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Why does God allow pain?

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I often hear people ask this question, and others like it: “If God is so loving, why does he allow small children to get cancer?” And the truth is that from individual situation to individual situation, I don’t know. I do not always know God’s specific purposes in a situation. But I do know what God’s big-picture plans are. I also know what God’s motivations are behind the circumstances He allows in our individual lives. Those motivations teach me that I should trust Him, even when it hurts. I will save you the discovery of my inadequacies and tell you upfront that there are times when I cannot possibly fathom how God can bring anything good from a set of circumstances, but He DOES! And that is good enough for me. I trust in Him, ESPECIALLY when I don’t understand.

Is God unfair?

First, let’s be honest. Our sense of justice isn’t exactly dependable. What we think is fair or reasonable isn’t exactly reliable. Let us not fool ourselves into thinking what is fair, reasonable, or just. To pretend we know what is best in a situation is not only incredibly naive, but it is rebellion. To see circumstances unfold in a way that displeases us, and to then shake our fist at The High King of Heaven, in disapproval, demonstrates a desire (whether conscious or subconscious) to place ourselves on the throne of God, dictating how things, we cannot possibly begin to fathom, should unfold.

God created us for the sole purpose of loving us

God created man (and woman) for one reason, to love us. Our sole reason for existing is to have the extravagant love of God poured out on us. But mankind wasn’t satisfied with that. We wanted to be like God. In attempting to accomplish that we invited, and welcomed, sin into the world never realizing the permanent chasm it would fix between God and us. Never again (in this life) would we be able to walk face to face with God in the cool of the day, through the garden of Eden He created for our pleasure and sustenance. God knew all of this would happen. He also knew that the only way to repair it after we broke it was through sacrifice.

God is not exempt from suffering, but His is voluntary

God knew that the only way to repair what man had broken (His relationship with us) was to send His only son, Jesus Christ to suffer and die for our sins. He also knew this before the first word of creation was ever spoken.

1 Peter 1:18-20  For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And it was not paid with mere gold or silver, which lose their value. It was the precious blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God.  God chose him as your ransom long before the world began, but now in these last days he has been revealed for your sake.

God, whose only desire, ever, was to love us, knew we would rebel and create a situation that could only be repaired by the death of His Son, Jesus Christ. Knowing this, He created us anyway because He wanted to show His love that much. He sent His Son to be used, abused, betrayed, beaten, tortured, spit on, mocked, nailed to a cross, and killed, to save the very people who were responsible for all of the aforementioned abuse. God walked into suffering unjustly, unfairly, and He did so voluntarily because He loves us. So let us not consider anything we suffer unfair because we do not know the meaning of the word. It may BE unfair according to our standards, but our standards are flawed.

Why we suffer

Pain always has a purpose. Pain in the body exists to alert us to some abnormality in our physical person. It exists so that we will recognize there is a problem, allowing us to address and rectify the cause. Emotional, mental, and spiritual pain exist for the exact same purpose. God’s purpose is always to help us realize a life fulfilled. He wants us to be the very best we can be. He knows what that REALLY looks like. We just think we know. God knows that the very best thing for us is to live a life in perfect union with Him, walking in faith, submission, and obedience. Everything He does, or allows, is for the purpose of drawing us, and others, back into union with Him. I may not see how life’s circumstances accomplish that, but I don’t have to. His goal is always restoration, even when it doesn’t look like that.

I have a good friend, Chuck D. A while back he broke his wrist. He returned for a follow up visit several weeks after his initial visit. The doctor came into the room and Chuck said “How’s everything looking doc?” The doctor looked at him and said “Chuck, I’m going to re-break your wrist.” I can imagine Chuck’s fear, hesitation, and doubt. I can imagine him thinking “man i came to you to fix my wrist not break it worse. I don’t think this is a good idea. I mean, it would hurt, and i couldn’t use my wrist for even longer.” Imagine if Chuck had run out of the room at that point, screaming, warning everyone about this sadistic doctor that lived to torture people. But Chuck didn’t do that. He allowed the doctor to explain that Chuck’s wrist wasn’t healing correctly. If left as it was it could cause even more pain in the long run. It might even cost Chuck the correct usage of that wrist and hand, maybe permanently. God is the same way.

