the voice of the LORD your God and do what is right in His sight, give ear to His commandments and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have brought on the Egyptians. For I am the LORD who heals you.” Here God is telling us that He controls these things. And it’s true He can, but this is an Old Covenant situation. God did punish under the Old Covenant for sin, but under the blood of Christ in the New Covenant God is no longer angry with mankind and no longer punishes for sin, because we (those who accepted Jesus) have been redeemed once and for all from sin, a product of the curse of the law. We have become righteous in the eyes of God.

If God were to punish us for our sin, then, why did the Christ have to suffer? It would mean that Christ suffered and died in vain. That is why the suffering that is inflicted by natural disasters or terrorist attacks are not sent by God as many suspect. They are the result or consequence of sin, of living in a fallen world. Many who die in those natural disasters are just in the wrong place at the wrong time, it is not effecting them as a result of their own sin, but as a result of collective sin of all man kind and that sins ill effects on our physical existence. Those who may have died because of these kinds of disasters, did not deserve it anymore than you or me.

Let’s take a look at Genesis 3:14-19; these verses follow the account where God finds out that Adam and Eve have already sinned. Verse 14 reads, “So the LORD God said to the serpent: ‘Because you have done this, you are cursed more than all cattle, and more than every beast of the field;’” Verse 17 God says, “Cursed is the ground for your sake” Notice God does not say, “I cursed you,” he says, “that you are cursed.” The curse is a direct result of the sin, not a direct result of an order from God. Don’t confuse this with direct punishment of God upon the people under the Old Covenant, it was a punishment as a direct result of God’s anger because of their sins, but the curse referred to in Genesis 3 are for all generations for the remainder of time as we know it, because of the fall of man.

When the prophets spoke of natural disasters becoming more numerous as the end times approach, they were saying that a world without God at the helm, is a corrupted world and those natural disasters they speak of are inevitable in a corrupted world. Does God know when they are going to happen? Yes, I believe He does (Acts 1:7 ), but that doesn’t mean He is the cause of it or it is His wrath beginning. God’s wrath will not begin until all His chosen people are taken up to meet Jesus in the air (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 , Revelation 7:14 ).

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Acts 1:7

7) And He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority. (NKJV)

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1 Thessalonians 4:16

16) For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17) Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. 18) Therefore comfort one another with these words. (NKJV)

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Revelation 7:14

14) And I said to him, “Sir, you know. ”So he said to me, “These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. (NKJV)

The corruption that is talked about here is not just the people who are corrupted, but every physical thing is corrupted including our environment and no longer is in the perfection that God originally created it. So, just as living in a fallen world makes us susceptible to sickness and disease, so too, is our environment susceptible to these types of natural disasters.

Jesus spoke of the “signs of the end times” or “of the end of the age,” well, God knows exactly what consequences sin will produce and how it will develop and that is what Jesus is referring to here. The signs Jesus discusses, is not yet God’s punishment beginning, but the natural progression of a corrupted world getting worse. What happens to a snowball that you roll down the side of a snowy mountain? It collects more snow as it rolls down and gets bigger and bigger, and picks more speed as it gets heavier— so too with a corrupted world. Just as the snowball, the cycle of natural disasters will progress as time moves on and their severity will also increase.

I mentioned earlier the law that God instituted the gives us the freedom of choice. Well, I would like to elaborate on that and clear up any confusion there may be in reference to that being a good thing or a bad thing. First, let’s take a look at the alternative— which would be, that God makes us obey Him— there would be no choice involved. That would solve all the problems of mankind, even if sin existed, it would have no effect on man because he would be like a computer. A computer is created by man, and programmed by a man, by can a computer make its own decisions? Of course not!

But, if you were alone with a computer, you cannot possible have an intimate relationship with a computer. You can’t converse with it, nor can a computer do anything without you telling it what to do. Can a computer laugh at your jokes? Well, maybe, but you would have to write a line of code to make it laugh and execute the code when you want it to laugh. I would think if it were just me and a computer on a deserted island that would get boring very fast. It wouldn’t be long before you craved an intimate relationship with one of your own kind.

So, when God instituted the law regarding freedom of choice— it may have had a flaw for the potential for corruption to take place, but God also had a plan to counter the flaw— and that plan was Jesus. Jesus said in John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” Well, that is what Jesus did for you and for me.

I tell you this, out of all the Christian’s that are in the world right this moment, there are only a small fraction who really and truly know in their hearts, what this really means. If you, when you really think about this, do not get choked up at the thought of the magnificence of what Jesus did for us, and I am not just talking about dieing. I am talking about leaving a life of absolute perfection and total prosperity, not in the monetary sense, but in the sense of having it all right at your finger-tips.

Putting all that aside and taking up a physical body, being born in the poorest of conditions, and Jesus telling us Himself in Matthew 8:20 and Luke 9:58, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” And to submit yourself to the torture and the total humility of people watching you be beaten and slaughtered like an animal, yet on the Cross He still remained sinless and prayed to the Father for the forgiveness of those (everyone! Including you and me) who had done this to Him, is absolutely unfathomable to me.

So, when you ask the question whether or not God is choosing to allow suffering in our lives today, or a religious leader is telling you that He is allowing this to perfect you, you must consider all the facts before believing this distortion of the truth. Yes, God can make good in your life out of the bad, but He would much prefer not to do it this way, but rather, for you to walk in the truth and abide by the Holy Spirit, and along the way, training your body and soul to agree with the Spirit so you can begin experiencing God’s best for you.

That my friend, is the perfection of God!

May God Bless!