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Home > 2012 > July Web Exclusives > Why Does God Allow Tragedy and Suffering?

The following is adapted from a sermon preached by author and apologist Lee Strobel on Sunday, July 22, at Cherry Hills Community Church in Highlands Ranch, Colorado.

It's already being called the worst mass shooting in American history: 70 people shot by a gunman, 12 of them killed, while they were watching the midnight showing of a new movie. It all happened just 21 miles from where we're sitting. There are no words to describe the anguish being felt by those who are suffering today; our heart and prayers have, and will, go out to them. There are so many tragic stories, so much pain. And many people are asking the question, "Why? Why did God allow this?"

This has been a heart-rending summer for Colorado. First came the wildfires, which ravaged the houses of hundreds of our neighbors, prompting many of them to ask the same question, "Why?"

And those two tragic events are just added to the everyday pain and suffering being experienced in individual lives. There's illness, abuse, broken relationships, betrayal, sorrow, injuries, disappointment, heartache, crime and death. And perhaps you've been asking the question too. "Why? Why me? Why now?"

That "why" question is not a new one; it goes back thousands of years. It was asked in the Old Testament by Job and the writers of the Psalms, and it was especially relevant during the 20th Century, where we witnessed two World Wars, the Holocaust, genocides in the Soviet Union and China, devastating famines in Africa, the killing fields of Cambodia, the emergence of AIDS, the genocide in Rwanda and the ethnic cleansing of Kosovo. And the 21st Century didn't start any better. There was 9/11 and now the Syrian slaughters, and on and on. Why do all of these horrific things happen if there's a loving and powerful God? Why do bad things happen to good people?

Several years ago, I commissioned a national survey and asked people what question they'd ask if they could only ask God one thing. The number one response was: "Why is there suffering in the world?"

Maybe you've never asked why our world is infected with pain and suffering, but my guess is you will when they strike you or a loved one with full force. And Jesus said they are coming. Unlike some other religious leaders who wrote off pain and suffering as mere illusions, Jesus was honest about the inevitability of suffering. In John 16:33 he said, "You will have suffering in this world." He didn't say you might—he said it is going to happen.

But why? If you ask me, "Why did God allow the gunman to spray the Aurora movie theater with gunfire just two days ago?" the only answer I can honestly give consists of four words: "I do not know."

I don't have God's mind; I don't share his perspective. In 1 Corinthians 13:12 we're told, "Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity."

Someday we'll see with clarity, but for now things are foggy. We can't understand everything from our finite perspective. And frankly, the people suffering from the Aurora tragedy don't need a big theological treatise right now; any intellectual response is going to seem trite and inadequate. What they desperately need now is the very real and comforting presence of Jesus Christ in their lives. And I'm so grateful that so many churches and ministries of this community are helping them experience that.

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Related Topics:CounselingDeathGriefPainSufferingViolence
Posted: July 24, 2012

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Displaying 1–5 of 16 comments


October 10, 2014  3:20pm

I understand that much of the World has belief in GOD or a god. I also understand that most or the World would do what their religious leader(s) instruct(ed) them to do; Thus, My understanding makes me know that if All Religious Leaders (Pope, Imam, Muslim Leader, Rabbi, etc...) Instructed their followers to HAVE PEACE, and lay down their weapons, that they would do it. Therefore, I would like to know: "Why don't the Religious Leaders of the World bring Peace to the World?"

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March 01, 2013  12:26am

This is Biblically accurate and well-written, but not very comforting... There is some suffering that's so great it's hard to see God at all, even if you're a born-again Christian who reads the Bible daily. When you're in that depth of pain, I don't really think anything makes you feel better except faith and time. We're strangers on this earth, as God called us to be. We're waiting on Him. When you're in severe pain, the last thing you want to do is to patiently endure it. You feel like doing almost anything to end the pain, and yet God tells us to wait. I think the absence of pride is the key, though. God will strip you of your pride, and it hurts very badly at first. But the more humble you become, the less old wounds hurt. The less mocking hurts. And you start to realize...you feel sorry for those who treat you cruelly, because they have a world of hurt headed their way. No need to fret, God WILL vindicate you; that's a promise. Just keep your focus on Him, and not the world.

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Eric Robert Nielsen

January 10, 2013  11:27am

Why does God allow sorrow in this world? Desire = grasping = clinging = fear of loosing what you've become attached to. Anyone who has done as Jesus suggested and has turn within themselves to experience their very soul will see that they are set ablaze with desire created by obtaining the five senses before entering this world. This not only causes a person to have a lust for life, in order to stay wanting to live, but it causes a person to forget God in exchange for a sense of self as something separate from God. Conquering desire is to understand the match between all this world has to offer a human being carrying with him the five senses and how the five senses match perfectly every stimulus related to those five sense. This is Jesus' meaning behind his conversation with Nicodemus in John. For more read "Beyond God's Veil... A True Story of Piercing the Cloud of Unknowing" or visiting EricRobertNielsen.com-- The Mystic Post.

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December 15, 2012  4:05pm

It's almost like there isn't a god at all.

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Nicole Elmore

September 11, 2012  10:16pm

I think sometimes people's biggest problem in situations is that they think "why did God put me in this "bad" situation", whether we are thinking about our job situation, or a time in our life that we don't want to be in - sometimes we think "what did I do to deserve having been put in this situation" of having to be around people who we feel are unpleasant or who seem to be only discouraging us... If you are in a situation like that, you have to stop being selfish and realize that sometimes God places you in those circumstances and calls you to help those around you instead of being the one that is being helped in that point of time. Never doubt God's decisions, have faith and know that everything happens for a reason and if you are obedient and live to the Lord rather than for yourself, and you fulfill what he has called you to do, you will be blessed thereafter.

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