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Why Does God Allow Suffering?

I sit at the bedside of a dear friend who is nearing death. Don is often with me. It is agony to watch when our friend is in severe pain; and such a relief when medications kick in to give him relief. Why does God allow him to suffer so?

We were here this morning; held Bob’s hand, massaged his shoulders and neck, sang “Amazing Grace” in my froggy voice. At long last he relaxed and fell asleep, not even waking when we told him we would go pick up his mail and return this afternoon.

I watch him sleep and think of the many who suffer in our world

Hamas attacks Israel and Israel and Palestine are now at war. Women, the elderly, and children are murdered and mutilated. Now pain and fear reign on both sides of the conflict. Cement and rubble pile up on the ground where buildings stood before. The military finds bodies of parents killed as they lay atop their children to protect them.

Russia makes an unprovoked attack against Ukraine and Ukraine fights for its life. Atrocities are carried out beyond what we can imagine. Death tolls are high on both sides.

  • Earthquakes, floods, wars.
  • Cancer, strokes, heart attacks.
  • Chronic, debilitating illnesses.
  • Divorce, unloving marriages, drug abuse, abused or trafficked women and children.
  • Poverty.

People often ask how a loving God can allow such suffering in the world?

Pastor Rene Schlaepfer shared the acronym WHY to answer this question.

W We live in a broken world

When Adam and Eve chose to disobey God, the world was broken, and has been broken ever since.

Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned… Romans 5:12

We live in a broken world, but we don’t have a broken God. We need to be careful not to confuse God with life. We can be angry with the circumstance, the war, the illness and death. We can say “I hate this disease (war, divorce), this wound that is taking my friend’s strength, causing him agony, draining his life.”

But we can’t blame God for it. Disease has been around since sin entered the world with its natural consequences. I believe God grieves with us, not only at Bob’s pain but at the war, physical and emotional catastrophes occurring in our world.

You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book? Psalm 56:8 ESV

H – He will make all things right one day

Jesus suffered with and for us, but rose again to conquer death. One day this broken world will be made new and justice will “roll down like a river”. Jesus taught us to pray

Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Matthew 6:10 ESV

‘Compared to what lies ahead, all our suffering here is like one night in a bad hotel.’ Mother Teresa

No Pollyanna. Suffering and death were not something Jesus sailed through. He was “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief.” He prayed in the Garden before his arrest.

Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup {of suffering} be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” Matthew 26:39

Y – Your response is a choice

We can lament, wail and weep. Jesus lamented on the cross. He was no Pollyana. He asked that if it were possible, God would take this cup from him. “Nevertheless,” he said, “not my will but Yours be done.” If we remain in lament, we miss the opportunity to lean on the grace God gives.

Cast all your cares on Him, for He cares for you - I Peter 5:7

Casting all your cares (all your anxieties, all your worries, and all your concerns, once and for all) on Him, for He cares about you (with deepest affection, and watches over you very carefully). I Peter 5:7, AMP

I’d like to add a few more from my own experience and understanding.

God changes the sufferer

We can choose bitterness. Or we can choose trust. We can lean on the God who gave His only Son to redeem us, or we can turn away from Him in rebellion. Either way, suffering changes us.

I’m reading an amazing book, IMPRISONED WITH ISIS. The author, Petr Jasek, was in the news some years ago. Captured in Sudan for bringing Christian humanitarian aid to suffering Christians, Petr was falsely accused of being a spy. He tells of his 14-month imprisonment in Sudan. (

The first four months, spent in a dirty cell made for one person that housed between seven and 12 prisoners, he wondered what God was doing, why he wasn’t being released. But his prayer life deepened, although he could only pray silently while the ISIS prisoners in his cell pushed him into a corner by the toilet while they prayed. He was beaten, tortured and was about to be waterboarded when “Mean Guard” pulled him out of the room. “Mean Guard” became his friend, sneaking in extra food as he was able.

After four months a group of Eritreans were brought into his shared cell, bodies crammed one next to the next. After Petr shared the good news of Jesus with them, all twelve committed their lives to following Christ. The next morning, they were moved to another prison and Petr never saw them again.

Suffering Changed his Mindset

Suddenly he realized God had a purpose for him in that filthy, stinking, overcrowded prison, and his mindset changed. Petr continued to hope for release while his church fasted and prayed for him. But instead of “why am I here and why aren’t you setting me free?” Petr began to pray for those around him, to find ways to share the good news of Jesus Christ with many different nationalities and religions. He became settled that he would serve Christ there in prison, whether for a year, twenty years, or life.

Months in Solitary confinement in the “Refrigerator” followed. This cell had a metal bed with no mattress, no blanket, cold air rushing in, no running water, and a filthy toilet. ISIS members knew anyone in this cell would lose his mind in a few days. Petr went through two sessions with the cold air during his time in solitary, and surprised his guards by remaining sane.

But a Czech representative brought Petr a Czech Bible. In this cell there was enough light to read. Petr figured he walked fifteen miles a day, from 6 am until 9 pm. He read through the entire Bible in three weeks, then started again at the beginning, making notes in tiny handwriting in the margins. He says these months were a precious time when God gave him deeper insights into scripture than he’d had before.

Another move took Petr to a prison that had a chapel, and fellow believers. Here Petr was able to preach periodically, sharing truths from God’s word in which he had immersed himself while in solitary.

Petr was freed after fourteen months. He is thankful for the time in prison because it deepened his own relationship with God and, in essence, gave him a new platform!

God changes the watcher

Think of those watching Petr, who had a purpose beyond himself in those prison cells. Many of their lives changed as a result.

And as I watch Bob’s pain and suffering, I am changed. I become more compassionate, more caring, more willing to change my plans because of his needs. We have the privilege of being here and experiencing God’s presence as we encourage and love on Bob ‘til the moment God calls him home, where Jesus and Bob’s beloved wife will welcome him with open arms.

I have read many stories of those persecuted for their trust in Christ. Somehow, God gives grace as they need it. And those watching see a different picture of the God who is There.

Suffering gives us a bigger view of the world’s needs

As I see someone suffer, I am reminded of suffering all over the world. Those who suffer because of the evil intent of men (or women). Those who suffer simply because when sin entered the world, the world was broken, and the consequences of sin impact each of us. Some suffer because of their own wrong choices. But all need our love, compassion, prayer, and presence.

We weren’t meant only for this world. We were created for eternity!

We can choose bitterness, or trust the God who has promised us His presence and peace. Which way would you rather live?

And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. Matthew 28:20b NIV




  1. Wow! I’m so glad I took the time to read this blog. I love the acronym WHY to help understand why God allows suffering. The book story you shared is so powerful. God has used some in the worst conditions for the most powerful witnesses. And I love that you are ministering to Bob in his final days. May your heart be blessed for your compassion as I know Bob is being blessed by your kindness.

    1. Carol Loewen says:

      Thank you Ruth. I so appreciated the feedback you gave me the other day. I think of Corrie ten Boom, of Louis Zamperini, the book I recommended, Darlene Rose (who was about to be beheaded in a Japanese POW camp when another officer rescued her) — so many stories, both current and from years back, like the Apostle Paul. All suffered for being faithful to Christ; but how He has used their lives, stories, writings to build our faith. Blessings!

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