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  Why Does God Allow Suffering?

"Isn't God all-good? If He loves His children, why do I have to suffer? Why am I being punished?
My prayers go unanswered."

You are not being punished by God. He does not either punish or reward people in this life. That all has to wait until the next.

God is indeed infinitely good. Therefore He could not keep the infinite happiness of His existence in heaven all to Himself. His goodness led Him to create others like Himself, His true children, to share that happiness.

If we were not His true children, we could not experience infinite happiness the way He does, just as our cats and dogs here on earth cannot possibly experience happiness as we do, or share with us the pleasures of this world—music, plays, literature, Super Bowls, sunsets. It is all lost on them. God does not want His happiness to be lost on us.

But this turns out to be a very tricky thing to do. Just as God was not created, a true child of God must be partially self made. We must be able to choose right over wrong, good over evil; and these choices must be made in spite of pain and misery and sorrow. We must be able to choose what we know in our heart is right even though that choice apparently leads us into more pain, and to be able to reject what we know is wrong even though what is wrong apparently leads to pleasures of this world.

For that, we must live in a world of pain and sorrow, at least for a miniscule amount of time (compared to eternity). Until we have proven that we can freely choose to maintain faith and trust in God no matter how hard our lives are, we are not fully His true children, and are not able to share the glorious happiness of heaven with Him.

Pain and suffering are not a punishment. Both good and evil people suffer. Christ Himself suffered terribly, and was cruelly executed as His mother watched. No, more than anything it is an opportunity. It is our chance to maintain firm faith and trust in God through the worst that this random world of pain can throw at us, making God very proud that we are His children. To God, our troubles here are like an instant.

A billion times a billion years is not even a fraction of a nanosecond in eternity. That is a whale of a lot of happiness (and infinite happiness at that!) to balance against whatever travails we have in this eye blink of a life on earth. If something bad happened to us in the first instant of our lives, lasting only one second, and then we were assured of a fabulous life of great wealth and ease and happiness, do you think you would be concerned about that first instant? The whole of our lives, whether we live one year or a hundred years, is like an instant in eternity.

I wish I could tell you that prayer would change God's mind and take away your suffering. But prayer is just to increase our faith. God wants us to meet the challenges of this world and come through them with faith intact, which we will do only with the aid of prayer. Our eternal happiness is all that is important to Him, and all that should be important to us. So right now, on earth, prayer is absolutely essential. Don't ever give up on it.

"But if God is all powerful, why can't we just live like angels here on earth and be happy all our lives? "
     To begin with, the angels are not true children of God, and so do not share with Him the same kind of infinite happiness which is our destiny. But more to the point, that is indeed exactly how we started out: in a place with no suffering at all!

Although we once lived in Paradise where there was no suffering, we rebelled against God and were expelled. Now, thanks to Christ, we have a second chance for eternal happiness.

From the beginning, God knew that He wanted to share, with true children, the happiness of existence that He enjoyed. He knew that we must have free will, because free will is the essence of His nature. He did not want pets or toys, he wanted children, made in His own likeness and image. This would be difficult, and complicated.

He knew that He wanted us in Paradise with Him, and that is where He started us out. But He also knew that we would soon (being very much like Him) think that we were His equal, and rebel against Him. He knew that once we had to leave Paradise that He did not want to simply destroy us. We would be given another opportunity in this new world, a world of pain and sorrow, the consequences of our pride and wrong choices.

In His love for us, God has a glorious plan to give us all an eternity of happiness in Paradise. He became true man Himself, and suffered and died so that He could, even in His infinite Justice, forgive the unforgivable sin of rebelling against God.

Therefore God does not consider the suffering that we have to go through as evil. Indeed, it was only through His own suffering and death that He is able to bring His plan forward and redeem us all. If the pain were avoidable, God Himself, as Christ, would certainly not have elected to be tortured to death here. He certainly would not have allowed His dear mother to endure the agony of watching her son be crucified. So the one thing that is certain is that pain and sorrow is an unavoidable part of His plan.

Using suffering as an excuse to turn away from God, to once again set ourselves up as a higher authority that does not have to obey Him, is evil. This time around, we are expected to maintain complete confidence that God knows better how to run the universe than we do. Do not lose faith. Believe in His love. It is the one constant in our lives.


"God will not interfere in our lives? That is discouraging. It would almost seem that a little 'Divine Intervention' would be necessary sometimes, and certainly appreciated."

God will not interfere in His Plan for our lives, because it is already the best possible plan to bring us to heaven with Him. But we certainly can (and should) pray that this plan includes the special favors that we ask of Him. His plan takes into account all of the free-will choices that we make, including how much we pray and how diligently we try to follow His commands. By all means talk to God all the time about a happier life here on earth.

Here is a big tip: It does not make sense for you to ignore helping God, and then ask for Him to help you.

