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Why is there so much pain, God?

I posted about a leper in India who had no tongue and no hands. How do you explain it? Just a few questions that come to mind: How do you make sense of this man’s pain? His face is melting away. Does God lack the power to heal him? Or is he so far removed from life here on earth …
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes

I posted about a leper in India who had no tongue and no hands. How do you explain it? Just a few questions that come to mind: How do you make sense of this man’s pain? His face is melting away. Does God lack the power to heal him? Or is he so far removed from life here on earth that he chooses not to? And if God created everything, why did he create diseases like leprosy and malaria?

If you look around the world, if you look close enough, you’ll see a lot of pain. When I was first confronting the pain in Swaziland, I felt God showing me Lamentations 3.

I’m the man who has seen trouble,
   trouble coming from the lash of God’s anger.
He took me by the hand and walked me
   into pitch-black darkness.
Yes, he’s given me the back of his hand
   over and over and over again.

He turned me into a scarecrow
   of skin and bones, then broke the bones.
He hemmed me in, ganged up on me,
   poured on the trouble and hard times.
He locked me up in deep darkness,
   like a corpse nailed inside a coffin.

He shuts me in so I’ll never get out,
   manacles my hands, shackles my feet.
Even when I cry out and plead for help,
   he locks up my prayers and throws away the key.

I hear myself joining them in their lament. Together we tell God, “I believe you’re still there, but I’m finding it hard to believe that you’re good. All you’ve given me is trouble and I’m so tired of just trying to cope. Any of the answers people give me are to simplistic – I don’t even know if I can believe there are any good answers.”
What else is there to say or do? But Lamentations 3 doesn’t end that way. Midway through, it’s as though the writer, having beaten his fists against the chest of the Almighty, having dissolved into sobs, picks himself and continues to talk. And again I find myself joining him in what he says:

When life is heavy and hard to take,
   go off by yourself. Enter the silence.
Bow in prayer. Don’t ask questions:
   Wait for hope to appear.
Don’t run from trouble. Take it full-face.

   The “worst” is never the worst.
I have a lot of questions for God about stuff that doesn’t make sense, and I’ll bet you do too. While I’m still struggling to understand these mysteries, I’m able to arrive at a place of peace because of one thing: I have experienced God’s goodness and over and over again have seen the way he redeems even the most horrible pain. And ultimately, we’ve been given the choice of how we’ll respond to pain.
And in the mean time, the best I can do is pray the prayer of Lamentations 3:24: “I’m sticking with God (I say it over and over). He’s all I’ve got left.”

Comments (14)

  • Thank you for sharing this passage! I have been suffering from a pinched nerve the past month. This morning I was telling God, “I am just tired of being in pain”. I praise him that the pain is only temporary and will get better. The passage you shared reminded me that I need to cling to who God is and not focus on my circumstances.

  • **mArC** The Schifano Tribe

    Man…… pain is such a universal language. I hate and love what can come from pain. Thanks man.

  • I have been grappling with the question of pain all week as well Seth. It is really very hard to reconcile how a Loving and All Powerful God can sit by and watch His children suffer the most agonizing pain and attrocities. It hit me that all pain, no matter what the source, is sin based and sin entered our human experience as a result of A CHOICE made by Adam and Eve. It is hard to come to terms with, but our lives are so heavily hinged upon our (and other’s) choices. I am not sure if I really do appreciate the gift we have received in the form of our free will but nonetheless, it has been given to us to exercise. Simplistic as it may sound, I like the idea of imagining the devil holding his head and screaming every time one of God’s children says in the midst of their pain, agony, and questioning “though he slay me yet will I trust him”, “yet will I rejoice in the God of my salvation”, “Great is thy faithfulness”

  • Thank you for sharing those thoughts. 1 1/2 years ago I watched my husband waste away for 2 years from cancer. God kept saying he was going to heal him. We thought physically, He meant spiritually. My daughter whose 21 has been God’s ministering servant for the last 4 years, going where and when he tells her, Africa, paupau New Guinea etc. I was given a pestilence last year in order to motivate me to move to Kansas by my daughter. God told me. I obeyed. He got me a miracle of a job, because he knew I wouldn’t leave without a job. Got fired from the job, which he knew I was going to. My daughter and her husband have started a new life after marriage on God’s promises. We are all waiting on jobs, he won’t let her get food stamps or me unemployment and she is writing a book on suffering and is experiencing great pain in her body and physical problems, sometimes so bad she is curled up on the floor crying out in pain. We feel like we are like the Isaelites roaming around the desert for 40 years. Why did they? Because God wanted to know if they would trust him and love him in the plentiful times and in the horrific times. Is he still there? He is. Do we still trust Him? We do. Do we still love him? We do. It’s not about us, it’s about Him. We are here to be servants for him. Am I scared? Yes. But He will fulfill His promises. The miracles that occurred during my husband’s death the last 3 weeks of his life and how we faithfully went through all of it are still affecting and a testimony to people now. The important thing is my husband is in heaven right now because of God’s mercy. And he needed those 3 weeks in the hospital, every last minute to get there. God’s timing is everything. I wish I could take away my daughter’s pain but I can’t. She is praising Him through it and knows it’s God’s process of refining like silver all of us. He needs his servants to be ready in these end times. Love and God’s blessings.

