While Remaining Good, Fair, and Loving
We had just arrived home from a wonderful, near one month vacation visiting my parents on the East Coast. We were feeling a bit sad, missing our family, and were coming off the high of vacation mode. So, we decided to have a slow and lazy morning – coffee brewing and pancakes on the griddle – when we looked out the window and noticed a baby bird. At first, we oohed and awed over it, but then I realized something was wrong.
There was no mother bird in sight, and it wasn’t moving around. I prepared my girls for the inevitable and the next thing we knew it had passed away. Both of my girls asked me, “Why did the baby bird have to die?”.
If God is Good, Why Do Bad Things Happen?
Immediately passages from the Bible came to me, and I decided to take that moment to teach my children important truths from God’s Word.
Haven’t we all thought or asked these question, or questions like it, at some point? “If God is good, how can bad things happen? If he is loving, why is there suffering? If God is all-knowing, why doesn’t he stop these things from happening?”
The passing of this baby bird brought Matthew 6:26 to mind:
‘Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are?’
And Matthew 10:29-31:
‘What is the price of two sparrows – one copper coin? But not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it. And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t ne afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows.’
God Cares for the Birds
The first passage tells us that God created the birds, and he takes pleasure in his creation. He cares about the birds and makes sure they find food. If God is concerned about taking care of and supplying the needs of the birds, how much more does he care about and supplies our needs?
And the second passage, not only reminds us that we are more valuable than the birds, but God knows about and is in control of every detail! Not a single bird falls to the ground without him knowing it. The very hairs on our heads are numbered. God doesn’t miss anything, and nothing gets overlooked.
The Bible is full of passages that tell us how good God is and how much he loves us. We are valuable to God, and we can rely and depend on him to supply all our needs. And we can also trust in God’s power: he is all-knowing and all-powerful.
If God Cares for Us, Why Do Bad Things Happen?
So why did the baby bird have to die then? And why do bad things happen? The Bible gives us several reasons.
6 Reasons Why God Allows Suffering
1. Suffering is a natural consequence of sin.
If you have been following my Romans Bible study, you will see that Paul has gone through great lengths to show us how no one is immune to sin. We are all sinners, and no one is good enough to escape the consequences.
While God does judge sin, the ultimate punishment is permanent separation from him leading to spiritual death. In fact, anyone who has not been made right with God is spiritually dead even now.
But God is not punishing us every time something bad happens. Bad things and suffering are the natural consequences of sin in the world (Romans 8:20-23).
Why is there Physical Suffering?
Sin is a moral issue, a condition of our hearts. So why do we experience physical suffering and witness very real horrors? Are we bothered by the immorality of sin alone? Are we truly horrified by a lie, or jealousy or even hatred? And is that moral horror of sin enough to persuade us stop sinning? For most, the answer is truthfully, no. Especially when those who don’t know Christ are still blinded by sin. The only way for us to truly understand the ugliness of sin is by its physical representation.
These are the consequences of sin meant for the whole world, rather than for one man’s specific sin.
2. God brings about suffering as a specific judgments for specific attitudes & actions of those who reject him.
This happens far less frequently than we might think. God is patient and shows mankind great mercy. Romans 2:4 says:
‘Don’t you seen how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin?’
But an example of this can be seen in Acts 12, where King Herod exalted himself and allowed himself to be called a god. God struck him down dead, and he was eaten by worms.
3. God allows bad things to happen to give us a wake up call to be ready.
Jesus is coming again. And in Matthew 24:7, Jesus said that worsening disaster and destruction would be the signs of his return. The Bible is full of warnings to be ready. In Matthew 24:44, Jesus says,
‘You also must be ready all the time, for the Son of Man will come when least expected.’
4. God uses disaster and devastation as a call to repentance and reliance on him.
How often have you heard of people beginning to seek God, or misguidedly religion, after disaster strikes? I believe that people seek God in these moments, because they are aware of God deep in their souls, and in these moments, we realize how small and fragile we truly are. We realize, how easily we could have been the victims of such disasters! We realize that life is short, and we search for meaning and purpose.
In Luke 13:1-5 the crowds ask Jesus about recent events and wanted to know why they happened. Pilate had recently slaughtered many worshippers in a temple and a random tower had recently collapsed and killed 18 innocent people. They wondered at the fairness of it, and if they were deserving of death. Jesus responded to them by saying that what they should be astonished by was that they were not the ones who were killed, and that if they did not repent, they themselves would meet the same judgment someday.
God Wants Us to Realize How Finite We Are
God wants us to realize how finite and fragile we are, and that we all are lost if we don’t repent. For the non-believer, suffering is a call to repentance.
But suffering can also be seen as a gift. A gift of desperation. God brought the Apostle Paul to the point where he despaired life, which made him rely on God (2 Corinthians 1:8-9).
Suffering can also be seen as a painful thorn given to us by God.
In 2 Corinthians 12:7, Paul said,
‘So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud.
Three times Paul asks God to take his thorn away. But then Paul says this in 2 Corinthians 12:10:
‘That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, and hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.’
When we are weak, and realize our need for God, His power is perfected in our weakness.
5. God allows suffering as a call to his people to be courageous and do good works that will glorify him.
When bad things happen, people ban together to help others. Even in the face of danger, strangers will help strangers and put themselves in harms way to rescue and help others in need.
Hebrews 13:16 reminds us:
‘And don’t forget to do good and to share with those in need. These are the sacrifices that please God.’
When Tragedy Strikes, People Ban Together
I recently watched a documentary called The Rescue about the rescue of twelve boys and their soccer coach who became stranded in a flooded cave in Thailand. People came from all over the world to help. They risked their lives to go on the most dangerous underwater rescue mission ever. Tragically, two of the rescuers lost their lives, but all 12 boys and their coach were saved.
When tragedy strikes, people ban together. But God is calling us to not only help those in need, but to use these times to lead people to him.
In John 15:12, Jesus said:
‘This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you.’
He calls for Christians to become even more bright in the midst of suffering.
6. God allows bad things to happen to stir the hearts of Christians who have become complacent, to send them out to share the gospel.
An example of this can be found in Acts 8:1-4. A great persecution against the church arose, and Stephen, one of the disciples, was martyred (Acts 7:60). This led to a many people scattering to spread the gospel.
We can too easily get caught up in our own lives and forget about God’s calling on all Christians to spread the gospel. God’s wants us to become uncomfortable in our own complacency and do something about it!
God’s Motives are Always Goodness and Love
When we consider these 6 biblically based reasons for suffering in the world, can we honestly say that God is not good, or loving, or all-knowing? God’s motives are always good and always loving, and the fact that he uses all circumstances and outcomes and turns them into good for his glory means that he is in control!
We can fully trust and depend on God, even through suffering and difficult times. We won’t rejoice about the suffering, but we can rejoice in the Lord, for we know that he has a plan, and he is big enough to see it through!
And sometimes we don’t have to wait too long to experience God’s goodness. Three days later, we saw two of the surviving baby birds near the same nest being fed by their mother. God is good!
Be Still My Soul: Embracing God’s Purpose and Provision in Suffering – A Compilation Edited by Nancy Guthrie. 25 classic and contemporary readings from best selling authors and theologians.
Walking with God through Pain and Suffering by Timothy Keller – An exploration of one of the most difficult questions to answer: why is there pain and suffering?