Why does God allow suffering

 

There is a song called Hurricane by Jimmy Needham that has always resonated with me because in the song he sings “I need you like a hurricane… to tear my walls down.” The song is about needing God to come into our lives and remove the walls we have built up. The walls as I see it represent anything from the places in our lives we have blocked God off from to the protections we place around our sins and insecurities. We all have walls we have built and whether we realize it or not only God tear down those walls.

In chapter Ten of Spiritual Friends Kelleman goes over five possible purposes of suffering and while the topic has long been discussed by many I do find three suggestions by Kelleman to be important to the conversation. Kelleman’s first suggestion that “in suffering, God is drawing us to Himself” is of interest because we do not often think of suffering as something that can draw us to someone.[1] Typically suffering pushes us away from something or someone yet when we stop to think that God is a Father we should be able to adjust our perspective of how we relate to the one allowing us to suffer. When faced with a situation that is causing or has caused suffering we find that God, the omnipotent and omniscient One, is the only one we can turn to give us help in our time of need. I do not want to seem as if I am making light of suffering but regardless of the situation, God is the only one who can give us peace.

We generally view things and look at life as Kelleman says “with eyeballs only” however God’s peace is not meant for the eyes but for the soul.[2] We see struggles and suffering but we feel defeat. God could, being all powerful as He is, change the circumstances but how much better is it that He gives us Himself in the midst of the suffering (Deut 31:6). Rather than miraculously make everything better, God chooses to make us new in the process which brings up Kelleman’s second point that “God is conforming us to the image of His Son.”[3] These two ideas, that God is pulling us in and changing us, are virtually inseparable.

By the very nature of the relationship the closer we get to the Father the more we develop Christlikeness. This is because it is God’s desire to make us more like the Son (Rom 8:29). Part of suffering and drawing near to God is the removal of walls that block us from submitting to His lordship. Once those walls are removed new construction can take place and we are transformed into something new. In suffering, we become more than a six-million-dollar man because we are not just better, stronger, and faster, instead, we are new.

Lastly, Kelleman says that “in suffering, God is demonstrating just how needy we are for Him” and again to sound like a broken record this follows the first point because the closer we get to God the more we should realize that we are weak.[4] If the goal is to be more like the Son, then suffering shows us how we need God to make that happen. Additionally, it shows us that we are not nearly as strong as we imagine we are. Suffering reveals our frailty.

As my wife and I continue to foster two boys my twelve-year-old daughter is starting to think herself a mother because she can point out right and wrong to the boys. She has a higher understanding of this then they do. For some reason made the connection that “I know more than they, so I am like mom” and this is a mistake on her behalf. This a mistake because she does not know nearly as much as she thinks she does. She is protected from dealing with the real issues that parents face. However, as she decides and shows she wants more responsibility we allow her to be privy to and involved in certain things. She quickly becomes overwhelmed and realizes that she needs us to be the parents. She cannot be a parent on her own, nor should she be. We allow her to suffer a bit in order to teach her that she needs us to be the ones in charge so that she can be a child.

God, in suffering, allows us to be children even though the goal is maturity. In suffering, we see that we need Him because we are weak. In suffering God makes us more like Christ because intimacy changes who you are from the inside out. In suffering, God pulls us into Himself to reveal a Fathers’ heart. What we often need is the thing we most often avoid, we need God to be a hurricane and tear down the walls we build.

 

[1] Robert W. Kellemen, Spiritual Friends: A Methodology of Soul Care and Spiritual Direction, (Winona Lake, IN: BMH Books, 2005), 200

[2] Ibid 201

[3] Kelleman, 200

[4] Ibid., 200

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3 thoughts on “Why does God allow suffering

  1. I ask that many times, but i think that what we call sufferings is not how God views it. He sees it as victory. Jesus suffered on the cross and victory was His. He never complained. I think we as humans need to change how we view challenges in our life.

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