Why Does God Allow Suffering?

Why does God allow suffering?
As parents of children with special needs, it’s an in-your-face question that we wrestle with. It’s hard to ignore.  Regardless of the issues our kids face, we ache to watch them suffer. If they must struggle, we’d like to at least understand why.
It’s such a huge question. Theologians have struggled with it for centuries. I’m not going to come up with any earth-shattering insights…I just bumble along like everyone else.
I’ve certainly asked why a million times. Why would God allow an innocent child to suffer pain? Why would He allow my baby to suffer?
I’ve asked a thousand variations…why would He allow my child to be robbed of speech? Of her ability to chew? Or to use her hands? Or to walk? Why must she hurt? Why must she have seizures? It isn’t the medical explanations I’m talking about, it’s the soul-gripping why.
I don’t have the answer. But when I quit focusing on the question of why, only then am I able to see tiny bits of the puzzle more clearly.
Maybe it’s just me; maybe it’s more universal than that. Maybe you see yourself in this too?
The problem with why is that it centers my attention on the hurts, on the worries, on the things that have gone wrong. I get so caught up in the problem of suffering that I can’t see past it. When I hang on tightly to my obsession with why, I can’t let go of it to grab God’s hand.
When our daughter rapidly lost her early skills and she experienced pain that we couldn’t identify at that point, it was terribly hard for me to let go of the question of why God would allow this. I couldn’t see past the crisis to the fact that He still held us in the palm of His hand.

But God was faithful to His word. He did (and still does!) hold us in His hand through all the hard times, just as He promises throughout the Psalms and Isaiah in the Old Testament (I was going to list some specific references, but there are so many. If you don’t have a concordance to look them up, you can do a search for "hold me in your hand" through NETBible.org).
I just had to shift my sites from the desire for an explanation of why the Lord would allow our daughter to suffer…to the trust in Him to hold us through it.
Taking my eyes off the problem of understanding why—something we may never know anyway—allowed me to see some of the blessings that have come from our situation. I would not have noticed them if my focus stayed on the question.
                --our extended family has grown closer
                --the overwhelming majority of teachers who have worked with our daughter say she has taught them more about teaching than anything or anyone else
                --we’ve made dear friends in this circle of disability
                --we’ve received practical support (very tough for me) and been able to pass it on to other families…
                --I’ve seen growth in my own character (slow, but coming):  advocacy, acceptance, better calm under pressure, less easily embarassed
                --I’m more aware of areas I need to grow:  patience, forbearing, grace, releasing control
                --problem-solving has become a standard practice for our family
                --we’re taking life a bit slower and savoring each day as it comes
To be quite honest, I hadn’t thought about the question of why in quite a long while. Memories of letting go of that why question came this morning when my alarm wakened me with Natalie Grant’s song, Held. In it, she sings of a young mother’s grief over the death of her sick infant. The words remind us that though there is no explanation when our world falls apart, the Lord faithfully holds us. If you don’t know the song, the words are below. You can hear Natalie Grant sing it here (but caution, have Kleenex handy. It gets me every time!).
Maybe it is okay that we never know why in this lifetime. God has His own reasons for allowing suffering. Surely they are bigger than the little pieces of the puzzle we catch glimpses of every now and then.
But we are held in the palm of God’s hand, and that’s more than enough.

Be blessed in the palm of His hand today.

* * * * * * * * *
HELD by Natalie Grant
Two months is too little
They let him go
They had no sudden healing
To think that providence
Would take a child from his mother
While she prays, is appalling
Who told us we'd be rescued
What has changed and
Why should we be saved from nightmares
We’re asking why this happens to us
Who have died to live, it's unfair
This is what it means to be held
How it feels, when the sacred is torn from your life
And you survive
This is what it is to be loved and to know
That the promise was that when everything fell
We'd be held
This hand is bitterness
We want to taste it and
Let the hatred numb our sorrows
The wise hand opens slowly
To lilies of the valley and tomorrow
This is what it means to be held
How it feels, when the sacred is torn from your life
And you survive
This is what it is to be loved and to know
That the promise was that when everything fell
We'd be held
If hope if born of suffering
If this is only the beginning
Can we not wait, for one hour
Watching for our savior
This is what it means to be held
How it feels, when the sacred is torn from your life
And you survive
This is what it is to be loved and to know
That the promise was that when everything fell
We'd be held
[Repeat Chorus]
* * * * * * *
You might also want to look at Finding Comfort in Psalm 139


Anonymous said...

MORE good stuff from you, Rose-Marie! Your words are heartening.

Years ago I read a book (by a Rabbi) titled: (something like) When Bad Things Happen to Good People. The author's son was born with Progeria. (I think I spelled that correctly; means premature aging.) Good book.

This page on my blog relates to what you have written here: http://www.therextras.com/therextras/faith-in-my-professions.html
(At least I think so.)

Rose-Marie said...

I enjoyed reading the post on your blog, Barbara. Great stuff! I hope others will stop over to look at it (and the rest of your blog as well...Barbara's writing a cool series on skin right now!).

Our kids sure are incredible blessings, as you point out. I've met parents--as I'm sure you have too--so caught up in trying to figure out why God would allow their child to suffer that they overlook this beautiful fact. How tragic.