I can’t tell you how many attempts I’ve made to write this post over the last 48 hours. I’ve written and rewritten, erased and added the same sentence back in after erasing it. How do we give a 500 word answer to a question that has literally been asked by humans since the beginning of time? The question: Does God plan suffering?
A little over a week ago Damien’s beloved Grandpa passed away due to cancer. It’s been the first death in the family that I have actually grieved, as every other passing of someone close to me occurred when I was to young to understand what death meant. Not only did I grieve for Damien’s family, but I grieved because I can honestly say that I too loved Grandpa Jim to the moon and back. Whenever Dame and I hopped in the vehicle, we almost always called Grandpa (and Grandma), even if our destination was only 15 minutes away from home. He was a man who I looked up to and respected, a man with whom I could 100% be myself and know that he would love me no less. And it has honestly been one of the hardest things for us over the past year, seeing such a man fight the awful disease that prostate cancer is.
It just so happened that a couple days after Grandpa’s passing away I was reading Jennie Allen’s book Anything. If you’ve read this particular book, you’ll know that it’s no light read. Within it’s pages are asked some of the hardest and deepest questions we have as humans living in a broken world. Is God real? If so, is He good? And if He’s good, how can He allow suffering?
I don’t think it was a coincidence that when I picked up the book, which by the way has been taking me a couple of months to read as I have to dissect and put back together some of my foundational beliefs, I was on the chapter that asked the question of whether or not God plans suffering. I mean, really, what a question to ponder in the middle of grieving the loss of a great man who suffered from one of the worst diseases known.
My immediate response to the question was No, absolutely not, no questions asked. But, I know how important it is to ask questions, to seek out their answers, regardless if we do or do not like the answers we find. So I turned to our best source, Scripture.
So often throughout Scripture we see suffering, hardship, turmoil and even death. The ‘stories’ that came to mind when I started questioning my beliefs were the story of Jonah and the whale, the story of the Israelites being banished into the desert for 40 years because they rejected God’s blessing of the Promised Land, and finally the story of Jesus’ brutal and humiliating death on the cross.
You see, each of these stories involves so much suffering. And through studying Scripture we can see that God uses that suffering to discipline us, to draw us into the barren place where all of our false gods fall away until only He is left. I believe that He draws us into the valley because it is through the hardships we endure there that we have the opportunity to persevere and grow in strength and stature and faith. So it should be obvious that God uses our suffering, but does that mean He plans for our suffering?
Even throughout all the years I have studied Scripture I can only answer that question through the eyes of faith. Everything in me believes that God is good, and if He is good, that means that He does not plan for our suffering. I think that He allows us to suffer because we live in a broken world, which is broken due to our bad choices, which He allows because He doesn’t want us to be robots. But because He is good, He somehow uses all of our suffering to bring beauty and joy and life. He twists evil things back into good things, for the good of His people, which ultimately brings glory and honor to His name.
So, that’s the answer I came up with. And even so it’s a little muddled, simply because of the reason that I am not God, and therefore I do not have all the answers to life’s hard questions, it works for me.
And no matter how muddled your thoughts and answers are, whether you agree or disagree with mine, I’d love to hear your opinions. Leave a comment below or if you’d like to talk solely to me, feel free to send me a private message (head to my contact page).
Love you all,