But how are you ignoring God? Christ (God) said this:

You have my Father's blessing! Inherit
the kingdom prepared for you. For

I was hungry and you gave me food;
I was thirsty and you gave me a drink;
I was a stranger and you welcomed me;
I was naked and you clothed me;
I was ill and you comforted me;
I was in prison and you came to visit me."

Then the just will ask Him,
"Lord, when did we do such things to you?"
And the Son of Man will answer them:
"I assure you, as often you did any of these things
for the least of your brothers, you did it for me."

(Matthew 25:31-46)

This is our basic interaction with God. When we help others, we are helping Him. It just makes sense that His plan for us might include more help if we always give Him (others) all the help possible. Favors are a two-way street.

But even then, be aware that His best plan for getting you to heaven with Him might still include a hard, painful life on earth. After all, His own life on earth was extremely painful. You can ask and ask for it not to be (as He did also), but you must trust Him, and if that is your lot in life, you must accept His decision, and trust that that He knows better than you do how to run the universe .

And never stop praying. The best way to get through difficult times is to constantly say to God, who is right there with you, "Stay with me, Father. Please stay right here with me!"

A full discussion of the mystery of prayer is on our page at Prayer.

”I just have a real hard time with faith. My life ever since I can remember has been one bad thing after another. I'm just so tired. I have done a lot of terrible things in my life and a lot of terrible things been done to me. I am so alone, and feel like I do not even want to go on.”

So now is the time to change. You are lucky indeed. There is still time.

The first thing to know is that God loves you even as a sinner. Complete, infinite love. You are His own child. He wants only that you recognize this, and try to do His will. He has an eternity of happiness waiting for you. He is infinitely happy, and He wants to share all that happiness with you.

You say you have done many terrible things in your life. OK, that was your old life. You have a new life now. It started about ten seconds ago. Everything is going to change. First, you are going to be basically cheerful, because you now know that you are going to live forever, and that you will be infinitely happy that whole entire time. Now that is truly good news, right?

Second, I am going to tell you how to be happy in this life, too. Maybe not rich or powerful or healthy, but happy. You just have to try to do God’s will. You don’t have to be perfect, you just have to make an effort, and be sorry when you fail.

God’s will is just this: take care of other people. Do your best to make them happy. Do not think of yourself. Think first of others. Feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, cheer up everyone around you. Be a nice person. Love everyone.

Why? Every person on earth is your brother or sister, another child of God. No matter how bad they are right now, God loves them and wants you to be kind and caring to them.

So this is it, the secret of life in God’s own words: Love God, and love your brethren as much as you love yourself.

If you make an effort to do that, you will be as happy as possible here on earth, and can confidently look forward to an eternity of happiness with God.

”Why did God not calm the waters in the large Tsunami? If he is allowing nature to take its course, what is he trying to teach us -- what can we learn from disasters?”

We can learn that this world is not Paradise, where there were no disasters. Genesis makes it clear that God considered this painful world to be the just result of our sin of pride, of equating ourselves with Him by thinking that we could live by our own rules, and not His.

That we cannot expect to live a certain number of years; how long we spend on earth does not matter, and we must always be prepared to face God.

That there are indeed apparent reasons (such as natural disasters) to doubt the goodness of God and His plans for us, and that for whatever reasons He has, He asks us to overcome our doubts and have firm faith.

God wants to give us the opportunity to do heroic things, such as helping those who have become victims. There can be no heroes if there are no disasters.

”If God is fair, why did He make us different in all ways, like rich and poor, black and white?”

Because God is all powerful, people sometimes think of Him as sitting somewhere watching what is going on and pulling strings and influencing events and making choices about things like who gets to be born rich and who gets to be born poor. Not so.

The world and its workings are left purely and entirely to random chance. God does not interfere, because He knows these things are not important.

What God does do is to give each and every person an equal chance at attaining heaven. Rich or poor, devout family or heathen, black or white, everyone is born with the same (good) chance at being able to achieve salvation. This is something of a mystery. Nevertheless, God would not be God if it were otherwise.

The one thought that should sustain us through all our trials is that since God is infinitely compassionate and merciful, He will always arrange our lives to be the best possible way for us to get to heaven.

We have free will to make whatever choices we wish, but after each choice God will arrange things again so that we continue to have the best possible path to salvation. That path may include sickness and pain and loneliness, and a lot of other things that we do not want, but we must trust that God knows what He is doing, and have absolute faith in Him.

He will provide for us the best way to reach heaven. To think otherwise would be to limit His love and mercy, and that is impossible.

Go to THE MAIN INDEX HOME PAGE for a full list of help, including our pages "Is There a God,"

"Being a Chistian," "How Can I Cope With Death?" and "What Is the Meaning of Life?".

More answers to letters.

" I get too much stress at home and I wish I would just die. Why am I even alive?"

God has a plan for your life—for you. There are many wonderful things that He wants you to do in life: many kind smiles to strangers, many donations to feed the hungry, many visits to lonely and sick people. You may someday have your own family to cherish and raise in God's love.