Our pain has a purpose

Our pain ALWAYS has a purpose. Sometimes the purpose is to prepare us for some greater trial we will face down the road. Just like athletes workout, train, and practice all offseason long so that when the season starts, they will be in top form to play the games that count. God sees all of the trials that await us in this life. He helps us to build, strength, endurance, and faith now so that when the actual test gets here, we will be prepared. The other purpose is to disciple.

Hebrews 12:5-6And have you forgotten the encouraging words God spoke to you as his children? He said, “My child, don’t make light of the Lord’s discipline, and don’t give up when he corrects you. For the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes each one he accepts as his child.”

When we make bad choices, He disciplines us to correct us, to bring us back into a closer walk with Him. He is trying to lead us to a place that will satisfy us, whether we realize it or not.

Pain is one of His greatest blessings

When I was three years old, I was diagnosed with migraine headaches. I had them off and on throughout my childhood. They were debilitating. I could not function when one hit. As I entered puberty, they began to slowly increase in frequency. In my senior year of High School, they began to rapidly increase in frequency and severity. I ended up in the emergency room about once a week until finally, my head hurt all day every day. I am now almost 38 years old. This past December (2016) made 20 years that I have had a migraine headache almost every single day (i can count about five days in those 20 years that I didn’t have a headache). My addiction grew out of treatment under a doctor’s care for the headaches. Has there ever been a temptation to be angry at God? Yes. The thought has crossed my mind if He hadn’t allowed me to be born with this condition I wouldn’t have gotten addicted and caused all of the pain and heartache I caused. That’s a great thought. But there’s no guarantee I wouldn’t have developed the addiction through a broken tooth, or a kidney stone or something else. Had I not battled addiction, I would never have gone to the Home of Grace and had David Caminiti as my counselor. He wouldn’t have been able to help me identify issues that had crippled me emotionally my entire life, and would have continued to do so for the rest of my life had they not been identified and addressed. My physical pain, my emotional pain, and my addiction have given me life experiences to be able to understand the mind of an addict in a way only an addict can. It has helped me to understand and truly empathize with the addict and their family. It has opened doors for ministry. I would never have been able to walk through without my life unfolding exactly how it has. I had a guy comment to me this week about how some of the things I have written had helped him in his walk. Well, it isn’t me; it’s God. My very best efforts got me to the Home of Grace, but the fact that God allows me to participate with him in ministry makes everything I’ve ever been through worth it. I am not saying I have arrived yet because I haven’t. I do know this, though: I would never have scripted my life this way when I was 16. But I really like the way it’s going now. Yes, I went through 15 years of hell, as did most of the people around me. But I can speak for all of them when I say that this life I’m living now, it was worth all of it. I firmly believe God will accomplish the exact same outcome in each of our lives if we will trust and abide in him, even through the pain, especially through the pain.

Prayer

Lord, I lift up to you all of those who today are walking through pain. Some of them may be walking through unbearable valleys of suffering that I couldn’t begin to comprehend. I ask for your comfort for them. I ask that you reveal your love to them in ways they might have never known before. I pray for your encouragement and grace to sustain them during this season of sorrow. I ask that you would bring people alongside them to comfort and help sustain them. I ask that you strengthen their faith to trust that you have plans to prosper them, plans to give them hope and a future. I ask that you help them to trust that the outcome might not be what they planned, but it will be so much better because you planned it. Thank you for your voluntary suffering, which rescues us. I ask these things in Jesus’ name, amen.

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16 Comments

  1. Avatar

    What a profound steaming load of psycho-babble crap. A loving and caring God would NEVER allow the Holocaust….his own people per the Bible. And yet, children are allowed to be thrown into ovens? This is love? Please in the name of common sense, tell me you don’t believe this?

    This is the Christian “Get out of Jail” card…the “God’s plan” excuse, the distant cousin to the “his timing” excuse.

