Suffering is a universal human experience. We all experience it in various ways and to varying degrees, whether through emotional pain, disease, death, natural disaster, or difficult circumstances. What does the Bible say about suffering? Why does a good God allow us to experience such difficulties? Is suffering ever going to come to an end?
After God created everything, the Scriptures say God “saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good” (Genesis 1:31). God initially made a perfect world without pain and suffering. Then the floodgates opened with the first human sins (Genesis 3), and the rest of the pages of the Bible are full of suffering. This is the consistent teaching of Scripture: human sin has broken God’s good world and brought pain and suffering along with it. In fact, Saul of Tarsus (also known as the apostle Paul), a student of Rabbi Gamaliel, wrote that not just humanity suffers the consequences of that first sin, but all creation groans to be freed from the oppression we have brought down on it through our sin (Romans 8:18–22).
So why does God allow suffering? First, a good God allows suffering to remind us that our world is broken because of sin. If he removed all consequences of sin, he would also remove much of our need to seek him for the healing we, and the rest of creation, need. Tikkun Olam (the healing of the world) is something humans can bring about only in limited and incomplete ways; the full realization of Tikkun requires God’s direct action through the Messiah.
Like a good father, God allows us to suffer consequences from our sins so we learn to stop sinning and follow him. Also like a good father, he gives us grace and mercy to find forgiveness for sin, which he has provided through his Messiah (Isaiah 53:5–6). Yeshua has done the work of redemption by dying for our sin; we need to put our faith and trust in what he has done for us to enter into the healing he offers us. The first step toward healing the world is accepting the forgiveness and healing provided through Jesus.
When we put our faith in Jesus, will all our suffering disappear? Not yet. God still has a purpose in suffering to do the ongoing work of change in our hearts and lives to make us people fit for His kingdom. Jacob (James, the half-brother of Yeshua) wrote, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2–4). God wants to continue to bring healing to our lives, and many times it takes time! He also wants us to be messengers of his desire to bring healing to the lives of others.
King David put it this way: “Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep Your word” (Ps. 119:67). In other words, God used the affliction that David was going through to draw him closer and to help him grow in obedience.
So when does the suffering end? We know much of the suffering will be minimized when Messiah returns and reigns from Jerusalem (Isa. 11:1–9), and ultimately God will remove all suffering and wipe all tears from our eyes (Isaiah 25:8; Revelation 21:3–4). Whether those days are near or far we cannot say. We know each day, it grows closer. Until that time, we need to trust God and draw near to him in the person of Yeshua so we can have the grace we need in the midst of suffering so we might learn the lessons He has for us.