Happiness really isn't about how other people treat us; it is about how we treat other people. It is not about how much love we get, it is about how much love we give.

"How can you say that God cares about us, when you do everything that He says and then He rewards the people that don't believe in Him?"

God loves all of His children, even the ones who do not believe in Him yet or disobey Him.

Now sit down, because I am going to drop a bombshell on you: as a Christian, you are obligated to love those wicked people, and help them, and pray for them. Christ commanded us to. And just when you thought that following Christ could not get any harder!

You can do it, though, with His help. In fact, nothing can be done without His help. So ask for it as often as possible.

No, unfortunately, this help does not include things of this world that we want, like money and love. It is limited to the only thing that really matters, getting us to eternal happiness.

" I used to belong to a church and I put my heart in the ministry, then I began to have rain fall in my life. Money problems, bills, my home was in foreclosure, and I lost jobs. I even lost my friends in the church. It's hard to keep my faith and to believe. Where does a fallen Christian go?"

Do not make the mistake of thinking that God shows special worldly favors to Christians. Do you remember what happened to all the Apostles? After a very hard time preaching, they were all tortured and killed because of their beliefs. If you are Christian because you think that God will make this life easier for you, you will not be a Christian for long.

God will not intervene to bring you jobs or money. This is not because he does not want to; it is because he knows that his grand plan to bring you home to him in heaven includes all of your troubles. He knows that the road you are on now, even though you don't like it one bit, is the best one to lead you straight to heaven and to an eternity of happiness.

Talk to God every day, and ask him for the grace to bear up under your troubles. You can ask him to take those troubles away, but he is well aware of them and will take them away as soon as that is the best course for your salvation. Don't forget, he expects you to use the gifts that he gave you, your intelligence and common sense, to try to make this life more pleasant for yourself.

In Church I hear “Ask and it shall be given, seek and you shall find.” But I have been praying for years for God to get me out of my suffering, and He doesn’t hear me or answer me. Why? I am a kind-hearted person, why am I suffering so much?

When God said “Ask and it shall be given,” it is understood that He was not talking about things that affect our earthly lives. We should not pray for money or fame or a new car or lottery numbers or a better husband or a better job or a cure for our illness, and expect Divine intervention. That would make God like a genie in a bottle, which He is not. Think of all the good, deeply religious people in the world who are killed by earthquakes, who go hungry every day, who lose families in wars. They pray for these things not to happen, but of course they do.

These things are up to us to change, if we can, and to accept if we cannot. What He will give us, if we ask, is enough grace to lead our lives in a good and moral way, and not lose faith in Him when our lives get painful. When He said “Seek and you shall find,” He meant if we were seeking Him. If we seek Him by talking to Him every day and by doing His will, we most certainly will find Him.

Do not misunderstand, though. We are sure that God does not object to our asking for anything; it shows we are thinking about Him and that we acknowledge our dependence on Him. He will answer our prayer if (and only if) by so doing it will help us attain heaven.

Most importantly, you must have faith that everything that happens to you is God's will, and since He loves us, it is the best thing for us. Not what we think is best, certainly, but what God knows is best. This is hard to accept when so much in our daily lives is going terribly wrong. We really need to pray hard to believe in His love.

Prayer is not the mindless recitation of formula prayers written by other people. It is a deep spiritual awareness that God is here with us every moment, and a voluntary sharing of our lives with Him. It is a Father-daughter relationship in which communication is sometimes spoken, sometimes unspoken, but always there. It is a love and an abiding trust that is eternal.

"I am the only one in my family that works, but it seems like that my work doesn't accomplish anything, as I am just always behind on my bills."

So far you have been able to hold everything together, to feed everyone, and to keep a roof over their heads. And you say you don't accomplish very much? That is a huge accomplishment!

When you die, you will not be judged by how much money you made, or how many times your house payment was late. That will all mean absolutely nothing. You will be judged on the care you took of other people, of the joy you managed to bring to their lives, of the hurts you were able to heal. All you can do is try your best. You will be judged on how hard you try to follow God's commands and your own conscience.

Every smile that someone gives you in response to a kind word is a great treasure that you will take with you to heaven. Every good deed you do will be repaid a thousand times over by God. You can amass quite a fortune here in this world even if you never have a penny of money. And the best part is, you will have all eternity to spend it.

they shall be consoled.
How blessed are those who are tried like gold in the furnace.
Their bodies and souls
are refined much more perfectly than gold or silver
in the refiner's fire,
and their heavenly Father gathers them abundant fruit
at harvest time, as from a well pruned vine laden with grapes.
Your heavenly Father is the winegrower, and
prunes away every barren branch;
but the fruitful ones He trims clean to increase their yield.
(John 15:1-2)
He is like a master craftsman
who chips away at a block of marble.
He will not rest until He has brought forth the masterpiece
He had planned to create.
In your pains and sorrows, in your trials and tribulations,
do not weep or lament.
Rejoice instead and be glad,
because God has tried you and found you worthy of Himself.

(Wis. 3:5).

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