    I have had enough…no longer a Christian

    • Avatar

      Allow me to ask you this. With God allowing the Holocaust do you think another Holocaust will ever happen? No, because the sacrifice of all those innocent souls ;who are now living in paradise and realize why their pain was put upon them, gave us the knowledge to prevent something similar from happening in the future. Kids getting thrown in the oven, those kids are now in paradise with their creator and they know that their pain was put on them for a reason. When something happens to someones child what does it usually make someone else do? It makes them more aware of real life possibilities which helps them prevent the same thing from happening to their child. What this also does is put the people in the child’s life through a great trial but this will teach them a lesson so their testimony can teach other people lesson, if they do this which is what God wants then they will have they great gift of reuniting with their loved ones in paradise for eternity. Point of the story is God puts people through pain to teach them and people around them a lesson and if they have faith in God’s decision then they will understand it all one day. Their is no amount of pain in one’s lifetime that isn’t worth it in the end. PAIN IS A LACK OF UNDERSTANDING. YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND WHY GOD DOES THESE THINGS SO YOU FEEL PAIN. ONCE YOU UNDERSTAND AND TRUST GOD YOUR PAIN WILL EVENTUALLY GO AWAY. EVERYONE I MENTIONED NO LONGER FEEL PAIN. GOD FEELS NO PAIN.

      • Avatar

        Tell me, how is this different from an insurance broker coming to you claiming to sell you the best package that will give you return in the long term. And then when the news actually exposed him as a scam he tells you: ” it’s for your sake in the long term,”. Following your exact logic, is he actually helping you because after you got scammed once, you won’t get scammed again in the future? I’m not judging if there is or isn’t a god, I’m questioning the apparent lack of logic in your views. Suffering is suffering, suffering is bad, full stop. I do not even think it’s fair to tell the parents whose kids has cancer that ”this is for your own good.” Just stop.

    • Avatar

      I know your heart hurts to think all this Joseph, and know one blames you for your questions you have denying. We just have to believe it’s his Will. It’s either Heaven or Hell. Your choice.
      What the Lord allows or doesn’t allow it’s his doing to correct our mistakes for our future. It’s not for us to understand why the past has its history, we look back and give thanks that we learned, and corrected with God’s grace. Thank the Lord it wasn’t us then, but we live in peace now. Amen.

    • Avatar

      By saying what you have said, tells me you haven’t suffered profound pain. Only when you walk into the Valley of profound pain and you give yourself to GOD will you understand. Remember pain comes in many forms, physical and mental (emotional). From my own personal experience, after my suffering and talking to GOD, did he respond. He responded not with words but with relieving my emotional pain, the constant thinking and sobbing. The physical toll it was having on me, not being able to sleep, or eat, headaches, forgetfulness, i could go on and on. GOD took every last bit of it away. I pray for you, that you can experience this eternal joy without walking through the Valley of pain. I pray that this helps you, may GOD bless you!

  2. Avatar

    I relate to Joseph above. I find myself angry at God, not for personal tragedy or suffering, because my life has been pretty blessed. It’s not for the things that happen to me that I’m disturbed by. I am totally in a state of true confusion when it comes to the torture and murder of children, I cannot fathom what great lesson is being taught to an infant or young child who it’s being tormented brutally.

    I understand how trials can refine our faith. There is one story that haunts me, Sylvia Lykens, the sixteen year old girl who was tortured to death in 1965. She knew the Lord, and even if she didn’t, I’m sure she cried out to him in her desperation. Why didn’t God help her? This is just an example.

    The bible says, “though thy mother and father abandon you, still I will take you up.”.

    My faith in God is not up for debate, He touched me, and I’ll never be the same. I don’t see why I would ever want to go back to being godless, that was an empty life, and I want to be closer to the Lord, but I am angry about this one issue, and I need a better answer.

    Will I walk away from the Lord, no, simply because I can’t, but I am looking to reconcile myself with this issue.

    I know why evil exists, I just don’t understand why God would allow severe suffering?

