Why is there Pain and Suffering in the World?

20140315_094114[1]Good friends encourage you to do good things. I was recently encouraged to join a group of friends passing out tracts in downtown Chicago the day of the St. Patric’s Day parade. As sometimes happens, this opened up conversation with a man who wanted to talk about spiritual things. I had trouble discerning  if he was really seeking the Lord or if just loved to debate, but either way it showed me that I needed to be better able to explain why there is 20140320_125304[1]suffering in the world. So, while it didn’t come to me soon enough to share it with this dear man in Chicago, I would like to share this parable here:

Say folks come to live in my house. Since I am loving, I do not force them to eat everyday – I give them the choice. Some choose not to eat and there is sickness, malnutrition, and even death in my house. I plead with them to eat and assure them there will always be a place for them at my table.

Someone looks in the window, sees the suffering and says, “She is such a mean, terrible person to allow that to happen in her house!” Someone else looks in the window and realizes the sickness is the result, somewhere along the line, of choosing to reject my love.

20140322_094126[1]Our grandparents are such an encouragement to us! What a privilege to stop and visit with them. :)Special dinner before Jenny left. We miss you, Jenny!

I would be interested to know how each of you would you revise or expound on this parable. Feel free to leave a comment. Smile


  1. Kende April 1, 2014 at 9:31 am #

    That seems to presuppose that if the people were to eat, they would not suffer.

    Translating that to what I assume is the spiritual application: “eating” being the correct application of God’s Word to our lives, then the parable seems to say that if you follow God’s Word, you will not suffer.

    Yet you and I both have heard with our ears, seen with our eyes, and know in our hearts that there are many who faithfully carry out God’s will and Word and who still suffer: pain, loss, illness, difficulties, financial ruin, and death.

    God didn’t say “follow me and your life will be smooth sailing”. Jesus did say His yoke and burden were light, but it’s still a yoke, and it’s still a burden. The lightness and easiness comes through the yoke and burden being shared with Christ, as He has already borne the burden and worn the yoke in our stead.

    No, suffering isn’t only because people aren’t doing things the way God wants them done. Even Paul suffered from a “thorn in his flesh” despite being, arguably, one of the truest and strongest Christians you or I could point to. There is a deeper purpose that God has placed in suffering if it is to have any purpose.

  2. Esther Staddon April 1, 2014 at 11:02 am #

    That’s really good, Kende.

    I was thinking the spiritual application would be that God has given a choice. In order for there to be a choice there has to be two options. Man did not choose God’s best and that has resulted in the sorrow in the world.

    That sorrow effects all of us, those who have chosen God and those who haven’t. How God gives us something better than “smooth sailing” through suffering is another amazing concept.

    This parable’s focus is that the results of the other choice prove God is loving because they prove God gives choices instead of forcing us to do what He wants. We are not pre-programmed robots, we have a freewill.

    Hmmm. So I need to make that clear in the story…

  3. Kende April 1, 2014 at 11:16 am #

    If suffering is a result of God giving us a choice, without further clarification it sounds as though God is rather passive in the whole affair, that He made this world, said “I love them so I’ll give them a choice” and then was a bit surprised and disappointed when we chose wrong.

    Not that you’re saying that, but you have to recognize that is one interpretation of what has been said.

    When God created the world, did He know Adam and Eve were going to sin? If He knew we were going to sin, why did He create us that way?

  4. Donald S. April 3, 2014 at 10:51 am #

    People can always misinterpret what you say. Rather than be afraid of how you might be misinterpreted a general parable like this is a good place to start.
    From there, it would be very good, if you have the time, to find what suffering they are personally experiencing (People always have a reason for what they say) and help them through the process of finding how the Lord is using it in their life to make them more like Christ in the hidden man of the heart.
    Even Job’s suffering drew him closer to the Lord in the end.

  5. Crystal April 3, 2014 at 8:56 pm #

    Perhaps a different parable? How about the one about the Shepherd breaking the leg of the lamb that was continuing to run away. Someone might say that is terrible to cause an “innocent” lamb “needless” suffering. Yet, the purpose is two-fold 1. A wise Shepherd knows that a run away lamb will eventually run a self destructive course 2. (and best of all) the lamb will learn to love the Shepherd and draw closer to the Shepherd since He is the only one who can heal the lamb. Yet, no matter how many times a lamb may run away, the Shepherd will still seek the lamb no matter what. (Yes, I have the hymn _The Ninty-and-Nine_ running through my head).

  6. Crystal April 4, 2014 at 8:18 am #

    Or on second thought, the lamb does not particularly have to be a runaway. It could be the lamb tripped, fell into a ditch and broke it’s leg. When the Shepherd finds the lamb, the lamb has the choice to call out to the Shepherd for help/rescue knowing that only He can help & heal, or resent/resist His help, and blame Him for all the bad things that have happened.

  7. Kende April 4, 2014 at 8:38 am #

    Crystal, there is no parable in the Bible of a shepherd breaking lamb’s legs when it was prone to run away. There is a parable about a run away lamb, but in it the Shepherd does not break the lambs legs as discipline or to train it to stay near him.

    Never in the Bible does it state this happened or was a common practice, and no other historical or archaeological discoveries have indicated that this was a practice.

  8. Mrs S April 4, 2014 at 2:14 pm #

    Esther, I personally think that your article is one of the best, scripturally accurate explanations that I have read. Even Job admitted that his words and fears opened the door to what happened in his life. I am thankful to have a caring loving heavenly Father. One of my favorite scriptures is John 10:10 The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. Blessings to you and your family ! You and your family are a blessing and encouragement our family. Thank you 🙂

  9. Crystal April 4, 2014 at 6:30 pm #


    I meant story, not parable. Thanks for the clarification!

