Christian Images

If God Exists, Why is there Suffering?

The following 'Free Christian Illustrations' are written and illustrated by Ian Coate. They can be used without charge or obligation and can be downloaded, copied or distributed without permission as long as no cost is charged and source is recognized.

There is suffering: so many will seek salvation.

God and SufferingA week before the February 2009 Bushfires in Australia, fire-fighters were control-burning bushland trying to prevent the sort of tragedy that soon followed.  At the time, something very unusual happened – a koala, driven to extreme thirst, allowed a fireman to approach and accepted a drink of life-saving water.  The incident was filmed and shown around the world.

Since the fall of mankind from perfect environment, the world has been greatly corrupted.  Between the devil’s tyrannical ruler-ship and self-centered human freewill, the planet has become a place of wars, sickness and suffering.  Sadly, we are born into a sinful world that is far from the original design of our loving Creator.
However, when disaster occurs, we naturally question why God allows it to happen.  God knows of all events beforehand and, because of this, He is consciously aware that a greater disaster (Hell) is heading towards those who have not accepted His ‘gift of salvation’. 
God does not want anyone to perish.  As proof of this, He took on the form of a man (through Jesus Christ) and paid the complete penalty for all sins on the cross - so that whoever believes in Him will receive eternal-life (John 3:16). 
However, God also gave people free-will and does not force anyone to accept His gift.  Consequently, the greatest of all disasters is to reject the ‘gift of eternal salvation’.
God does not desire any to suffer in life and He grieves at the terrible loss, yet He sometimes allows disasters to take their course so masses of people wake-up to their mortality and start seeking spiritual answers.  Only during such times of dire hopelessness do many people allow God to approach and accept His life-giving ‘waters’ of eternal salvation.
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Romans 6:23

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There is suffering: because warnings are ignored.

Christian Suffering Titanic IllustrationEarly in the morning of April 15, 1912, the SS Titanic struck an iceberg and sank, taking with her 1513 passengers.  It was a tragedy that should never have occurred.  The Titanic had received many warnings but failed to heed them all.

As with the Titanic, we are on our maiden voyage (life) and tragedies are often the result of not heeding warning signs.  When we get into bad habits of over or under eating, too much or too little exercise, drug or alcohol abuse, our body gives signals of pain and discomfort warning us to change course and take a new direction.  Likewise, signs of depression, despondency, bitterness, fear, jealousy, pride are all signals that something is not right with our soul and we need to adjust our course on our spiritual journey.  Unfortunately, we usually ignore these warning signs of impending danger thinking we are unsinkable. Ironically, when we hit an iceberg, we are very quick to blame God for our disaster.
Individually and nationally we set a course that will either sink us or steer us to our destination.  Being a perfect Gentleman, God lets us choose our own course in life.  God, also being all-knowing, sees the icebergs that lie ahead of our choices and sends many signals so we can adjust our course.  If we choose to ignore His warnings, we must also take responsibility for the outcome.  
Remember, God is not at fault for our mishaps or life’s many tragedies; however, if we call on Him in our time of need, God promises that He will send a lifeboat to rescue us.  If we are sinking – call on God, (Psalm 27:14).
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.  Proverbs 5: 5-6.

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There is suffering: at our own hands.

God and SufferingWe all want to be safe from those who would harm us.  When our ‘way of life’ or safety is in jeopardy, we are quick to cry out for protection.  The police protect us from criminals within our community, and the military protect us from enemies beyond, but who is there to protect us from doing harm to ourselves.   

God wants to protect us from those who would hurt us.  Naturally, we also want this (we constantly pray asking God to keep us safe from harm); however, what if the person harming us the most is ourself?  Typically, it’s our own choices that prevent us from gaining true happiness and becoming everything God intends for us.  Sadly, it’s often our own foolish decisions that mess our lives and destroy future opportunities.  It is usually our own thoughts and actions (or lack thereof) that has led us to our unfit, or lonely, or depressed state.
So, when we are our own worst enemy, how can God protect us from self? He will do what He does with all enemies of Christianity, discipline them and frustrate their plans.  God is going to fight for us (Jer 15:20).  Often when we are chastised by our Heavenly Father, it is a gracious act of protection – divine intervention to save us from ourselves. For whom the Lord loves He corrects, just as a father the son in whom he delights. Proverbs 3:12 
The upside to this is no matter what has happened in the past, every new day is a divine-gift where we have an opportunity to grow: mentally, physically and spiritually.  If we avoid thinking, consuming and doing things that hinder our growth, we will evade much discipline and slowly open up a world of new opportunities that continue into eternity.
Blessed is anyone who endures temptation.  Such a one has stood the test and will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love Him. (James 1:12).

