“My bowels! My bowels! I am pained at my very heart; my heart maketh a noise in me; I cannot hold my peace, because thou hast heard, O my soul, the sound of the trumpet, the alarm of war.” – Jeremiah 4: 19.
If there is a God, why do bad things happen? It’s a common argument, this one, against His existence. It then raises a question that Christians feel obliged to present a counter-argument to: why doesn’t the all-powerful God stop tsunamis and earthquakes from happening or prevent babies from dying? And to be honest, it is one of the most uncomfortable positions a Christian can find themselves in, especially if you find you lack the necessary empathy with that person’s situation to understand their feelings on the matter. As we all have different lives, this will inevitably happen.
Yet, for all the worrying that Christians do about how to approach this question, I find the answer is really quite simple. It begins with acknowledging that you’re not the one who’s going to provide this person with the comfort they need – any part of you that does want that is prideful. You also can’t give them the definitive answer to life’s problems that they crave. When dealing with issues such as this, your first priority is to show love rather than win an argument, even if they do intend to use their situation as an excuse to blindly insult God and your faith in Him. Jesus is the best (indeed, the only) example we can look to, as someone who showed love to those who disbelieved, insulted, and eventually even killed Him: “Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” – Luke 23: 34.
I hate that pain and suffering exists just as much as anyone else. At times certain events in our life can feel pointless, and it seems that one bad thing ends just for another one to soon begin. Can this be stopped? Not for as long as we live in this world, because this world is infected. We infected it, with a disease straight from Satan/ Lucifer/ the devil/ that fallen angel who thought he was going to escape a mention here, called sin. Sin is the source of all pain and suffering in the world, but God would never have allowed the devil to destroy His creation directly. God has as much authority over him as He does the rest of the universe – when we proclaim Jesus as sovereign, we have that authority as well (Luke 10: 17). When the devil was cast out from God’s presence, his power was lost.
However, when God created man and woman, He so loved us that He didn’t want us to simply obey Him; He wanted us to want to obey Him. We were given the free will to make our own independent decisions regarding good and evil. He permitted the devil to tempt us (but only to the extent that He knew we’d be able to resist if we wanted to: 1 Corinthians 10: 13), starting with the temptation of Eve by the serpent in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3). Thus, the devil found his way to indirectly influence the world that God had created, using man as the vessel for sin.
This, man’s sin, which started way back in the beginning with Adam and Eve, is the reason that our current pain and suffering exists. God doesn’t put us through it intentionally: he let us decide to put ourselves through it. Before sin tainted the planet, there were no natural disasters. There was no death. God could theoretically take it all away completely, but this would of course also mean that He would have to take us away completely, or else we would keep making the same mistakes without consequence. Because He loved us, He decided not to do that. He chose instead to sacrifice something very important to Him (Jesus) in our place, presenting us with a different path, an escape route, out of the clutches of sin back into His kingdom (…John 3: 16).
This arms us with an appropriate answer when dealing with the misunderstanding that God doesn’t care. While we can all surely acknowledge that it can feel that way at times, God has made it clear that not only does He care, but He also knows exactly how we’re feeling when we go through immense physical or psychological suffering (Hebrews 2: 18). He knows the effect that sin has on us: all of it hit Jesus as He became our substitute on the cross.
The devil wants to destroy all of God’s work, and he loves it when we blame God for our pain – he knows God will not always save us from physical pain because God has already saved us on a much greater scale. So he focuses on the little stuff, and makes it seem too big for us to handle. Pride isn’t a problem for him; he’d rather not take credit for his actions, instead passing off the blame to others. He is already condemned. Fortunately, we have been spared the same path.
When we do come to walk with God in faith, giving our lives to Him, our suffering doesn’t end. Indeed, I agree that it would be nice if it worked that way: for God to suddenly make us invincible, immune from all that is thrown at us. But God warned us that, instead of life becoming easier for those who follow Him, things can actually get worse before they get better (John 33: 16, II Timothy 3: 12). Christians can actually, in their pain, become much more frustrated with God than any non-Christian would (Jeremiah 15: 18).
Pain and suffering should be best thought of as a journey which, if we manage to get through it, leads to the type of relief that you only really appreciate once you know what it’s like not to have it. In our case, as Christians, we ultimately have Heaven to look forward to; a place where all of this will no longer matter. It’s hard now, sure, but in the context of our overall existence, we could end up looking back and wondering exactly how, or why, we got so worked up over something as insignificant as irritable bowels.