This is part three answering the question, “Who is the God who allows Suffering?” It is part of a larger project answering the question, “Why does a loving God allow Suffering?”
God is Truth
God is Truth and everything that He does is true. Jesus made this clear, “Then Jesus cried out, as He taught in the temple, saying, “You both know Me, and you know where I am from; and I have not come of Myself, but He who sent Me is true, whom you do not know.” (John 7:28 NKJ) Again, Jesus said, “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” (John 17:3 NKJ) In fact, Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6 NKJ) If God were Truth, then He would not allow innocent people to suffer, but He does. Therefore, there must be a reason God allows suffering, IF He is Truth.
God is Love
This is the attribute that has caused many people to struggle regarding suffering and God. John makes it clear that God is love,
7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8 He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. (1 John 4:7-8 NKJ)
John also wrote, that we love, “because He first loved us.” (1 John 4:19) It was God’s love that developed a plan whereby salvation was achieved, so redemption could be made, and so we might learn and understand what a family is all about (John 13:34-35). If God is love, then why would there be suffering? The fact that suffering exists, then there must be a divine reason for suffering, IF God is love.
God is Gracious and Merciful
God is both gracious and merciful in Himself, but also toward all creatures. Scripture is full of examples of His grace and mercy. Grace is often simply described as God giving what man does not deserve and mercy is often simply described as God not giving what man deserves. God is perfect righteousness and just in all of His ways and is satisfied only with righteousness. However, because He is also gracious and merciful, He was satisfied with the righteous sacrifice of Jesus on the cross on our behalf. Jesus was the substitute for the human race, so God extended grace and mercy to man because of Jesus. Paul wrote, “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Cor. 5:21 NKJ) There are several examples of God’s grace and mercy. The Psalmist wrote, “Gracious is the LORD, and righteous; Yes, our God is merciful.” (Ps. 116:5 NKJ) Grace and mercy are extended because of the sinfulness of man. Joel wrote, “So rend your heart, and not your garments; Return to the LORD your God, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness; and He relents from doing harm.” (Joel 2:13 NKJ) Hezekiah called on the Northern Kingdom to return to the Lord, “For if you return to the LORD, your brethren and your children will be treated with compassion by those who lead them captive, so that they may come back to this land; for the LORD your God is gracious and merciful, and will not turn His face from you if you return to Him.” (2 Chron. 30:9 NKJ) God is gracious and merciful, but suffering exists, so there must be a reason for suffering, IF God is gracious and merciful.
God is also infinity, so each of the characteristics are infinite making suffering very difficult to understand for people. So if God is all powerful, loving, sovereign and merciful, then how can there be suffering? There must be a reason.
We have only scratched the surface on God’s character – “Who is the God who allows suffering.” Scripture gives us a tremendous amount of information, but it does not answer every question. Moses wrote, “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law. (Deut. 29:29 NKJ) But let us not cop out and just say Scripture does not give us all the information. Let us take what Scripture says and put the pieces together like a jig saw puzzle and understand “How could God allow suffering?”
Questions for discussion:
- How many of God’s characteristics can you name and describe?
- What are several reasons why knowing the character of God is good for facing life, let alone in understanding suffering?
- Which attributes are especially important to you as you grasp the concept of suffering?
- Which attributes are difficult to understand, especially when it comes to the concept of suffering?
- How would you use the character of God in helping to disciple someone who is suffering?