Pain & Suffering
Is There any meaning in It?
by James Chan
Understanding the world we live in, and particularly why suffering and pain exist, is important to any doctrine of truth. The following is one of several articles in the Suffering series of articles presented on this website.
How could a powerful and loving God allow pain and suffering such as famines and diseases to exist in the world today?
This question bothers not only the Christians but also those who are not Christians. A popular book called "Why bad things happen to good people" written by Harold S. Kushner, a Rabbi, who tried to answer this very question. Rabbi Kushner spoke of his own painful experience of seeing his own son died of cancer. He did all he could for his son. He began to question whether God has the ability to heal his son. Kushner did not see God as a powerful being who can intervene and lift the painful suffering from his son, from him, and even from the world. His answer seems to satisfy him and some who may agree with him after reading his book. His answer may not satisfy everyone, but rather it opens up even more questions, such as whether God is powerless or not, or God is simply ignoring mankind.
"Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance." James 1:2-3 NASB.
"In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, that the proof your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ." I Peter 1:6-7 NASB.
Kushner helplessly saw his son die. Perhaps he just needed an answer to calm his anxiety without going insane. Some Christians today try to answer this question by calming that God allows suffering to exist because of what Jesus said in Matthew 5:45:
Christians who give this ridiculous answer did not even address the question of suffering but actually ignore the question. What Jesus said in Matthew 5:45 was not trying to answer the problem of suffering in the world, but rather to describe the state of the world. Jesus simply meant good and evil will continue to exist until the end of the world. And this is what we are seeing, pain and suffering, in the world today.
"For He [God] causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous."
The answer to suffering today is very simple: God can take away the suffering anytime He wants, but not yet. In the end of the world, God will end all sufferings. Apostle John recorded how this will happen in the book of Revelation:
In the meantime before the end of world, the answer to the end the suffering today already lies in every Christian heart. If we know how to love one another, then there ought to be less pain and suffering among ourselves. We can preach all the sounding words of the Gospels or even to lay hands to heal the sick, but we did not solve the root of the problem when the poor are still going away hungry or without warm clothes. Jesus said in Matthew 7:21-23:
"Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and He will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the older of things has passed away."
Jesus described the Kingdom of God in one of his parables in Matthew 25:31-46:
"Not everyone who says to me "Lord, Lord," will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on the day, "Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?" Then I will tell them plainly, "I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!"
"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. The King will say to those on his right, "Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take you inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me." The righteous will answer him, "Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you? The King will reply, "I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me."
"Then he will say to those on his left, "Depart from me, you who are cursed, into eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me." They will also answer, "Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a strange or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?" He will rely, "I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me." Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life."
These passages seem to indicate that God rewards those who fed the hunger and clothed the poor, but rejects those who did great miracles. By no means is God denying those who exercise power to heal the sick or prophesy in his name. The important point from these passages is not how much work or supernatural power that we used to preach the gospel, but rather it is the extension of God's love in the heart of every Christian to care for the sick, the poor, and the hungry. Apostle Paul also expressed the importance of God's love in great detail in the famous chapter 13 of I Corinthians. He even denied the importance of tongues and supernatural gifts when there is no love in them.
The solution to end suffering in the world today begins in the very heart of every Christian!
"... If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to flames, but have not love, I gain nothing... And now these remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love."
Copyright © 1995 by James Chan. Adapted and reproduced with thanks from Suffering and Pain.
This page was created on 12 April 1998
Last updated on 12 April 1998
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