As the sermon ended, my 7 year old daughter leaned over and whispered, “Is it the truth, Momma? Is everything he just said the truth?” “Yes, baby, of course, what the preacher just said is the truth,” I replied, not really sure where this was going. Then she said, “even the part about the 5 year old dying?”
Exhale… she’d really been paying attention. “Yes, sweetheart, it is true that a 5-year-old, her parents and her siblings all died in that car wreck. But it’s also true that God was there by their side and God is present and walking alongside all those who grieve the loss.”
Why Does God Allow Pain and Suffering?
The sermon was focused on the question of “why does God allow pain and suffering?” A deep one this week, yet one of the questions I think we all wrestle with at some point.
Where is God when young families are killed in car wrecks on their way home from church?
Where is God when children are dying from cancer?
Where is God when wars break out, terrorists execute innocents, and natural disasters wipe out entire communities?
It’s a lot for a 7-year-old to wrap her head around – and it’s still a lot for most adults to comprehend. We’ve all experienced pain and suffering at some level – some more than others.
Haven’t you also wondered where is God in your loneliness, your grief, the emptiness in your heart that doesn’t seem to have an end?
I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation and distress and suffering, but be courageous; I have overcome the world.” ~John 16:33 AMP
The Truth: We Live in a Broken, Human World
The truth is we live in a broken, human world. We have evil in our midst.
People make poor choices that lead to bad things. Children get sick and die. The unthinkable happens and we are left to grapple for answers and a way forward.
I remember being shaken the morning that sweet family was killed and I didn’t even know them. I’m shaken nearly every time I watch the news of so many horrific acts of violence around the world. I’ve felt the bottom fall out of my own world and I’ve walked through the valley of suffering.
If we again ask the question, “Why does God allow evil and suffering to continue?” and we look at the cross of Jesus, we still do not know what the answer is. However, now we know what the answer isn’t. It can’t be that he doesn’t love us. It can’t be that he is indifferent or detached from our condition. God takes our misery and suffering so seriously that he was willing to take it on himself. (Tim Keller, The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism)
The Truth: God Is Present With Us in Our Suffering and Grief
The truth we heard this morning – and the truth I believe because I’ve experienced it myself – is that God is with us every step.
God doesn’t always intervene to prevent the pain, but He is in our midst to walk us through the darkness and to strengthen us through the process. God is ever by our side waiting for us to reach out our hand and ask Him to help. He’s present and waiting to hold us tight and carry us through whatever we’re facing.
When pain and suffering come, all I can do is call out to God in prayer to be present and carry me through. I lean on the truth that God is walking by my side and His heart breaks for what breaks mine. When the sadness is too much and I can’t find the words, I trust the Holy Spirit to intercede and pray through the groaning of my heart.
Not only so, but also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. ~Romans 5:3-5 NIV
God Doesn’t Cause Pain and Suffering, But He’s By Our Side Through Every Step
So, yes, sweetheart, it’s all the truth.
The world is a hard place, full of pain and suffering. Full of illness, death, evil acts, accidents, and more.
But the world is also full of God and He is present in your life if you’ll only let Him in.
When pain and suffering comes – and as much as I pray to protect you, I know someday you’ll be there – call out for God. Get on your knees in prayer and ask Him to carry you through and you’ll find out just how true these words are.
God doesn’t cause our pain and suffering, but He will walk through each step of it with you. He’s there to comfort and protect you and will redeem all the brokenness of this world for His glory, in His time.
For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that you of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. ~Ephesians 3:14-19 NIV
Click HERE to hear the sermon that sparked this conversation with my daughter. Maybe it’ll offer additional hope to you as you wrestle with this question of “where is God in my pain and suffering?”
I understand we all go through this but sometimes you look around and others are untouched by a storm.I wonder why I seem to be going through a trial more often ?
It does seem unfair – and it’s hard to see past our own storms. One thing God’s been working on with me is to look deeper at those around me. He’s been showing how they’ve walked their own storms – are still in the storms – even when they look like they have it all together from the outside. Take heart – you’re not alone in your pain. Hold fast to the truth that even if you feel alone, God is by your side. Saying a prayer for you this morning for the storms to pass and the sun to shine on you again.
Thank you, I am looking for that sunshine…..
Mary Geisen says
Beautiful words to begin my day! Your daughter learned a huge lesson that truly affects all of us. Knowing God is present in our pain and suffering makes the news of the world just a little more bearable. We are confronted with images and stories daily that are horrific and senseless. The truth for us is that God will always be in our everything and all we need do is invite Him into our everyday. Thank you for these words! Love them!
It’s a difficult question to answer and to truly trust in as we see the unthinkable happen all around us. Grateful for the opportunity to enter the conversation with my daughter – and to keep working through it for myself.
Tiffany Parry says
He is a very present help in our times of trouble. It is SO hard to explain suffering and to try to wrap our minds around the good that God can weave out of it. So grateful that we have a God who focuses on the eternal and often makes us walk through the hard things to bring us to His best – but NEVER leaves our side. You’ve pointed us so beautifully to God, who surely carries us through.
This one is so difficult and I know I don’t have all the answers, but I have experienced God by my side through my darkest hours. I know He’s there, even if we don’t feel Him or even know Him.