  10. Aeysha April 4, 2014 at 11:10 pm #

    Have you thought about looking into other Abrahamic religions for an answer? Have you thought that perhaps the answer you seek is not held only or wholly to a KJV interpretation? Maybe you’ve hit a “wall” religiously, because you followed a man rather than scripture. So now you feel the necessity to parable your way out of a religious conundrum. You need not create your own parables. The torah, bible and quran have done that for you. In other words, God has given you the parables in many contexts, read and understand. Do not try to create your own. All of your answers can be found in 3 texts, and none supercedes the other. They just are. Open your mind to God and His message and accept His plans for you. Move yourself away from “character traits” and other man-made rules that do nothing more than push you into idolatry of figure-heads and disingenuous ideas of “salvation”. May God keep and bless you always, and may He open your mind as to the path He wants you to follow.

  11. Esther Staddon April 5, 2014 at 12:47 pm #

    Thank you all for contributing by your comments here!

    I am excited to share that I had a great conversation on the topic with a few co-workers over lunch this week and one of them shared this parable to explain that love requires a choice. It summed up what I was trying to say quite well:

    In a small town there was one ice-cream shop. The only flavor they sold was vanilla. Everyone that came ate vanilla. The following year another ice-cream shop opened up that sold many different flavors of ice-cream. Not everyone that came ate vanilla. There was now a choice so you could now tell who truly loved vanilla ice-cream.

    I am so grateful that God is a loving God. I love Him! I pray that each of you feel the joy and peace of responding to His love too!

  12. Kende April 5, 2014 at 2:29 pm #

    Something I like to remind myself of is that a parable, an analogy, or any type of story are never places to learn truth by themselves. Stories and parables and analogies are only supposed to help us remember or illuminate a truth that has already been taught us. Jesus used parables in a unique way because he was trying to convey things he knew his listeners wouldn’t understand. But when Jesus had something specific and important to day, he said it plainly and not in parables.

  13. Crystal April 5, 2014 at 6:24 pm #

    I agree, Kende. And my pastor also likes to point out concerning analogies, that while they are a helpful tool, at some point they start to “break down”.

  14. Michael April 9, 2014 at 8:01 pm #

    How could good be proven better than evil if evil was never allowed to exist? If, in the immense vastness of blissful and perfect heavenly eternity, evil only exists for a minute speck of “time”, I see it as quite a privilege to be allowed to take part in such an awesome drama.

  15. Dottie April 24, 2014 at 10:18 am #

    How do you explain the shooting deaths of all the little first graders in CT two weeks before Christmas in 2012? Was this what your God intended for these beautiful little children? To be gunned down by a mentally unstable person with an automatic rifle as they sat in their classrooms? If so, I don’t want to believe in this kind of God. I suppose you’d argue that the tragedy was proof of God’s disapproval of “evil” public schools? Believe what you want, but quit trying to impose your flawed belief system on others. The arrogance of it is astounding.

  16. Michael April 30, 2014 at 8:04 am #

    If I would be so arrogant as to think that God is obligated to explain anything to me (although He often does), the pride itself would prevent me from ever understanding; and if I was so foolish as to become bitter and angry at God for things that have happened to me (which are all for my good), my bitterness would perpetrate more evil.
    Don’t underestimate Job’s words, spoken after God allowed Satan to slaughter all ten of his children (whom he cared for and thought about continually):
    “‘Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.’ In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly…
    “Then said his wife unto him, ‘Dost thou still retain thine integrity? curse God, and die.’ But he said unto her, ‘Thou speakest as one of the foolish women speaketh. What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?’ In all this did not Job sin with his lips.”
    The rebellion of thinking I don’t deserve something God has given me is sickening. Jesus said “Suppose ye that these Galilaeans were sinners above all the Galilaeans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish…” What is amazing is the mercy of God in allowing me to take another breath today – and not only that, but to do what it took to purge my sins, break my pride, selfishness, and rebellion, and re-make me into a merciful, loving, and patient person by His unbelievable grace! God has never put on me anything that I was not able to bear; only my pride has caused me to fall. “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall. There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it. Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry.”

  17. Esther Staddon May 1, 2014 at 2:46 pm #

    Dottie, I hear you and grieve with you.

    Please do not assume that I would say such a tragedy had anything to do with God’s disapproval of “evil” public schools. Even though I see things about the school system that are dangerous and inefficient, I love the people there. In fact, I volunteer in the public school system myself to help the teachers and students there. This tragedy is no proof of God’s disapproval; equally horrific tragedies have happened elsewhere.

    My heart goes out to these families who lost their precious children. That is why I want them to find the Lord Jesus Christ and know Him in the midst of this loss. Know Him as Comforter, Healer, All-Sufficient One, Love, and Strength. Know that there is Hope after death. Receive exactly what they need through His Word. What do other religions or non-religions have to offer these families in crisis?

    I specifically had your comment in mind as I was reading through Shattered Dreams by Larry Crabb last week. I found it insightful that it spoke to the people in the trial more than those who heard about the people in the trial. Notice the response of the Scott family whose daughter, Rachel, was the first victim in the Columbine shooting. Their response has touched my life and the lives of thousands of others for good through Rachel’s Challenge (www.rachelschallenge.org). There are more factors in each family’s situation than we know. Our limited view of the situation gives no reason for us to miss our own salvation.

    My prayers are for you.

  18. C.S. Lewis February 18, 2016 at 2:46 pm #

    “If a thing is free to be good it is also free to be bad. And free will is what has made evil possible. Why, then, did God give them free will? Because free will, though it makes evil possible, is also the only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having.”
    – C.S. Lewis

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