Our family is following developments in the story of Iranian American pastor, Saeed Abedini. Abedini, a former Muslim, is currently serving an eight year sentence in a harsh Iranian prison for his role in running underground house churches where Christian believers gathered to worship. He was arrested in 2012 while working to build an orphanage in an Iranian town.
We learn more about Pastor Abedini’s plight via Facebook updates from his wife Nagmeh. (You can hear Nagmeh tell her story in the Youtube video atnthe end of this post.) These Facebook updates let us know how we can pray for Pastor Abedini, Nagmeh, and Abedini’s young son and daughter. Not too long ago, after reading an update and praying for God to meet Pastor Abedini’s need for clean water, Sugar Plum, my 8 year old, asked an age-old question. Why does God let bad things happen to the people who love Him?
This is not the first time my children have asked the question. Last year, the older girlies asked the question when they found out one of their friends needed brain surgery. Sweet Pea asked the question after she heard about the sudden death of her Awana leader. Sugar Plum asked the question again when she learned her former Sunday school teacher had been struck and killed by a car as she crossed the road. Even Baby Girl, who is almost four years old has asked it.
This is not the first time my husband and I have pondered the same question. We asked it when we miscarried and never had the chance to meet our sweet baby here on Earth. We asked again when we found out a dear family friend had lost a son in a violent car crash. It’s a common question. Everyone wants to know why.
It’s often difficult to provide adults with an answer to this question. When a child asks it, answering the question becomes even more challenging because we’re forced to address some of life’s ugly realities. Often times, these ugly realities seem to come from out of the blue and usually leave broken lives and shattered dreams in their wake.
So, why does God let bad things happen to the people who love Him? Here’s how I respond to my children.
The first thing I do is remind them of Adam and Eve’s disobedience in the Garden of Eden and how that single act of defiance changed everything for the worse. But then, I remind them of the goodness of God and how he later sent His Son, Jesus, and used His crucifixion, death, and resurrection to change our eternal destiny from hopeless to hopeful.
After that, I explain that though suffering was never what God intended for us, He can use our time of suffering to accomplish specific goals and teach us valuable lessons. I then describe what I believe are some of God’s specific goals in allowing us to suffer.
God allows suffering because He does not choose to violate the free will He has given us. When He created Adam and Eve, God did not make them passive robots. Instead He gave them free will and loved Adam and Eve enough to permit them to make their own choices. Unfortunately, they made a poor decision and the ramifications of that decision affect us to this day.
God allows suffering so we’ll remember we have a heavenly home. Though this world is the only one we intimately know, it is not our true home. In fact, we’ll spend more time in Heaven with Christ than we will spend here on Earth. When bad things happen to us, our hearts ache and we long for something more, something better. That ache serves as a reminder that God has prepared a special permanent home for us, one free of suffering and sorrow.
God allows suffering because it is a way draw us closer to Him. Suffering has a way of breaking us down and sending us in search of solutions. That search leads believers to God, the One who cares for us and provides for our needs. When we’ve exhausted all of our resources, we are only left with God, our faithful deliverer.
God allows suffering because it strengthens our character. The greatest lessons are often the hardest ones to learn. In times of suffering God is work helping us develop Christ-like traits such as patience, faithfulness, and love. As God helps us endure the suffering, we see Him at work in our lives. This growth strengthens us so that we’ll be better equipped to deal with the next trial.
Suffering is an inevitable part of this life and many people question why God allows it. But rather than dismiss God as cruel, let’s remember that He is there for us in our times of suffering and He has a wonderful plan for our lives, even in the hardest of times.
© 2015, Andrea Thorpe. All rights reserved.