John A. Braun

Christians often confront this question: How can a God of love allow so much pain in this world? It’s a natural question in the face of violence and shootings as well as the repetition of earthquakes, storms, personal trials, and health problems.  

Pain is a reality, and so is death. Some say that God is powerless to do anything about either. Their conclusion is that we don’t need God. We simply need to make the best of our lives, and that’s all anyone can do. 

From the perspective of all we see in this world, pain is persistent and death is not preventable. Some of death’s causes may be preventable, but worldwide, about two people die every second from accident, heart trouble, cancer, stroke, gun violence, or some other cause. We might lengthen our lives, but that does not change the inevitability of death. 

Some pain can be prevented, eased, cured, and even eliminated. We recover after surgery or an accident—sometimes pain free. At other times we have chronic enduring pain. Sometimes pain is only the first paragraph of a story that ends with death. It’s the tragedies that cause us to ask, “God, can’t you take away the pain? The anguish, the hardships, the tragic losses seem so out of place with your story of love.” 

So what do we say as Christians to the indictment of God’s helplessness to prevent pain and death? In each issue of Forward in Christ, I find some answers in the stories of Christians who have encountered both death and pain. They are stories of trust in God’s promises. Even when pain was the harbinger of death, God’s promises gave comfort, strength, and hope. Jesus has risen and promises that we too will overcome death (John 11:25,26).

My heart goes out to all those whose journey through life includes pain. Compassion for others is one of the reasons God allows pain. He provides opportunities for us to help others endure pain and offer prayers for their relief and endurance. I commend the doctors, nurses, caregivers, and researchers who seek to ease pain. We should not be absent from those who offer prayers, comfort, and compassion. 

God gives relief in his own time and in his own way, whether or not we understand. But we must not mistake the relief he gives for the peace and joy of our final destination. God grants relief along the way to assure us of his care. If he grants no relief, he supplies the power to endure. And then after this life’s troubles and toils, we have something much better in store for us. 

Believers have heard the calm, soothing whisper of God’s promises on our troubled journeys. We have forgiveness and eternal life. Some have not listened and even refused or opposed his promises, but God has not written them off. Everyone knows something is wrong when it hurts. God leaves pain and disaster here to underline that reality. With pain, he turns the volume of his message up. God shouts, “This life with all its troubles is not what I want for any of you.”  

If they miss this message imbedded in pain and misery, God leaves one more invitation. Death inevitably stands at the end of all journeys through life. Remember two people die every second. Our Lord stands at death’s door, ready to accept those who turn to him like the thief on the cross. He longs to say at life’s end, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). 

John Braun is executive editor of the Forward in Christ magazine.


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Author: John A. Braun
Volume 105, Number 9
Issue: September 2018

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