  • Ah, good day all. And like so many others, I have been gifted with pain too. And the same line that jumped out at Judith jumped out at me. Hanging on, holding on, confused, but no way no how giving up.

    Another timely thought and encouragement. So that begs the next thought. So many others are in pain; so how can we, yes, that means me and you, or you and me, be a blessing, an instrument of God’s gift and blessing to others. Listen to the nudge, follow through; that’s that darn obedience part, and be amazed, but not surprised.

    Peace, Kathy

  • This resonates with me loudly. This and your previous blog about direction. The two combined are very validating and they offer hope. Thank you again and again, Seth. I am looking forward to the day when these unexplainably difficult times make sense in the grand scheme of God’s glory. I can’t help but wonder how differently we might react to these painful times if we could see the big picture.

  • I met an elderly woman yesterday who uttered those very words to me, “I’m sticking with God, He’s all I have left”. She is experiencing the pain of grief and loneliness, her husband of 40+ years died a year ago and she is alone. But her Bible was opened up on her kitchen table and old time gospel music was playing on the radio. God was present. She reads the Word every day without fail, attends a local church to worship. Pictures of her and her husband, “back when things were good”, dotted the walls and she told stories about him. She showed me the bedroom where her husband lay dying not long ago and tells me about how she took care of him. The pain of her grief and loneliness was tangible. But I sensed the presence of God, covering the pain in a loving embrace.

  • Absolutely,without any options nor excuses, this world has lot of pain that even brought JESUS a HOLY GOD to suffer such pain.A GREAT GOD when HE left HIS comfort zone which is HIS throne in heaven suffered much more than we suffered the time when he came down and live in this world.
    So with that view, I can all say that this world was made by GOD so beautiful yet when it got fallen of sin it turne to be more painful.We can not run away from it yet we can run the race with JESUS to be an instrument to comfort and give hope for those who are suffering with too much pain yet they don’t know the truth that JESUS took away all the pains ahead of us, and the HOPE that HE gave us eternal life that can not be demolished or distroyed by pain.
    NO PAIN in HEAVEN. So let’s usher those suffers pain to be with us in heaven.

  • I know this blog is a few years old,but I ran across it today through your current blog..and all I can say is WOW!!! this is so awesome Seth. This morning I was praying on the way to work and asking God to speak to me about the pain I suffer from my youngest daughter walking away from the Lord…anyway this is God speaking to me..telling me to be still and know…be on my knees fighting the battle…alone with the Lord. Thank you

  • If we can’t believe in our brother who we see, how can we believe in God who we can’t see? Let us put our hands to work for our father is making repairs that have come about because of evil.The discipline of Jesus will bring us to know our creator and live in his kingdom forever. The Holy Spirit will give us the patience and understanding to see what we can’t see otherwise.Without obedience to our father who created us and gave us life, we cannot be happy and live life to the fullest. We end up dwelling on unimportant things which waste time,drain us of energy, and destroy our self esteem. God is the giver of life, not the taker of it. He knows how he made us and what we can safely do. He wants us to have good relationships to prevent lonliness and enjoy each other. If that’s not love,what is? Sin causes death,physically,emotionally,and spiritually.We’re not to wear it like a badge of honor,but relinquish it and get back to the truth.If we can’t honestly give thanks and praise to God,then it’s time to open the door to Jesus. He tells us what destroys and causes pain.He tells us what heals and promotes comfort. Read all about it. It’s an eye opener.

  • I love you, brother in Christ!
    And, all the brothers and sisters on this thread.
    Amen to each and every word of their comments.
    I especially liked this line of yours, Seth:
    “I have experienced God’s goodness and over and over again have seen the way he redeems even the most horrible pain.”
    I could write a book about pain…oh, wait…I already did. ;o]
    And, so did Dr. Brandt.
    He titled it “Pain: The Gift Nobody Wants.”
    Indeed, nobody in their right mind wants pain.
    But for one who has unwillingly dwelt in the camp of pain for decades, I can attest with everything in me: Pain is an unparalleled gift…from God.
    That’s all I have to say this morning.
    Love to all…

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.

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