  3. Avatar

    I understand what you are saying but God do not do things to humans on earth but man that cause pain to one another. I have been through so much in my life which was cause by my own family and friends someone that I talk to everyday that I trusted betrayed me in the most hurtful way I was mad at God at first but now I thank God because if he had not giving me a vision to know who my enemies were ,God knows where I be today it is hard but he’s real. I agree with the author he gives us pain for his glory

  4. Avatar

    Our family, too, has been struggling through decades of emotional pain. I, too, despite my lifelong faith, feel myself continually crying out for answers. To the person who asked about the children who suffer and die, I would say that, as hard as it is sometimes, we have to remember that when a child of God dies, that person is no longer in pain. They are no longer hurt, angry, or confused. Now, of course, we are all of those things. Those of us left behind are hurt, angry, and confused. But the person who was suffering is now pain-free, in glory, filled with joy. If they could speak to us, they would probably say, “Stop worrying, sillies! I’m doing GREAT!” When we trust in Christ, that will be us one day, too. Can’t wait!

  5. Avatar

    Joseph, I take it that you think that throwing children into ovens is wrong? How can it be wrong or evil, if there is no God. When a lion eats a zebra or even it’s own young, there is no, “how evil that was”. The fact that you see it as evil gives you some idea that there is right and wrong in this world, that knowledge brings you pain, just as it does God.

    God gave us that sense of right and wrong, along with the pain that comes from seeing man causing suffering to others. You error is in thinking that because God does not act in your time that He isn’t good or loving. There is a day when all evil will be dealt with, yours, mine and those who committed the Holocaust. The only hope any of us have is in Jesus.

    So perhaps rather than acting all high and mighty as though you have some greater understanding of life and this world you need to humble yourself. Realize that Jesus understands your pain and the pain of those who suffer, as He took on all of our sins and became sin on the cross so that we can know eternal peace with Him.

  6. Avatar

    Hi,i read your article about pain and I really needed it .it helped me so much and I need to contact you to thank you. i am suffering from migraines too also I had cancer and a lot of other issues.what was the cause for migraines ?i feel like i am stuck and not progressing in finding causes for my illnesses….what can i do?what does god wants me to realize?i would be so grateful for your help.
    Bless you

  7. Avatar

    Pain has a purpose. No doubt God allows struggles and pain,He also has blessed us with mercy ,grace and communion with fellow believers and through the fellowship and listening to God in prayer peace WILL come .

  8. Avatar

    I’m not thankful for any of the pain, It make question GOD. When I was on fire I wasn’t thanking GOD for the pain. And when my finger got ripped off my body the second after I looked to the sky and said REALLY. Yes I’ve had two traumas Two different days and both at work and I wish never happen. I just think GOD can be cruel, how do not get upset. My body will never be the same It is broken and missing,
    I just wish who ever wrote this article and one like these understood there is real pain out there of all kind, until you’ve been bless with pain and it’s not a blessing. Preach about what you understand from your life’s lessons and not from a book but from the heart…

  9. Avatar

    I do believe in God but I can’t wrap my head around how being molested as a child for over ten years is ever going to help me.
    I know all of the ins and outs of the sayings and reasonings behind God allowing suffering, so I dont need responses as to ‘why it will be for my greater good in the end or perhaps be of benefit to someone else.”
    My point here is that when people suffer from things such as headaches, no one caused that to happen to you. A family friend repeatedly molested me for ten years. Im not even going to ask, “Where was God?” because I know all the typical responses to questions like that… “Well, life is a mystery” and “We may not know the answer this side of heaven” and “It has made you a stronger person” and etc etc.
    Actually, it has made me weak. I constantly let people run me over, say what they want and I never defend myself. Now, before you respond, you first need to have been molested for 10+ years as well. If you weren’t you have no clue what Im dealing with.
    So.. whats the response to my post? What are people going to say? Am I mad at God? I dont know. It does my no good to be mad at him. What am I going to change by being mad?

    The difficult thing for me is I BELIEVE in God! and yet no matter who I talk to about this, everyone feeds me typical cookie-cutter answers as to ‘why’ I was molested.

    I was a kid, innocent. I had no idea what to do at the time. The person was 50 pounds heavier than me. What was I going to do to stop it? Again, before you respond, you first need to have been molested for 10+ years as well in order to FULLY understand my position here. If you weren’t you have no clue what Im dealing with.

