When going through very difficult times, believers might ask other believers, “Why does God allow suffering?” This is a valid question. In response, believers might share:
“Since he himself has gone through suffering and testing, he is able to help us when we are being tested.”
Hebrews 2:18 NLT
Believers might then say what we are going through is nothing like what Jesus or Job suffered–my goodness, Job lost his children, wealth, health, friends, and unity with his wife to name a few of his problems.
Both of these responses are Truth, but what about the suffering God endured?
Maybe a different question to ponder to arrive at the answer to our question is, “Why does God allow Himself to suffer?”
God planned to have His Son crushed, and it was called a “good plan”:
“But it was the Lord’s good plan to crush him and cause him grief [. . .] and the Lord’s good plan will prosper in his hands.”
from Isaiah 53:10 NLT
It sounds like an extremely painful plan full of suffering. How is suffering good? Jesus died so that “When he sees all that is accomplished by his anguish, he will be satisfied. And because of his experience, my righteous servant will make it possible for many to be counted righteous, for he will bear all their sins” (Isaiah 53:11 NLT).
The suffering of Jesus resulted in believers being forgiven–Thank You, Jesus! Even with the knowledge God had of the outcome of His Son’s suffering, I am sure it was painful to tell Jesus, “No” three times when Jesus asked the Father to remove the cup of suffering:
“He told them, ‘My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.’ He went on a little farther and bowed with his face to the ground, praying, ‘My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.’ Then he returned to the disciples and found them asleep. He said to Peter, ‘Couldn’t you watch with me even one hour? Keep watch and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation. For the spirit is willing, but the body is weak!’ Then Jesus left them a second time and prayed, ‘My Father! If this cup cannot be taken away unless I drink it, your will be done.’ When he returned to them again, he found them sleeping, for they couldn’t keep their eyes open. So he went to pray a third time, saying the same things again.”
Matthew 26:38-44 NLT
As if denying His Son’s request three times was not painful enough, the Father then watched His Son being tortured, beaten, and ultimately murdered. The Father had to turn away from the Son when the sins of the world were placed on Jesus:
“At about three o’clock, Jesus called out with a loud voice, ‘Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?’ which means ‘My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?'”
Matthew 27:46 NLT
Why does God allow Himself to suffer?
Jesus suffered and died to forgive our sins out of love so that we can live with Him in heaven. God crafted the good plan to crush Jesus out of love for us, His lost sheep, so we can be reunited with God. God denied the prayer requests of Jesus out of love for us. Jesus prayed, “Thy will be done” out of love for the Father.
God is all-powerful and all-knowing, and He loves us, so why does He allow suffering?
The short answer is, He loves us. When we suffer, we draw closer to Him. That is a goal of our time on Earth, to draw closer to God every day. Suffering and trials result in us doing that.
Why do we need suffering to draw closer to Him? Human nature, for “No one is truly wise; no one is seeking God” (Romans 3:11 NLT).
Can you recall a time when there was a desperate need in your life-–illness, job loss, death, etc.? The way you prayed during that time probably looks very different from the way you pray daily.
Drawing closer to God every day is what is best for us. God loves us and wants the best for us.
We lift up all who are suffering. Abandonment. Sickness. Depression. Addiction. Unemployment. Abuse. Grief. And other burdens. May this be the day they draw closer to You. May this be the day they feel immersed in Your love. May this be the day they rise up from the burden and feel Your joy. Your peace. Your love.
In the blessed name of Jesus we pray.