Why God Allows Suffering

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

2 Peter 3:9

As Christians we get lots of hard “why” questions when it comes to God; probably the most difficult to answer is one I’ve wrestled with myself - “Why does God allow suffering?” There are plenty of other profound questions that stem from the “why” of suffering - can God be good and allow suffering? Can he truly be all-powerful if he doesn’t prevent it or stop it? Why allow sin at all?

The world of Christendom has plenty of able-minded, articulate apologists who are able to tackle these hard questions head-on and provide reasoned, thoughtful responses, but truth be told when it comes to they “why” of suffering there are times when an honest answer is simply, “I don’t know. I don’t know why God allows suffering or doesn’t stop it; I just know that he’s God, I need him, and he loves you and me.”

So there isn’t one, all-encompassing answer to the question of why God allows suffering; on the flip side there are some Biblical explanations that help us properly frame and process the question in ways that are helpful - and hopefully motivating at the same time. Joni Eareckson Tada knows suffering, and she discusses the big “why” question in her devotional titled “Why God Allows Suffering.” Her reference Scripture comes from 2 Peter 3:9, where the Word tells us:

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

Suffering is a result of sin; to eliminate suffering, God would have to eliminate sin as well. To get rid of sin, he would have to judge the world now, and condemn billions of souls to an eternity in hell. God ultimately doesn’t want that; his desire is for all to hear the good news of the gospel and decide to follow Jesus. Now some will hear the truth and reject it, but they can’t even get that chance if they don’t hear the good news first. How do they hear? From Christians like you and me.

Suffering reminds us of the reality of sin and our great need for Jesus. Joni provides this analysis, followed by a challenge:

Today’s Scripture reads, “He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” God delays closing the curtain on suffering and sin because it gives more time for us to tell people who ignore God about the grace of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Let’s do that today…while there is time.

For years chronic pain made me want to curl up in a ball and disappear; the last thing in the world I wanted to do was talk to someone about Jesus, afraid my suffering would somehow invalidate the message. Now I can see my trials are just another way to showcase how much I need God and how able he is to provide for my many needs one day - and sometimes one moment - at a time. Why does God allow suffering? Maybe it’s because he wants you and I to tell someone about the good news of Jesus.