November 20, 2020
Pain and Suffering
September 8, 2020 | Darrin Simpson
In this season of ministry, there has been a lot of pain. As a pastor, this is one of the toughest seasons of ministry I’ve walked through in my 15+ years of ministry. Pain is a very real thing. It comes from a myriad of complexities and we’ve all felt it with a multitude of intensities. Physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual pain are all possible and at varying degrees.
A question I receive regularly is, “Why does God allow so much pain and suffering in this world?” This is not simple to answer. If I stub my toe, is that God’s fault? If I lose a loved one, is that God’s fault? If something bad takes place, because it’s allowed to happen, is God to blame? It’s easy to see how the circumstances surrounding pain begin to dictate our behaviors.
If God is to blame, why would He do such a thing or why would He allow it to take place? It sounds trivial if we put that towards stubbing a toe, but yet it sounds justifiable when it comes to disease, illness, and death.
Before we get into this conversation, I want to mention a few things…
First, we all have a world view. Some might not see God at the center of this discussion. For me, I want to engage in this conversation from the approach that, “In the beginning God…”
Second, sin. From the beginning, we’ve been in a constant battle of good vs. evil. Sin opened the door to experiencing pain and suffering in our world. If you were born after Adam and Eve, then you will know and experience pain alongside love.
Now to look at answering the question…
To answer this question, if it can even be fully answered, I believe there are two things we have to look at – pain and love. They work together in different ways that can ultimately help us land on a conclusion. There are many other factors that contribute, but time is of the essence.
Love…God loved us so much that He gave (John 3:16). God’s love gives us the opportunity to love and be loved. God also gave us free will. We can choose to love or choose not to love. Free will allows us to love with every ounce of our being. Ponder that for a few minutes…
Love will come at a cost, though. We live in a broken world. Because of that, love cannot sustain forever. At a young age, I was told the one thing the entire human race has in common is that we will all die. Morbid, but true. This is where suffering and pain enter the picture.
Pain…It will inevitably show up when love is involved. Pain will impact those who have more love invested. When I read about a tragedy that I’m not personally connected to, my heart breaks, but I feel nothing remotely close to what the immediate family walks through.
Let’s get personal. What do you love? What eats up your free time? Maybe it’s some kind of hobby, a sport, your job, shopping, your cell phone, potentially even your family? Have you ever been able to balance everything perfectly and sustain it forever? No—even if you love perfectionism, someone will mess it up! Love always comes with pain. The more you love, the more pain you will feel when it’s gone. Pain is in opposition of love, but you cannot have an authentic version of either, without the other.
Finally, something I’ve witnessed over the years of ministry: When pain is predictable, we have no issues understanding it. Even when there is serious risk involved, we are ok with subjecting ourselves to it. Every time we get into a vehicle to drive, we put on a safety belt – risk for something I love. When pain is unpredictable or unfair, that is where we truly struggle. Why cancer, why the accident, why death, why them?
Why does God allow so much pain and suffering? In giving us the freedom to love Him completely, He had to give us the same freedom to feel pain. In a weird way, God loved us so much that He allows us to experience pain so that we can experience HIS real love.
Paul says in Romans 5:3-4 (ESV) – “More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”
It is on us to remember that the pain we feel comes out of the freedom to express the love we have. While pain seems prevalent, I encourage you to heed Jesus’ words in John 16:33, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”