When I volunteered in the chaplaincy at my local hospital, I often encountered questions like ‘why does God allow suffering?’ or ‘why did my loved one die?’
Have you ever asked such questions?
I don’t think God minds us thinking these things, they’re all valid questions and I’ll do my best to answer them here:
WHY DOES GOD ALLOW SUFFERING?
If I was to answer this question in a nutshell, I would probably say ‘I don’t think God does allow suffering’. It’s not really the right question to ask. Let me explain:
1. THE FALLEN WORLD
We don’t live in heaven. This is a fallen earth where bad things happen.
At the beginning of Creation, God had complete authority over the earth. But then Adam and Eve ate from the forbidden tree and ever since then, life is no longer perfect.
Sin, sickness, suffering and death entered the earth.
There are viruses and bacterias, faulty genes or hereditary conditions. Our bodies degenerate as we age, or we are subject to harmful chemicals, the rays of the sun or we may eat a dodgy kebab!
We are in a fallen world and whilst we can take precautions to prevent some bad things, we’re not going to avoid them all. Accidents happen every day causing all sorts of health consequences.
Sometimes we may be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Whilst we’re living in this fallen world, we’re susceptible.
It’s important to understand that God does not cause you to suffer. He is a good God.
My belief is that the biggest cause of illness is trauma. Research has shown that there is a link between childhood trauma and chronic disease. The ACE (Adverse Childhood Experiences) questionnaire is now used by health professionals worldwide.
When a child experiences trauma, they then learn to survive that environment and develop personality traits, coping mechanisms and programming to help them cope.
This is not their fault. We have an incredible nervous system which adapts to our needs to help us survive.
The impact of the trauma is physiological, not psychological and gets trapped in their cells. Bessel Van Der Kolk has written a book entitled The Body Keeps The Score which is such a good explanation of this.
‘The body remembers what the mind forgets’
If you’re not well right now. Know it makes absolute sense.
The definition of trauma however may be different to what you think. It’s not necessarily ‘shock traumas’ like car crashes or child abuse, but more developmental trauma.
This is a bit like chronic stress, an environment of disharmony or lack of attunement by caregivers. (I intend to further elaborate on this in a future post). All this is traumatic for the child.
When God heals us, he heals back into the person He saw when He laid the foundation of the world. The true authentic you.
I don’t think it’s that fair to ask ‘why does God allow suffering?’, because when we understand that our bodies are susceptible to trauma and it’s consequences, it explains why we suffer in this fallen world.
3. THE SPIRITUAL REALM
There is a spiritual realm. We can have faith and pray, but oftentimes, there are unseen forces at work which we’re unaware of.
There is a devil and his cohort who has a destructive plan for your life. He is just as real and active as God. He causes pain, misery and suffering.
In John 10:10 it says the he ‘kills steals and destroys’.
In fact, he will do whatever it takes to destroy God’s plan for you. Sickness is a part of his plan. We’re susceptible to oppression.
This is why we put on the armour of God, use our authority and fight the good fight of faith. Oftentimes I don’t know if something is the enemy or just the world in which we live.
Either way, we stick close to the vine because everything in this world will convince you to give up.
4. HEALING IS A MYSTERY
Healing is a mystery and this side of heaven I don’t think we’ll ever fully understand all the ways of God.
You can’t get the peace that passes understanding until you give up your right to understand
Bill Johnson, Manifesto for a Normal Christian Life
His ways and thoughts are higher. He sees what we don’t and He also sees the bigger picture. That is, he sees eternity.
One thing that keeps me going is God’s promises for restoration. I want to see it in this life, but even if I don’t, there’s restoration in Heaven.
5. PURPOSE OF SUFFERING
Rather than asking why God allows suffering?’, we could ask ourselves the question ‘what good is coming out of my pain?’
Whilst God doesn’t cause you to suffer, He will use everything you go through. My favourite analogy here is the creation of the pearl. A grain of sand gets stuck in the oyster and causes great irritation.
This process, whilst painful for the oyster, creates a beautiful pearl as a consequence. The most expensive and beautiful pearl in the world was born from great discomfort.
When I look back at my own life, I am a completely different person now to the one I was when all this started.
God uses everything we go through to make us more like His son (including when we suffer) Our love for others and ourselves grows in hard times, our patience, endurance, compassion for others…the list is endless really.
St Augustine said ‘God judged it better to bring good out of evil, than to have no evil at all’
If everything was perfect we wouldn’t see God’s power at work in the same way. We may not feel the need to pray as much, we wouldn’t need to believe God for anything.
He knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold.
Job 23:10 (NIV)
IS GOD IN CONTROL?
God is sovereign but this doesn’t mean he has complete control, despite what we hear preachers preaching. (In my opinion).
If I chose to jump off a bridge, God won’t stop me. Nor will He stop the consequences of trauma, the results of the fall, other people’s actions and so on.
I think it’s a mistake to think ‘If God wants to heal me, he will’. It is clear in Scripture that God does want to heal, but this healing doesn’t land in our laps.
We may not always understand why some people suffer way more than others, but God is a faithful God who will make it up to them somehow.
We can increase our capacity to receive God’s healing, I guess that’s what this blog is all about; searching for that hidden treasure in the Word and applying it to our lives.
So beautiful pearls, I hope this post gives you a little more peace and understanding to your situation as you continue to navigate through your healing journey. Have a great day
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