    As an adult I STILL think of this. Its disgusting. Me on the floor. Someone on top of me doing whatever he/she wanted. And God was…. ? … in heaven smiling down? Preparing this person to someday be my footstool? Waiting for 60 years to pass before I have some revelation as to why this horrible and awful situation will turn into something beautiful and amazing and will even save someone from the same situation?

    If my suffering is going to protect someone else, why didnt someone ELSEs suffering protect me??

    Such a difficult situation. Believing in God, will always believe in God, grew up believing in God, turned out to be a pretty normal and kind person, and yet decades later im STILL SUFFERING from the decisions of one person.

    The best answer Ive heard is, “You may never know why this was allowed, but someday you will.” Oh great! So my entire earthly life is a struggle trying to live a good life, raising a family, be a good person… dealing with being molested for a decade… never knowing why.. but someday in the beyond all answers will be revealed.

    I just dont get it. I dont even know what i ‘dont get’. But until youve been shoved to the ground repeatedly for a DECADE and used physically by another human being, you will have NO CLUE what it means to suffer emotionally and psychologically.

    My other favorite answer to this is, “You should go seek help from a good christian psychologist.” And what are they going to do? Help me to accept this?

    What people dont understand is I…DONT…WANT…TO..ACCEPT..THIS. I didnt ask for this. You cant just force someone into a situation and say, “Youve got to accept this or else its going to eat you away for your entire life.. and maybe even cost you your salvation if you dont accept it before you die.”

    What the??

    I dont know what else to say here. Its a crappy situation where I know people who never dealt with this personally are going to spew ‘helpful’ and ‘loving’ responses meant to ‘comfort me’. Fine. But before you try to do so, go get molested by someone else for ten years, accept it, learn to live with it… and THEN come and try to comfort me.

    How about that?

    • Avatar

      Addison, I felt deeply pained reading what you wrote. I was frustrated as to why our Loving Father let that happen. I didn’t know the answer, but I prayed for an answer. I read a devotional to get back to my faith. As you are already in faith, I won’t and am in no position to give you an answer. But I think Jesus can. He might not be the only one who understands your pain but he’s the highest. He understands all physical, emotional and psychological pain because he was put through it so he can be our advocate in the presence of the Lord. All I’m saying is, pray. Pray to him, with what is left of your faith and I’m sure he’ll give you an answer that will satisfy you. I prayed that I wanted to know how to answer you and prayer is my answer.

  10. Avatar

    Addison, thank you for expressing my thoughts and saving me the effort having to explaining them myself.
    I am tired of the abundance of unintelligent thoughts I hear on this subject and it is refreshing to hear somebody dig with a considerable depth into this issue.
    I have also suffered severe and prolonged torture, the nature of which is irrelevant to the discussion here. The best answer I can come up with is that God is teaching Humanity an eternal lesson regarding our relationship with him and the faith it requires. We are all evil, children included. God sees us as evil offspring of the evil man, Adam, and the evil woman, Eve. The root of this evil is unbelief, and suffering is its fruit. We are the branches of this cursed tree, and its fruit hangs heavily upon us.
    In ways that I cannot personally relate to yet, God views humans as being “in” their predecessors, and so holds us collectively responsible for their decisions. We suffer collectively as the children of Adam, bearing the penalty of his unbelief, which is the evil and suffering we experience in this life.
    In the same way, God imputes to us, or transfers in a way, the righteousness of Christ to us through faith in him. As we are ” in” Christ, we inherit the reward of his righteousness.
    Even this knowledge is still inadequate to answer some of my questions though. I have only begun my journey of searching the mind of God for answers to questions of profound suffering that is too deep to articulate in a short web response here (suffice it to say “mental illness”). But what I hear the voice of God saying to me is “keep digging, my son. There is an eternal wisdom; a reasonal argument that provides context for all that mankind has experienced in the way of suffering.”

    • Avatar

      Me too, JESUS CHRIST !!! He will fight for you and his Son .Believe in his Son.


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