Why Does God Allow Suffering? Here’s One Perspective

Sam Larrabee • 12 minutes

In October of 2019, my dad passed away. My family sat beside him while I was halfway across the country, trying to get a flight home. He was gone before I even left for the airport. Have you had an experience like that? A moment that shook your life? If you’re like me, it might have made you ask, “Why does God allow suffering?”

There are plenty of ways to approach this question. You might be interested in theology or wrestling with doubts about your faith. You could have seen a recent tragedy or injustice and wondered why God let it happen. Maybe you’ve always wondered why but haven’t found an answer that seems right. Or maybe you just saw the title of this post, and that made you curious. 

Our goal is to find some answers, but more than that, to find peace with a God who allows suffering. 

For many, this question is tangled in emotion, history, relationships, and faith, making simple answers hard to find. It also means that your journey through this question could look different than mine. As a result, we might come to different conclusions, and that’s okay. Our goal is to find some answers, but more than that, to find peace with a God who allows suffering. 

So I’d like to invite you into my story of approaching this question through my grief and the six questions it produced. I pray that it will help you process your emotions, and discover how to move forward with hope. 

1. Is God out to get me?    2. Is it okay to be angry with God?   3. Why does God allow suffering?   

4. Does God care about suffering?   5. Will it get better?   6. What if I’m suffering now?

Question #1: Is God out to get me?

Two months after my dad died, my grandfather passed away too. A few weeks after the funeral, my wife and I got some good news; we were pregnant. So, even though we were grieving, we could find a reason to feel hopeful again. 

Then we experienced a miscarriage, and our sweet Ellie was gone, too. We found out the same week the world shut down in March of 2020. In the weeks of isolation that followed, my confusion with God turned into something darker—anger at God. 

Have you felt that before? You see victims of injustice, loved ones suffering, or your own pain, and feel like God has betrayed you? This anger meant my process for finding peace was bigger than one question. Instead, I needed to learn to trust God again. But how could I do that when all I wanted was to scream and argue with Him? 

It started with learning that arguing with God is actually biblical.

Question #2: Is it okay to be angry with God?

The Bible is a strange book. I say this because suffering people wrote it, and yet somehow, it’s filled with hope. One of my favorite weird Bible stories is about a man named Habakkuk (which is an excellent name). His book is one heated conversation between him and God, and it all starts with a familiar set of questions:

How long, O Lord, must I call for help? But you do not listen! “Violence is everywhere!” I cry, but you do not come to save. Must I forever see these evil deeds? Why must I watch all this misery? Wherever I look, I see destruction and violence. I am surrounded by people who love to argue and fight. The law has become paralyzed, and there is no justice in the courts. The wicked far outnumber the righteous so that justice has become perverted. Habakkuk 1:2-4 NLT

As you can see, Habakkuk didn’t hold back. He told God exactly how he felt. You might be someone who pours your emotions out in prayer all the time, but if you’re more like me, prayers like this can almost feel wrong. That’s why what happened next to Habakkuk changed everything for me. 

God doesn’t get angry, He doesn’t zap Habakkuk or shame him for asking questions. Why? Because Habakkuk is in pain. Questions fueled by grief and anger are a natural response to suffering. God understands, and He welcomes our emotions, even when they take the form of anger at him. 

God can handle my anger and welcomes my questions

This is when I discovered the first step to processing my pain: understanding that God can handle my anger and welcomes my questions. 

Habbakuk’s questions were what God used to lead him towards peace. Habbakuk found hope, even in his suffering. As I read his story, I became hopeful that God could help me find peace through my questions, too. 

Now that I was empowered to ask questions and be authentic with God, I was finally ready to explore my big question: Why does God allow suffering? I knew this question wouldn’t give me instant peace, but it could be part of my restoration process.

Question #3: Why does God allow suffering? 

Genesis, the first book in the Bible, tells us that in the beginning, God made the earth and everything in it. This story also reveals our purpose: to cultivate the world with God so all things could thrive. He gave us the power to build, innovate, discover, and multiply, but how we use those tools is up to us. 

So, how did the people in the stories of the Bible choose to use the tools God gave them? Well, the results are mixed. A few pages in, we see jealousy lead Cain to murder his brother. Later, Abraham trusts God’s promise, but then he and his wife take matters into their own hands and mistreat a young woman in the process. David is a man after God’s own heart until he abuses his power and neglects justice. His son Solomon uses slave labor to build a beautiful temple to the God who rescued his people from slavery.

You get the idea. The Bible isn’t filled with heroes, it’s filled with people like us. People who have to choose between partnering with God, or doing what feels best in the moment. Often, they make the right choice and create life, but just as often, they lose sight of their calling and cause suffering. The same is true of us today. 

We live in a broken world.

Injustice, racism, violence, poverty, indifference, greed, and abuse happen when we prioritize our wants more than our neighbor’s needs. But when you see people serving others, rejecting excess, fighting for justice, feeding hungry people, welcoming refugees, and bringing hope to oppressed people, you’re seeing people live the way God created us to live. 

I began to see that God didn’t invent suffering. Instead, He gave us responsibility for the world, and we created suffering. Whether it’s unjust systems, influencers with harmful beliefs, loved ones with strong opinions, or distracted drivers, we can see how people often produce suffering. And, if I’m being honest, I can also think of several times I’ve caused suffering too. I wonder if you could do the same? 

So to me, It doesn’t seem like God created suffering, but I still had more questions. After all, this didn’t answer why God allows suffering like miscarriage or disease. What about natural disasters? Did God make them too?

Great questions, but I struggled to find answers to satisfy my pain-filled curiosity. My journey of discovery felt like it hit a dead end. So, how do we move forward when the Bible doesn’t answer our questions the way we want?

