Why Does God Allow Children to Suffer?

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I know that I can’t possibly be the only person to ever have asked this question. But try as hard as I might I never seem to be able to find a satisfactory explanation.

All the books and articles I have ever read on suffering seem to be addressing the reader as if he or she is the one doing the suffering, even books written by parents who’s children have suffered and died!

I can understand why God might allow a person to suffer the consequences of their own sins. I can understand that God allows people to suffer because He’s teaching them some sort of lesson, or He’s refining them, or making them more like Him.

I will admit that I have complained, whined, cried, and even been so bold as to yell at God because I want Him to stop Bethany from physically assaulting me.

I will also admit that Bethany’s violent outbursts, public temper tantrums, relentless obsessive compulsiveness, extreme insomnia, and being forced to listen to the same Barney DVD’s for the past 16 years has at times been excruciatingly uncomfortable.

But still, I do not consider myself to be the one who has suffered.

I am not the one who has endured the endlessly painful tortures and traumas of brain cancer treatments. I am not the one who lives with the constant fear and uncertainty of when the next seizure may strike. I am not the one who is a slave to never ending routines and rituals.

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So, Why does God let anyone suffer?

In the Bible we learn that Paul suffered with a “thorn in his flesh”. This thorn may have been a physical affliction.

In 2 Corinthians we see that he also suffered whippings, beatings, shipwrecks, starvation, exposure to the elements, and an assortment of all kinds of other dangerous situations.

Paul suffered a lot.

He believed that his sufferings were a preparation for the Glory that was awaiting him and that his suffering was really just a short time on earth compared to experiencing an eternity of glory in heaven.

In 2 Corinthians: 14- “For this light and momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”
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We learn in the Book of Job that God allows even good people to suffer and that not all suffering is the punishment for sin.

Speaking to Satan in Job 1:8- God asks him, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one like him: he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.”

After a brief discussion about Job, God gives Satan permission to make him suffer. At the end of all that suffering God pretty much tells us that we do not have the right to question what He does and does not allow!

Psalm 5:45b confirms that even good people will suffer. “He (God) causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”

John 9:3 confirms that not all suffering is caused by sin. Speaking about a man born blind Jesus said, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, But this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.”

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I have accepted and come to peace with the fact that:

o God has used Bethany’s experiences with suffering to refine me, change me for the better, and shape who I am today.

o Sometimes for reasons known only to Him, God allows and even causes people, including sweet and innocent children to suffer.

o Suffering can be, but is not always a punishment for sin.

o Sometimes suffering happens as a natural consequence to some action on our part.

o Sometimes suffering happens so that God will be glorified.

o I will never understand this side of heaven why God has allowed my daughter (or anyone else for that matter) to suffer.

o Sometimes shit just happens and we must continue to trust God even when our hearts are breaking and we do not understand.

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I have chosen to hold on to the hope that God does have a purpose and good reason for allowing Bethany to suffer.

I have chosen to hold on to the hope of heaven where there is no suffering, pain, or illness.

In heaven we will be able to ask Jesus face to face why He let Bethany suffer.

In heaven Bethany will suffer no more and she will receive the most magnificent, majestic, and glorious reward for her momentary time of suffering on this earth!

In heaven we will finally understand God’s reasoning for allowing suffering in the world, and know that it was all for some great and wondrous purpose.

I have chosen to hold onto all this hope because without it, I could not bear to live!

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9 Replies to “Why Does God Allow Children to Suffer?

  1. Yep, I ask that question frequently.

    On a slightly uplifting note (as to why God would let people die young), at my brother’s funeral a friend of the family told my mom, “Do you ever think that God may be tired of all those old folks in heaven and decide he wants the company of some younger folks?” That actually helped us all appreciate Mike’s death a little more. 🙂

  2. Sylvia,

    You have asked a very hard question. I know when Willy was in the hospital with his first grand mal seizure I asked God, “Why this too?” When Alex was in and out of the hospital with so many “little” problems, so many tests, I asked God, “Why are you picking on Alex? He’s the sweetest little boy! Why does he have to go through all of this?”

    Reading about Bethany and other children who have gone through so much worse…it adds a degree of perspective to those experiences.

    But, for me, the thing that I can’t help but think about is those people who look at my life or who look at your life and see us as “suffering for our children.” They see us from their perspective and see our suffering as so much greater than theirs, so much greater than what they could endure. I remember hearing the words of the people who see my “suffering” and I remember my answers to them.

    Suffering cannot be measured by someone else. People look at me or hear about my life and they assume I live a horrible life. But the truth is that the most horrible thing about my life is that I’m poorer than I would like to be. We live month to month and all too often can’t even make it through a whole month. There’s no savings. I can’t fix my house to make sure it’s a healthy place for my children to live. We can’t afford a new one. I don’t have savings for anything they’ll need in the future and that terrifies me. Yet, I trust in God to provide and I’m following the way He gives me that leads unto prosperity and that’s all I can do.

    But that’s not what they mean when they say my life is terrible, that I’m suffering. People are too busy seeing my children’s needs as being overwhelming, causing suffering in others because they have needs other people don’t. What others see as suffering God helps me bear. It doesn’t mean I don’t get overwhelmed, that I don’t hurt, that I don’t get tired. It means that I don’t feel like I’m suffering like other people assume I do.

    I’ve seen my children in the hospital. I’ve prayed over their suffering. I’ve seen them with pain-laced faces looking up at me, trusting me, loving me, being loved by me, and I remember thinking in those moments, “He’s okay. He’s really okay.” And I know in my dark moments I too have looked up to my Father, trusting Him, loving Him, being loved by Him, and being okay.

    I can’t quote it exactly, but Jesus said, “My burden is easy and my yoke is light.” That promise is true. From the outside looking in, we’re suffering. But from the inside looking up, we have a loving Father who eases our burdens and carries them with us, carries us through them. This is true for you and it’s true for me and it’s true for our children. It doesn’t mean we don’t feel the pain, it means we don’t have to go through it alone.

    1. Thanks for your encouraging words of wisdom, Stephanie. You have a great perspective! We share similar financial challenges too. So many people have been encouraging me lately to try all sorts of alternative therapies for Bethany that are so expensive and not covered by insurance. When I can’t afford to try them I feel like I am neglecting her. We barely get by paycheck to paycheck as it is and we have no savings either. As we get older 55 and 60 I worry about not having a special needs trust fund set up for Bethany too. Part of the reason we are trying to move is to buy a multi-unit building to leave to her as a permanent place for her to live in that also gives her somewhat of an income. In NY there are very creative ways to help special needs people buy, maintain, and have assistance living in their own homes.

      1. I’m familiar with the guilt and still struggle with it sometimes. I’m just trying really, really hard to trust that God’s plan will work out for all of our good–eventually. It’s always the “eventually” that gets me.

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