Bible Mini-Study: Why Does God Allow People to Suffer?

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Bible Mini-Study

Why Does God Allow People to Suffer?

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As we’ve watched a loved one suffer or experienced excruciating pain ourselves, we have all faced the profound question: How could a loving God allow this? Why do innocent people go through terrible trauma? Why do some people die so young? Why is our world filled with so much evil, death and suffering?

Some overall perspective

At the outset we need to realize what God’s desire for us is—and that there is another in the spirit realm who does not wish us well. 

What does our loving God want for His human children?

“I [Jesus Christ, as the Father’s representative] have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10 John 10:10The thief comes not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.
American King James Version×
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“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me [Jesus Christ], because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed” (Luke 4:18 Luke 4:18The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised,
American King James Version×
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“You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalms 16:11 Psalms 16:11You will show me the path of life: in your presence is fullness of joy; at your right hand there are pleasures for ever more.
American King James Version×
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Many scriptures show that God wants only the best for us. He wants us to enjoy the joyous benefits of being His children forever!

In contrast, how does the Bible describe the intentions of the enemy of God?

“How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground, you who weakened the nations! For you have said in your heart: ‘I will ascend into heaven, … I will be like the Most High.’ Yet you shall be brought down to Sheol, to the lowest depths of the Pit” (Isaiah 14:12-15 Isaiah 14:12-15 12 How are you fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how are you cut down to the ground, which did weaken the nations! 13 For you have said in your heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also on the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: 14 I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High. 15 Yet you shall be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit.
American King James Version×
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“You [men who wanted to kill Jesus] are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it” (John 8:44 John 8:44You are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father you will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and stayed not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.
American King James Version×
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“So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world … ‘Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and the sea! For the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, because he knows that he has a short time’ ” (Revelation 12:9-12 Revelation 12:9-12 9 And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceives the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. 10 And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brothers is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night. 11 And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives to the death. 12 Therefore rejoice, you heavens, and you that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down to you, having great wrath, because he knows that he has but a short time.
American King James Version×
).

The Bible describes one of God’s angels, Lucifer, rising in rebellious pride against God and choosing evil rather than God’s good way. Satan’s momentous choice was the starting point of evil and the suffering that comes with it. Sin is the ultimate cause of suffering. Now Satan wants nothing more than to thwart God’s plan and destroy our trust in God’s goodness.

It’s about choices

The terrible suffering that exists in the world is the result of wrong choices that have been made.

How did Satan influence our first human parents?

“Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, ‘Has God indeed said, “You shall not eat of every tree of the garden”?’ And the woman said to the serpent, ‘We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, “You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.”’

“Then the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’ So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate” (Genesis 3:1-6 Genesis 3:1-6 1 Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, Yes, has God said, You shall not eat of every tree of the garden? 2 And the woman said to the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: 3 But of the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, You shall not eat of it, neither shall you touch it, lest you die. 4 And the serpent said to the woman, You shall not surely die: 5 For God does know that in the day you eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and you shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. 6 And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also to her husband with her; and he did eat.
American King James Version×
).

“Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned …” (Romans 5:12 Romans 5:12Why, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed on all men, for that all have sinned:
American King James Version×
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Satan has been deceiving humanity from the beginning, and he influenced Eve and Adam to follow his own wrong choice. By choosing to decide for themselves what they thought was good and evil, they were ignoring the only true source of that knowledge.

Satan has helped us build a society that too often redefines sin as acceptable. But even when we don’t realize something is wrong, it still brings the automatic consequences of suffering and death.

Even though God gives us free will, does He tell us what choice He wants us to make?

“See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil, in that I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in His ways, and to keep His commandments, His statutes, and His judgments, that you may live and multiply; and the Lord your God will bless you in the land which you go to possess.

“But if your heart turns away so that you do not hear, and are drawn away, and worship other gods and serve them, I announce
to you today that you shall surely perish; you shall not prolong your days in the land … 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” (Deuteronomy 30:15-19 Deuteronomy 30:15-19 15 See, I have set before you this day life and good, and death and evil; 16 In that I command you this day to love the LORD your God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commandments and his statutes and his judgments, that you may live and multiply: and the LORD your God shall bless you in the land where you go to possess it. 17 But if your heart turn away, so that you will not hear, but shall be drawn away, and worship other gods, and serve them; 18 I denounce to you this day, that you shall surely perish, and that you shall not prolong your days on the land, where you pass over Jordan to go to possess it. 19 I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both you and your seed may live:
American King James Version×
).

By giving us the freedom to choose, God gives us the opportunity to develop His righteous character, something we couldn’t develop if He always forced us to make the right choice. One of the great lessons we should learn in life is that right choices ultimately lead to good results while wrong choices ultimately lead to sadness and suffering.