As people experienced pain and suffering in the Bible, they often wrestled with questions like: why does God allow suffering? Several times, their big question wasn’t fully answered, yet they still found peace. So, how do we follow their lead?
We keep asking, searching, and exploring until we find peace too. Thankfully, the Bible does have a very clear answer to the next question, and it’s more than satisfying.

1. Is God out to get me?    2. Is it okay to be angry with God?   3. Why does God allow suffering?   

4. Does God care about suffering?   5. Will it get better?   6. What if I’m suffering now?

Question #4: Does God care about suffering?

There are times when I believe the worst of God, especially when I’m in pain. It can be easy to feel like God doesn’t care when He doesn’t meet our needs in the way we asked. 

So how can we know that God cares about our suffering? And what’s He going to do about it?

I’m convinced that God loves restoring broken people

After reading several stories in the Bible, I’m convinced that God loves restoring broken people. That’s because you see God help suffering people all the time. Can I challenge you? Read some of the stories in the links below and see if you agree. 

Here are three ways I was able to see how God responds to suffering in the Bible: 

  1. God Responds to Suffering Through His People

God’s most common response to suffering is to partner with someone to bring restoration. You’ll see God’s care for suffering people through a pattern that plays out over and over again in the Bible:

People suffer > People cry out > God empowers a person

Here are a few examples:

  • The Hebrew slaves suffer > They cry out for freedom > God empowers Moses (Exodus 3)
  • Canaan invades Israel > Israel cries out for rescue > God calls Deborah to lead (Judges 4)
  • Jerusalem is defenseless > Nehemiah prays > God sends him to rebuild the city walls (Nehemiah 1)

Let’s be honest. It would be way more efficient for God to solve our suffering on his own. So why doesn’t He? That brought me back to what I’d discovered earlier. Remember how God gave the earth to us? It seems like God is still committed to his original plan, to partner with people in restoring our broken world. 

This made me wonder how I might partner with God in healing the world and how I can limit the suffering I cause in others. 

  1. God Brings Hope Through His Presence

When you’re at a low point, it helps to have someone around. God promises that He’s always with us even though we can’t always feel it. Most of the people I’ve spoken to about faith experience doubts about God’s presence. Habbakuk felt the same way, and maybe you do, too.  

I’ve had to reframe how I think about God’s presence. To do that, I’m learning how to reject the feeling that He’s not present and hold on to the truth. God is always close, and He always cares. 

Here are two simple ways to reframe how you experience God’s presence: make prayer a habit, and read this scripture whenever you feel like God is absent. 

  1. God Shows Us His Compassion Through Jesus

If you want to know what God is like, just look at how Jesus lived. 

Jesus shows us that God doesn’t feel sympathy from a distance. Instead, God is willing to suffer beside us. 

As I continued to grieve, I saw God’s compassion in all three ways. Despite my pain, I started to believe that God is always close. When I was ready to be honest, He sent people who met my pain with grace and care. Through seeing Jesus and how He lived, I learned to trust God again. Even though I couldn’t fully answer the question “Why does God allow suffering?” I found peace. 

Question #5: Will it get better? 

I still feel grief, I still wonder why, and I probably always will. However, I’ve learned that while grief is painful, it’s also hopeful. Grief is a reminder that your love for someone is more expansive than life and death. Or, as one wise android from a Marvel TV show put it, “What is grief, if not love persevering?”

Some days, I feel the old anger towards God creeping back, and that’s okay. God wants me to be honest, and He meets my emotions with grace. 

Peace isn’t the absence of pain; it’s trusting that our good God is for us and with us, even in our pain.

Finding hope has been less about knowing all the answers and more about learning to trust our mysterious, infinite, and personal God. I’ve discovered that peace isn’t the absence of pain; it’s trusting that our good God is for us and with us, even in our pain. What gives me hope is the promise that one day, everything will be made new. A friend of my family found out about my father and grandfather’s death and our miscarriage. She painted this for me and my wife as a reminder that our loved ones are somehow with God now and that we will see them all again. While I don’t know what heaven looks like, I’m guessing it looks something like this. 

Question #6: What if I’m suffering now?

First, I hope you know that you’re not alone. Wondering why God allows suffering was what began my journey to finding peace. I pray that it will do the same for you.

Here are some practical steps that helped me find hope and healing:

  1. Be honest with God.

Let him know how you feel. Your grief, trauma, frustration, and anger are all fair game.

  1. Talk about it with others.

Don’t relationally isolate. Instead, talk to a trusted friend or find a professional counselor. If you don’t have people to talk to, find a LifeGroup today. 

  1. Give yourself permission to grieve.

I tried to rush through grief, so trust me when I say it’s impossible. You’re going to have hard days when you don’t feel like getting out of bed. Give yourself grace. Celebrate small steps and don’t feel shame about setbacks. Remember that grief is a way love lives on. 

  1. Learn to trust God again.

There are a few ways to do this:

“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

1. Is God out to get me?    2. Is it okay to be angry with God?   3. Why does God allow suffering?   

4. Does God care about suffering?   5. Will it get better?   6. What if I’m suffering now?

A Fresh Perspective on the Question “Why Does God Allow Suffering?”

Once you’ve found some peace, consider what some of the authors of the Bible say about pain and suffering. One has the nerve to say that we should find joy in suffering. Another talks about how it helps us to grow stronger. I know that those verses might not be the most helpful in the middle of your suffering, but once you have some distance, they can actually feel empowering.

It’s good to know that the pain in our own lives isn’t wasted and that it helps us grow and become more like Jesus.  

I rediscovered God’s love and learned to trust him again through a big question: Why does God allow suffering? I trust and pray that you’ll find the same peace.