Angela Parlin says
Yes, this world is a hard place, but God is with us. Such a beautiful post. Thank you for sharing with us at #RaRaLinkup today!
So grateful God walks by our side through it all!
Beth Willis Miller says
Kathryn, I love the warm and compassionate way you approached this topic with your sweet little girl, especially this quote, “When pain and suffering come, all I can do is call out to God in prayer to be present and carry me through. I lean on the truth that God is walking by my side and His heart breaks for what breaks mine. When the sadness is too much and I can’t find the words, I trust the Holy Spirit to intercede and pray through the groaning of my heart.” many blessings to you ❤️
I found myself praying over my daughter for God to protect her – and it broke my heart to realize I couldn’t protect her; not even God can protect her – but He will be by her side always. I’m grateful to begin that conversation with her to instill that knowledge of Him in her.
Kelly Balarie says
Beautiful truth Kathryn. I praise God that that tender soul heard truth, and love and grace. I have been thinking how we can’t package Christianity all safe and sound to our children. You inspire me.
I knew what the sermon topic would be and part of me really wanted her to be in Children’s church that morning where the message would be easier for young ears, but I think this tender-hearted one was there for a reason so we could begin this conversation. We live in a difficult world and we can’t hide from the realities – and we need to know we have a God big enough to carry us through it all.
Bev Duncan @ Walking Well With God says
I have a mentor and friend who once told me…if Perseverance was a class….I’d get an A+. She wasn’t necessarily saying I persevered beautifully through all trials…she meant that through all the trials, in God’s strength, I kept putting one foot in front of the other. There is a blessings to trials…for me it has drawn me close to God. I realize my sheer and utter dependence on Him. I know that He will be faithful to walk me THROUGH the valley and not leave me in it. All this builds my trust in Him and ultimately my hope. God can and does bring beauty from ashes. You handled a very tough subject with your daughter amazingly well…may we all take in the truth of your words…
Definitely not a class we’d choose to enroll in, but thank goodness we God to lead us through. It’s in these times my faith, too, has been strengthened – when we come to the end of ourselves and find we cannot step forward on our own that we learn to rely on God’s strength and find how loving and faithful He really is. I pray my children will know Him enough to fall back into His arms when they experience trials in their lives.
Michele Morin says
Kathryn! I just received your book as a gift along with the journal! I’m so excited to take the challenge, and also will plan to share the book with my readers on the blog! I love those verses from Romans 5. Thanks for your words today about living life on this fallen planet. I remember Elisabeth Elliot sharing with her daughter the truth from Psalm 91 — “it shall not approach you, you will only look on with your eyes . . ” This to a little girl whose missionary daddy had been speared to death in the line of duty. Hard lessons we are called to share with our children sometimes. We need His wisdom and grace.
I’m so excited that you got the books! I can’t wait to you hear your feedback on them – and I pray they are a blessing to you.
Julie Lefebure says
Truth-filled reminders, filled with hope. We are not alone in our suffering. Thank you for pointing us to God’s Word and to helping us focus on Him instead of the pain. Bless you, friend!
How I wish I could shelter this sweet child from all the pains and horrors in this world, but grateful I was able to start this difficult discussion with her. Hesitated letting her come to church with me, because I knew what the sermon would cover, but I’m glad this tender-hearted one did hear the message and can start to work through it for herself.
Susan B Mead says
Yes Kathryn, so very true. We each need to be equipped to reach out to our Heavenly Father. In joy and need, faithfully knowing He is there with us. Beautiful truth here. Thank you!
Thanks for sharing the Tim Keller quote. That really spoke to me!
This article is even more timely with what just happened in Oregon …
Tragedies like school shootings make this even harder to understand. My heart breaks for all those families. I pray they’ll feel God’s presence as they try to move forward through these next days and years.
Kathryn, I read this post,which is beautiful, & thought this …. The sermon could be summarized in 2 words – Suffering produces. There is truly something of value which is developed in us which truly comes no other way. I am so grateful that in these uncertain days He is our hope in all things. Praying for your little girl, who seems to have a tender spirit. May God be with her, protect her & grow her to be an encouragement to many (much like her mother!). Always blessed for having stopped here. May you & yours have a great weekend!
I really wish I’d known these truths as a child. Unfortunately I didn’t read them until a few short years ago when I opened the Bible for the first time. What a life changer! To realize how much Christ loves us and how He waits for us to seek Him while in the suffering. His strength indeed carries us through it all! Blessings!
Wise Hearted says
I love these kind of meaty post. So often I find myself at a loss for words when the pain I am witnessing is over whelming. Thanks God I can without words lift my broken heart up to Him and He knows exactly what I want to pray. God does not want us to waste our pain on bitterness, shame, guilt and all that comes with a hurting heart. He has a work to do in us and through us as we suffer here on this earth. Love this post.
Sarah Koontz (@sarahekoontz) says
God is always present in our suffering, we are the ones who tend to pull away from him when life doesn’t go as planned. My greatest prayer is that I will find the strength to draw near to God at the moment when my life collapses around me. Well, maybe that’s my second greatest prayer, I would prefer not to suffer….but I know that life is full of pain and suffering.