Since sin causes suffering, does that mean the person who is suffering is always responsible for his or her own suffering?

“And Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish’ ” (Luke 13:2-5 Luke 13:2-5 2 And Jesus answering said to them, Suppose you that these Galilaeans were sinners above all the Galilaeans, because they suffered such things? 3 I tell you, No: but, except you repent, you shall all likewise perish. 4 Or those eighteen, on whom the tower in Siloam fell, and slew them, think you that they were sinners above all men that dwelled in Jerusalem? 5 I tell you, No: but, except you repent, you shall all likewise perish.
American King James Version×
).

Sadly, sins have consequences that often affect not just the sinner, but those around him or her as well (see Deuteronomy 28:15-20 Deuteronomy 28:15-20 15 But it shall come to pass, if you will not listen to the voice of the LORD your God, to observe to do all his commandments and his statutes which I command you this day; that all these curses shall come on you, and overtake you: 16 Cursed shall you be in the city, and cursed shall you be in the field. 17 Cursed shall be your basket and your store. 18 Cursed shall be the fruit of your body, and the fruit of your land, the increase of your cows, and the flocks of your sheep. 19 Cursed shall you be when you come in, and cursed shall you be when you go out. 20 The LORD shall send on you cursing, vexation, and rebuke, in all that you set your hand to for to do, until you be destroyed, and until you perish quickly; because of the wickedness of your doings, whereby you have forsaken me.
American King James Version×
). In a world that has chosen to reject God (Matthew 23:37 Matthew 23:37O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you that kill the prophets, and stone them which are sent to you, how often would I have gathered your children together, even as a hen gathers her chickens under her wings, and you would not!
American King James Version×
), Satan is pulling the strings, allowing trials and suffering to come on everyone regardless of their degree of culpability. So we should never judge the victims of suffering, but should be aware of our personal responsibility to repent and turn to God. In addition, the Bible refers to some troubles as random acts of “time and chance” (Ecclesiastes 9:11 Ecclesiastes 9:11I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favor to men of skill; but time and chance happens to them all.
American King James Version×
).

Looking ahead

God allows suffering at this time as part of the great plan He is working out—helping us to grow as we look to a brighter future.

Does suffering bring about any positive results?

“In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:6-7 1 Peter 1:6-7 6 Wherein you greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, you are in heaviness through manifold temptations: 7 That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perishes, though it be tried with fire, might be found to praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:
American King James Version×
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“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing” (James 1:2-4 James 1:2-4 2 My brothers, count it all joy when you fall into divers temptations; 3 Knowing this, that the trying of your faith works patience. 4 But let patience have her perfect work, that you may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.
American King James Version×
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Many scriptures point out the end results of trusting God and enduring through difficulties. Like the refining process for precious metals, the heat of trials produces beautiful, godly character that can be achieved in no other way. The Bible tells us that even Jesus Christ learned through the things He suffered (Hebrews 5:8-9 Hebrews 5:8-9 8 Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; 9 And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation to all them that obey him;
American King James Version×
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What does God promise His people?

“No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it” (1 Corinthians 10:13 1 Corinthians 10:13There has no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that you are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that you may be able to bear it.
American King James Version×
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“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:28-29 Matthew 11:28-29 28 Come to me, all you that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke on you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and you shall find rest to your souls.
American King James Version×
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“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us … 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” (Romans 8:18 Romans 8:18For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.
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, Romans 8:28 Romans 8:28And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
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Read and meditate on these fantastic promises and take them to God in prayer. Ask for the way of escape, the rest, the lightening of the load and the perspective that He promises. He has all power, and His thinking is far above our thinking, so He can make seemingly hopeless situations work out for our good in the long run.

What does God want us to do for others who are suffering?

“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2 Galatians 6:2Bear you one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
American King James Version×
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Jesus Christ was willing to suffer the trials of His human life in order to help us (Hebrews 2:17-18 Hebrews 2:17-18 17 Why in all things it behooved him to be made like to his brothers, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. 18 For in that he himself has suffered being tempted, he is able to succor them that are tempted.
American King James Version×
). He wants us to follow His example of loving service to those facing trials.

Will all suffering eventually end?

“And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4 Revelation 21:4And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.
American King James Version×
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What a wonderful time to look forward to!

Apply what you’ve learned now

God is the “Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 3 Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; 4 Who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted of God.
American King James Version×
). God wants us to not only feel for others, but to look for ways to comfort them. For example, James tells us “to visit orphans and widows in their trouble” (James 1:27 James 1:27Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.
American King James Version×
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What can you do today to lighten someone’s load, to comfort or encourage someone? Perhaps a visit, phone call, card or gift would help. Perhaps providing a meal or mowing someone’s lawn could show you care as well as meet a physical need. Pick at least one thing and start on it today.

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