Life doesn’t always make sense. You pray, but don’t see results. Doors slam shut in your face. Dreams die. Why does God allow suffering when He can stop it? In times like these, it’s natural to wonder what God is up to.
If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: Though God’s ways aren’t always clear, He promises to work all things for our good if we trust and obey Him. As we walk in faith, His purpose is revealed.
In this article, we’ll explore several reasons why God may allow suffering when His power could prevent it. We’ll see how He uses trials to strengthen our faith and refine us into Christ’s image. Though confusing in the moment, His plans become clear in time.
We can trust God to use all circumstances for our eternal good and His glory.
God Allows Trials to Build Our Faith
Trials Reveal Places Where Our Faith is Weak
Life is filled with ups and downs, and God often uses the downs to strengthen our faith. When trials come, they reveal areas in our lives where our trust in God is weak. Perhaps we thought we were strong in patience, but then a delay exposes our anxiety.
Or we thought we were content, but sudden loss stirs up discontentment. Trials peel back the surface of our hearts to show us where we need to grow deeper roots in Christ.
As James 1:2-4 (NIV) says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
God uses trials to refine us, like a goldsmith uses fire to purify gold. The challenges of life burn away impurities in our faith and character to make us more like Christ.
Trials Drive Us to Deepen Our Roots in Christ
When trials hit, we can either turn towards God or away from him. If we try to face difficulties in our own strength, we’ll quickly burn out. But if we turn to Christ in dependent prayer, his Spirit will sustain us.
As Psalm 50:15 (NIV) says, “Call on me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me.” Trials drive us to seek God like nothing else can. They push us to dig deeper roots into his Word, cling tighter to his promises, and cry out for more of his Spirit.
Trials also cause us to cherish the support of God’s people. Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 (NLT) says, “Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble.”
When we’re hurting, the care of Christ’s Body lifts us up. And when others struggle, we can support them through God’s strength. Our roots grow deeper together.
Trials Give Opportunity to Minister to Others
God doesn’t allow trials simply for our own growth. He also uses them to minister to others. As 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (ESV) says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”
By experiencing God’s comfort in our trials, we become equipped to comfort others.
There’s a saying, “Hurt people, hurt people.” The trials we’ve endured give us empathy, wisdom, and stories of God’s faithfulness to encourage others who are struggling in the same way. Our trials produce perseverance, proven character, and a ministry to others, as Romans 5:3-5 (CSB) says.
So next time trials come, see them as an opportunity to grow deeper roots in Christ and bear the fruit of ministering to those around you.
Suffering Exposes Idols in Our Hearts
Pain Loosens the Grip of Worldly Things
When life is comfortable and going according to plan, it’s easy to become enamored with the things of this world. We can get so caught up in our jobs, relationships, homes, or even hobbies that they begin to occupy too large a space in our hearts.
But when suffering comes through illness, loss of a loved one, or even just an unmet expectation, it has a way of exposing where our deepest affections lie. Pain and disappointment loosen the grip of earthly things we have clung to, forcing us to reconsider what is truly important.
As C.S. Lewis wrote, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” Suffering reminds us that this world is not our home and we were created for something far greater.
It humbles us and shifts our focus from temporal things to eternal.
Disappointment Shows Us Where We Need God Most
When our dreams are shattered and hopes dashed, we come face to face with our deepest vulnerabilities. Disappointment strips away self-reliance and pride, driving us to our knees. It is here, in our despair, that we realize how desperately we need God.
We cry out to Him, knowing that He alone can rescue us.
Though painful, disappointment serves a redemptive purpose. In our weakness, God’s strength is made perfect. When we have reached the end of ourselves, He carries us. Our trials expose where we need Him most, giving us opportunity to experience His comfort and sufficiency.
Loss Teaches Us to Value Eternal Things
Loss through death or broken relationships makes the temporal nature of this life undeniably clear. All that we hold dear on earth is fleeting. Loss forces us to confront life’s brevity and realize that only what’s done for Christ will last.
In grief, our perspective shifts from the things that are seen to the eternal things unseen (2 Corinthians 4:18). We recognize that this world is not our home and our citizenship is in heaven. Loss trains our hearts to value what is eternal – things like God’s Word and relationships rooted in Him.
As we cling to Christ our rock and refuge, we live in the hope of eternity with Him.
Affliction Equips Us for Eternal Reward
Momentary Troubles Produce Eternal Glory
Life’s difficulties and afflictions, while unpleasant in the moment, are shaping us for greater glory in eternity (2 Corinthians 4:17-18). What we perceive as troubles are light and momentary compared to the eternal weight of glory being produced.
Just as an athlete endures grueling workouts to receive a prize, we can endure afflictions that prepare us for heavenly rewards.
Research shows that people who have endured difficulties often develop greater resilience, wisdom and capacity for joy. For example, nearly 60% of trauma survivors report feeling stronger after overcoming their struggles (source).
Thus, earthly troubles can equip us for fuller lives and greater rewards.
Earthly Suffering Expands Our Heavenly Capacity
Difficulties in this life, while unpleasant, are expanding our capacity to contain more joy in heaven. As author C.S. Lewis wrote, “We are, not metaphorically but in very truth, a Divine work of art, something that God is making, and therefore something with which He will not be satisfied until it has a certain character.”
