God created a world free of all forms of evil: sin, death, pain, and suffering. However, he also created human beings with the capacity to freely choose to follow his perfect plan or to deviate from it. It was the choice to follow our own path rather than God’s that has introduced evil into the world in which we live. This evil that originated in our ancestor’s own choosing is the ultimate cause for all subsequent suffering in the world.
As human beings, we tend to look at the world through the eyes of convenience and self-preservation. We aim to avoid suffering because we view it as painful and challenging. God, however, is more concerned with our development and growth than our luxury. Regretfully, far too often times, we become self-reliant in times of blessing and only tend to grow through weakness and tragedy. Hence, God uses painful times of suffering to shape us into better people with more rewarding lives.
This is why the Bible encourages us to consider the benefits of enduring hardships that come in life. James 1:4 tells us, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” Paul echoes this thought when he says, “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead” (Phil. 3:10). The Bible clearly identifies the benefits of enduring suffering to outweigh the pain associated with it.
When we go through painful suffering, it is vitally important to realize that God is there to go through it with us and to help us to heal from the hurt we experience. Turning to God, rather than turning away from him, is essential to our transformation. God relates to us in our suffering. It is one of the reasons that Jesus physically came to earth. He faced all of the struggles in life that we face (Heb. 4:15). He wept at the death of someone he cared for (John 11:35), was abandoned and betrayed by a close friend (John 18:2), and faced tremendous physical pain on the cross (John 19:23). The prophet, Isaiah, described Jesus’ forthcoming suffering this way, “Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities” (Is. 53:4-5).
When life hurts, we can turn to God and find that he not only can relate to us, but that he can also help us to heal. Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Jesus has overcome the world and all of the trouble that is in it. He can give us victory over evil in all of its forms. For those who commit to follow him through this painful world of suffering, there is an eternal promise of an existence that is free from all the ills of life. John describes this in his revelation: “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 old order of things has passed away’” (Rev. 21:3-4).
God did not cause evil and suffering, but he has remedied it through Christ. We can experience the benefits of it in this life and the joy of freedom from it in heaven as we are liberated from this sinful and fallen world.