The problem of evil, pain, and suffering is one of the biggest concerns of any human being. We know that it is a part of life, but it generates some sensitive questions when it comes to God. Does God allow terrible things to happen, and why? Why should I continue to believe in a being who lets this happen? How could there possibly be any benefits from painful and evil things that go on in this world? These questions, perhaps more so than any others, have led many people to doubt God’s existence.
We know that evil, pain, and suffering begin at the beginning of the Bible. When God creates everything in Genesis 1-2, he pronounces it all “very good.” But in the very next chapter, Adam and Eve sin and creation is plunged into turmoil. This state of affairs will continue until Christ makes all things new again. Revelation 21:3-4 says, “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
Knowing there is an end helps us to handle pain and suffering. It is one thing to experience pain but not understand the cause or know when it is going to end. But if we understand the cause and can treat the symptoms until its conclusion, it can give us peace of mind.
Whether suffering builds our faith or undermines depends upon how we respond to trials in life. Some people react negatively, and it ends in the destruction of their faith. Others react positively, and it gives them more confidence in God. In Psalm 73, Asaph had been challenged by the prosperity of the wicked. After realizing that the lives of the wicked will not end well, he says, “Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Psalm 73:25-26). In spite of life’s difficulties, Asaph is content with his faith because he knows how the future is going to turn out.
But the Bible doesn’t just tell us to grit our teeth and keep a stiff upper lip. There are positive things to be gained from difficult times. We might think about it in the sense of a muscle getting stronger after exercising or building up endurance by running. The following verses give us some insight as to how difficulties can be used positively:
Going through difficult times makes us better able to help others, especially when we share the same experiences. Someone who has beaten cancer can be a resource for another person who might have just received a cancer diagnosis. A widow will be able to help comfort another woman who has just lost her husband. Individual trials and challenges can prepare us to encourage and strengthen others who go through the same trials.
Suffering is not necessary for faith, but it will make our faith stronger if we allow it. It increases our ability to rely upon God and equips us to help others in need. If we will see suffering as an opportunity rather than an affliction, we might surprise ourselves with our own resilience.