Trinity Lutheran Church McAlester

Why is there suffering in this world?


Some years ago, I came to know a 21 year old man born with cerebral palsy. Doctors estimated that his mind was like a three-month old child. He couldn’t speak words or control his limbs. He suffered from terrible seizures and other health problems. Yet the smile on Davy’s face when I talked about Jesus to him was positively glowing. Though I’m not particularly gifted to recognize the Holy Spirit in people, praying with Davy made me sure that the Holy Spirit was strong in him. That presence was clearly felt!

So I feel grateful that I got to pray and share Jesus with Davy. I will never forget this child of God and the way God used him to speak to me and you. I learned that a three-month old mind can know God and be filled with the Holy Spirit. I learned God’s mercy to answer constant prayers for Davy’s specific health needs to keep him alive so long in such a frail body.

And why was Davy born that way instead of perfect? Perhaps it is just the way the broken creation is weak and imperfect. Some children are born with defects. Yes, the world is cursed – broken because of Adam and Eve’s sin in the Garden of Eden (see Gen. 3.16-17). When God cursed the formerly perfect, now sinful couple, he cursed their children and the entire universe with the promised death they chose by eating the forbidden fruit. In this way, suffering entered God’s perfect creation and exists to this day. (Scientific studies readily confirm the deteriorating human condition through accumulating random DNA defects.)

The wonderful part of our God is his mercy. He chooses to intervene at special times in miraculous ways to help suffering. It is only through his goodness and mercy that anything good happens. When it does we thank him as we see his glory demonstrated. It’s like the case of the man born blind in the Bible. “And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.” (John 9:2-3, ESV) Jesus healed the man to reveal his power to do so as the son of God.

Summing up the points, suffering exists in the world because we are sinful, broken people living in a broken universe, all brought on by the failure of the perfect first couple, Adam and Eve. So the suffering is necessary as the consequence of deliberate defiance of God’s one command in the Garden. Yet, God in his mercy intervenes when it suits his purposes to alleviate or mitigate certain suffering to demonstrate his power and glory. So God doesn’t deserve our malice for allowing suffering that mankind deserves, but only our thanks for his mercy and goodness to care for us, answering our prayer requests with yes, no or wait for my time.

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