“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” (Revelation 21:4).
I recently read a story about a pastor’s 41-year-old, non-smoker wife diagnosed with Stage 3 lung cancer. His wife weak from surgery and chemotherapy, the pastor canceled Bible study classes to help care for her and their children. A few months later, their 18-year-old son, a college freshman, was diagnosed with testicular cancer. A surgeon removed the tumor, but afterward he began having abdominal pains. The cancer had returned.
I stared at the photo of the boy and his mother looking at messages from people who cared. My heart went out to the entire family, but as I focused on the boy’s face, I cried like I knew him. I wanted to make it all better for him. He’s just starting adulthood, and now he’s stricken with cancer. His father might lose his wife and his son in a short time. I, a Bible-believing Christian who certainly understands why the sovereign God allows pain and suffering, asked the question, anyway: “Why, God?”
I asked not just about suffering in general, but also about the suffering of this Christian family in particular. For a moment, I thought like an unbeliever. “What did they do to deserve this?” My human emotions crowded out God’s truth. The Big Answer to why there is pain and suffering: Because sin has corrupted the world. Because of sin, there is death.
Christians can and should take comfort in knowing that pain and suffering have a divine purpose. We don’t suffer for its own sake. The Apostle Paul said, “For those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” The trials God sends our way remind us that our forgiveness in Christ transcends this world. One day there will be no more tears, no more pain. God uses the afflictions of the faithful to silence His enemies. Pain and suffering give us an opportunity to share the gospel and to bear witness to God’s grace and mercy even through adversity. Pain and suffering make us more dependent on God, bring us closer to God, and make us long for heaven.
Why is there pain and suffering? Indeed, why did the Savior have to endure an agonizing death? Through Christ’s misery, God made a way for us to be reconciled to Himself. Think of the pain we’d have to endure if Christ hadn’t endured it for us.
When Job, “blameless and upright, and one who feared God and shunned evil,” asked God why he was suffering, God reminded him that he had no right to pass judgment on the plans and purposes of the Creator. Job repented, and God restored him greater than he was before. After his infant son died, King David washed and anointed himself, changed his clothes, and worshiped.