Where is God when a pandemic kills millions of people? Where is He when a tsunami wipes out an entire village? Or when hurricanes and tornados leave behind a trail of death and devastation?
At the heart of these questions is the age-old cry that’s been only growing louder since the Garden of Eden. Countless people throughout the ages have asked, “How can a loving God allow suffering?”
Some people have even abandoned their Christian faith because of doubts surrounding this question. Seeing suffering can cause people to view God as a cynical master who doesn’t care when His creation is in pain. And who would want to serve a god like that?
Thankfully, though, God is nothing like that. On the contrary, He is a loving, merciful God who extends grace to His creation over and over. And while He is just and doesn’t let sin go unpunished, He does not rejoice in the death of the wicked (Ezekiel 33:11).
So if God is merciful and loving, how do we explain suffering?
Understanding Suffering From a Biblical Perspective
When Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden, they in essence said they wanted life without God. Their sin plunged the entire human race—and even the entire world—into the curse of sin and death (Genesis 3:17). As a result, we live in a world where we get a taste of what life is like without God.
Because of that curse, Romans 8:22 tells us that “the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.” Part of that groaning includes death and decay as well as natural disasters like tsunamis, tornados, hurricanes, and earthquakes.
Until we’re prepared to acknowledge that we are all sinners and don’t even deserve the life and blessings we have on this earth, we won’t understand tragedies and suffering. We need to acknowledge that we, not God, are responsible for the mess the world is in. Even though we are not directly responsible for things like natural disasters, they only exist because sin entered the world in the first place.
How Should Christians Respond to Suffering?
We need to be careful in how we answer the question of how Christians should respond to suffering because the answer is multifaceted. Often with suffering comes tremendous grief—and it’s important that we grieve and allow others to as well.
In that grief, we can often feel strong emotions and sometimes even wonder if God is really for us. Even King David felt these intense emotions, as we see throughout the book of Psalms. There were times when David asked God if He had forgotten him, such as in Psalm 13:1, which says, “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?”
And yet David always directed his gaze back to God and reaffirmed his trust in the Lord. We may go through dark seasons of suffering where we struggle with wondering if God has abandoned us. And while it’s important that we are honest with God about these feelings, we must be careful not to allow those painful emotions to cause us to believe lies about God or turn away from Him.
We can learn a lot from Job, who lost everything—all his possessions and even all his children. (Job 1 tells us it was Satan who caused this suffering, not God.)
In the middle of his tragedy, Job praised the Lord and said, “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21). In his suffering, Job refused to sin against God.
God knows the suffering that is happening around the world, just like He knows the suffering in your own life. He is intimately involved in every difficult situation, and He is merciful. You can put your full confidence in Him.
If you don’t know Jesus or aren’t sure if you do, you can seek Him right now and He will reveal the truth to you. Read the gospel of Jesus Christ if you’re not sure how to do that.
Find God in Your Suffering
At Answers.tv, we provide videos to equip you to defend the truth. But we also provide encouraging teachings to help you stand strong even in the midst of tragedy.
If you’re facing suffering in your life or are confused by the suffering around the world, watch Suffering, where Dr. Georgia Purdom walks you through life’s toughest questions about God and suffering.