Why is there pain and suffering?

Why is there pain and suffering?

You may also be interested in the more personal question "Why am I experiencing a time of difficulty? What is going trying to do to me?"


C.S. Lewis called it “The Problem of Pain” in his short, but influential book.

“If God were good, He would wish to make his creatures perfectly happy, and if God were almighty, He would be able to do what He wished. But the creatures are not happy. Therefore God lacks either goodness, or power, or both.  That is the problem of pain in its simplest form.”

Very briefly, there are a number of ways of answering this challenge.  


God created man, Satan and the angels with the power of choice.  This gives us the option of choosing to obey or to rebel against God.  Building us with a free will has the inherent risk of losing us to sin.  Suffering, being the result of sin, is the inheritance we received from Adam and Eve and their fatal choice to disobey God.  Romans 5:12 says that he is the source of death in the world being the head of all humanity.  As a consequence of Adam’s choice, the world is visited by calamity and suffering.

Romans 5:12  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--

This “bondage of corruption,” with the “whole world groaning and travailing together in pain” (Romans 8:21, 22), has affected all men everywhere. God did not make the world in its fallen state.  In fact, when finishing the world he said "it is very good" (Genesis 2:1-3).  Some day in the future, God will take away the curse from the earth. In that day, “God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain” (Revelation 21:4). 

God lacks power?

If God is almighty, then why does he allow suffering to exist?  God actually uses suffering to accomplish his will.  Hebrews 12:5-11 says that he disciplines his children with chastening.  Discipline is both punishment and instruction. 

Hebrews 12:5-11  And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? "My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him.  (6)  For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives."  (7)  It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline?  (8)  If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.  (9)  Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live?  (10)  For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness.  (11)  For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

Hebrews 5:8-9 says that Christ himself “learned” and was "made perfect" by what he suffered. Christ was certainly not ignorant nor unaware of suffering neither was he "imperfect" in the moral sense of sin.  He "learned" by experience what suffering is.  He "learned" obedience by practicing obedience even at the cost of the worst suffering imaginable.  "Made perfect" is the completion of his work by carrying it out to the end.

 Hebrews 5:7-9  In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence.  (8)  Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered.  (9)  And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him,

Just because suffering continues to exist does not logically mean it exists because God is powerless to stop it.  God uses suffering to accomplish his purposes, which raises the next question…

God is cruel?

If God is capable of stopping suffering, then why does it continue?  To end suffering, God would have to end the root cause of suffering – the ability to sin.  This would mean that God would end our ability to make choices. To stop murder, God could end our ability to commit murder.  To stop sin against God, he could end our ability to rebel.  To stop evil implies ending the ability for individuals to choose what they want to do. God created Adam with the foreknowledge that Adam and his sons had the ability to worship God as well as the ability of Cain to kill his own brother.

Doesn’t God want his creatures to be perfectly happy?

Is God leading us somewhere with the aid of suffering?  The purpose of creation is not to give us self-indulgent pleasure.  The ultimate happiness of man is found by being able to glorify God even if that entails suffering on our part.  If God had made Adam with the mind of a programmed machine, Adam would not have sinned nor died.  Adam and his descendents would also not have the experience of being redeemed by grace.  There would be no salvation.  There would be no mercy of God.  There would be no heaven.  Instead, God has created a plan that will be consummated by the salvation of sinners who don’t deserve redemption, but will worship God eternally because of it. Man would never know salvation apart from sin. 

Suffering is turned into goodness in the end.  God was not surprised by Adam’s sin and fall. Of course, this does not mean that God is the source of sin, but it does mean that God is above sin and can use it to accomplish glory in the end.  If God is eventually going to bring glory to himself through the suffering of all humanity, can he not do the same in your broken life?


These are summary paragraphs of a few reasons why suffering is allowed to continue.  We can't know all the reasons why God allows suffering we just know that He does.

Shad Sluiter