We sometimes ponder why a just God permits good people to suffer. We look around us, and see a world that is filled with hurt and pain. We see the torment of broken minds, the emotional turmoil of shattered relationships, and the physical anguish of hungry bellies or war torn bodies. Why so much suffering? What is the purpose of pain? If God is so good, we suddenly ask, why did he give us all of this hurt?
In the beginning, God gave mankind, through Adam, four wonderful gifts:
- A perfect environment
- A free will
- A female mate
- And the right to share unspoiled communion with God himself.
All things were, by the very words of God, good, and even very good.
The Fallen World
The only thing that could defile the perfect environment was man himself. Adam, through his own free choice and aided by the free will of the woman, permitted sin to enter into his perfect world. When sin enter, so too did pain.
“I heard a knocking at my door, a little sin that wanted in. I opened a crack, such a small sin it seemed. Later I found that my door would not close. Soon, oh so very soon, all hell moved in, and my soul screamed in pain” (a paraphrase from words I have heard).
God cast man out of the garden, perfection now withheld. Free will remained. The female mate as well. And God, though the communion was no longer perfect, protected his creation from the full measure of pain.
Learning From Pain
Once when I was very young, and there was great cold in the air. My dad took me out to ride and to see. We stopped at a small country store, to gas the auto and to stretch out our legs. Dad and I, men out alone.
Inside the store, a wood burner crackled and hummed, heat waves rising, warmth in the air. In my nice vinyl jacket I snuggled up close. Ah the warmth that I felt, like a peace in my soul.
They talked and chatted, the men in the store. We lingered not seconds, but minutes and more. “Something is burning,” some fellow said. So they gazed around searching. From where is that smell.
Then a stranger grabbed me and stripped of my jacket. It was smoking in flames and I never knew how.
Pain keeps us from doing stupid things. That evening in the store, the experience and senses of another person spared me much pain. God created us with a physical body that can feel hurt so that we would not do the foolish things that cause us to suffer. It takes but a moment to learn that an open fire burns, that a broken heart aches, that harsh words cut into the mind and the soul.
Our knowledge of physical and emotional pain helps us to restrain from causing hurt to others and to ourselves. The same is true of spiritual hurt. Living people, even the professing atheists, feel within themselves a need to return to that place of perfect communion with God. It is the pain of spiritual emptiness that drives us to seek.
The Gift Through Jesus Christ
In the beginning God gave mankind, through Jesus Christ, one amazing and unmatched gift:
- A solution to the pain.
He knew that unspoiled communion between man and God could never exist unless man was permitted to act out of a free will. He also knew what would be the result of giving mankind the freedom to choose. Until we learn that wrong choices bring about pain, we will not make right choices. Blessing may abound, even as they did with Adam and Eve, yet it was the pain of rejection that brought Adam to understanding.
Everyone, even the professing atheists, longs to find that unspoiled communion between God and man. Free will creates pride. Spiritual pain can erode that pride. Yet some people will go through their entire life living in the shame and hurt of bitterness rather than admit that God’s decisions on these matters are right and good.
Only a foolish and hardheaded person would cling to wood in a fire merely to spite the truth that fire burns. Look around yourself. See the great and growing increase in hurt and pain within this nation. Stop smashing a hammer of unbelief against the truth of Jesus Christ. Those who declare in their heart that there is no God will die as fools. Can you not feel and see this pain? Does it not put a check upon your own deeds and actions?
“The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good. The LORD looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God. They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one,” (Psalm 14: 1-3).
Why does God permit pain and suffering in this world? Without it, mankind would utterly destroy everything.