God uses trials like a sculptor uses hammer and chisel on stone. The blows seem destructive and painful at first, but the end result is something beautiful and strong. The more we endure here with faith, the more glorious God can make our spirits to shine in eternity.
Present Difficulties Develop Christlike Character
Another blessing hidden in hardships is the development of Christian character. As Romans 5:3-4 says, suffering produces perseverance, character and hope. James 1:2-4 also explains how trials test and purify our faith, developing perseverance and maturity.
Studies show that building godly traits often requires overcoming struggles. For example, 89% of adults say obstacles were necessary to develop character strengths like patience, resilience and empathy (source).
Though ongoing afflictions are difficult, we can take joy in the Christlike character being produced for eternity.
God’s Ways Remain Mysterious
His Thoughts Are Higher Than Ours
As humans with limited perspective, we often struggle to comprehend God’s divine plan. His ways and thoughts are simply on a much higher level than ours (Isaiah 55:8-9). What may seem inexplicable or even unjust from our earthly viewpoint is actually part of God’s greater purpose and design.
Recognizing the gap between the mind of God and the mind of man takes humility and trust.
For example, when Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers, he could have grown bitter and doubted God’s goodness. Instead, he chose to trust. Years later, Joseph was able to see the big picture of how God used his adversity for good, to save many lives (Genesis 50:20).
God’s plans will always surpass our limited understanding.
His Timing Is Different Than Ours
Since God is eternal, He sees our lives from the perspective of forever. But as impatient humans, we tend to focus on the here and now. When our prayers seem to go unanswered or God’s promises are delayed, we may become frustrated or discouraged.
However, God says His timing is perfect (Ecclesiastes 3:11). He works all things together for our ultimate good, even when we don’t understand His timing (Romans 8:28).
For instance, the ancient Israelites had to wander in the wilderness for 40 years before God finally brought them into the Promised Land. From the Israelites’ earthly view, this seemed like cruel delay.
But God used the waiting period to strengthen faith, teach obedience, and prepare the next generation to conquer Canaan. His timing was perfect.
His Perspective Is Vast; Ours Is Limited
As the all-knowing, eternal Creator, God sees the full scope from beginning to end. He weaves together billions of lives and circumstances across generations to fulfill His glorious plans. But as humans, we glimpse only a small fraction of reality in our fleeting lifetimes (1 Corinthians 13:12).
We may be tempted to judge God’s works as imperfect or unfair because we cannot comprehend how all the pieces fit together.
However, we can fully trust God’s perspective. He declares His divine plans will stand and that He will accomplish all He desires (Isaiah 46:10, 55:11). Though His sweeping purpose is far beyond our capacity to grasp, we can rest knowing the Judge of all the earth will do right (Genesis 18:25).
How to Respond When We Don’t Understand God’s Plan
Trust His character and promises
When life feels out of control, we can find comfort in God’s unchanging nature (Hebrews 13:8). Recall His faithfulness in Scripture and past experiences to be reminded that He keeps His promises. Though His ways and timing may perplex us now, we can rely on His goodness and wisdom for the future (Jeremiah 29:11).
As Corrie ten Boom said, “Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.”
Walk in obedience, not feelings
Feelings often fluctuate, but God calls us to walk by faith in what we know is true about Him. Follow His commands even when emotions waver (John 14:15), and ask Him to renew your mind (Romans 12:2). Fixating on fears or discouragement gives them more power, so shift focus to thanksgiving and praise instead (Philippians 4:8).
Serve others going through similar trials
Getting our eyes off ourselves lightens our load (Galatians 6:2). Offer empathy, prayer or practical help to others in the midst of difficult circumstances. Not only does this encourage them, it also helps us process our own situation with more perspective and hope.
Remember past faithfulness in hard times
Human memory is short, but God has proven reliable time and again. Recall previous storms He has brought you through, and ask Him to re-build your trust in His love (Psalm 77:11). Consider writing down lessons learned and spiritual markers from the experience so far, to clearly remember His guidance looking back.
Ask God for wisdom to understand
Rather than demanding answers, come to God with humility asking for wisdom (James 1:5). The purpose of going through perplexing times is often to draw closer to Him in the process. Pray for fresh eyes to see how He may be growing your character (Romans 5:3-4), using you to minister to others (2 Corinthians 1:4), or revealing something new about Himself throughout your journey.
Life holds many mysteries. At times, God’s plans simply don’t make sense. But He promises to make all things work for our eternal good if we trust and obey Him through difficulty. Though confusing now, the purpose for our pain will one day come into focus.
Until then, we can rest in the certainty of God’s unchanging character. He remains good, sovereign, wise, and loving, even when we don’t understand what He’s up to.
Rather than demanding answers, we can respond in faith. By trusting God’s heart and walking in obedience, we partner with Him to bring good from our circumstances. As we do, we are drawn closer to Christ and equipped for greater eternal impact.
In the end, our trials serve a glorious purpose – conforming us to the image of Jesus. We can trust Him to use all things for our good and His glory.