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There is suffering: for the purpose of new growth.

God and Suffering ChristianIt is amazing how we can cut pieces from some plants, then put the cuttings in soil where they take root and grow.  From the sacrifice of one plant, many new plants can be cultivated.

God is not the author of suffering.  He intended Eden (paradise) for mankind.  Suffering is a direct result of man’s freewill being used in opposition to God’s plan.
Though God does not desire suffering, He sometimes allows afflictions (cuttings) to occur for the purpose of new growth.  In looking at the big picture, God is working all things together for good for our eternal happiness – not necessarily for our temporal happiness (Rom 8:28).  As in Job’s case, any suffering we are undergoing may be the cause of future growth – both for ourselves and for many others.  Furthermore, disasters, large or small, remind believers and unbelievers alike that their time is limited and Heaven cannot and will not be found on earth. 
Every day, God works silently behind the scenes stopping millions of disasters we will never know about.  When God does allow a disaster to take its course, He has taken every minute detail into account.  He has the foresight to know the suffering and sacrifice of one person can lead to the inspiration and salvation of many. 
We must trust God in our crisis.  Sometimes the greatest triumphs emerge from the greatest tragedies.  Where would we be if God did not allow Christ to suffer on our behalf?
He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season…’ Psalms 1:3a

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There is suffering: to avoid greater suffering later.

God and Suffering ChristianParents put their children through the pain of having injections believing that a small amount of temporal distress is far better than a serious illness later.

God allows suffering in our life for the same reason.  Often, adversity in life will generate wisdom which, in turn, provides immunity against making serious mistakes later. 
From the eternal perspective, it is far better to have a life of suffering if it leads us to Christ and eternal salvation – than to live a life of prosperity if it leads us to an eternity separated from God in Hell.  
Our Heavenly Father has our best interests at heart.  He doesn’t want any of His children to suffer everlasting damnation separated from His divine provision.  Like any good parent, He would rather we go through temporary discomfort if it eventually leads us safely to Heaven.   Remember, life here on Earth is just a pinprick compared to eternity.
“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come to judgment, but passed from death into life.” John 5:24.

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There is suffering: to make us stronger.

God and Suffering ChristianMetal is shaped and strengthened through heating.  A diamond is formed through pressure.  Beautiful ceramic pottery must go through the fiery kiln.  An athlete’s body is formed through punishing exercise.

When experiencing adversity, we sometimes ask: ‘Why is God punishing me?’  Usually, God is not punishing – but preparing.  He uses life’s sufferings to either remind us that we are on the wrong track or to strengthen and refine our soul (Hebrews 12:5-6). 
God has a specific plan for each of us, and it is up to us to voluntarily put ourselves in His hands.  When we do, it’s like placing a metal rod in the hands of a master-blacksmith.  Soon we feel the heat and pressure as God toughens our spiritual metal.  He will allow difficult circumstances to hammer us into a useful shape. 
At times the adversity we go through will feel like it could break us, but God is the Master Blacksmith – He knows our limits and has promised that life will not test us beyond what we can handle (1 Corinthians 10:13).  If we stay the course and leave ourselves in His capable hands, we will come out of our ordeal stronger than we have ever been and eminently ready for the specific purpose for which we were created.
We should remember: many great things are born from suffering.  Greatest of all is salvation which came from the indescribable suffering of Jesus Christ on the cross.
And we know all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28. 

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There is suffering: from bad choices.

God and Suffering ChristianApart from God’s gracious gifts, most things in life have a price. Don’t be fooled – we seldom get out of paying. We either pay beforehand or pay later, often with interest.
Buy now – pay later, may be an acceptable concept when buying goods in life, but “paying later” is to be avoided when it applies to our physical body. If we don’t find time to exercise or eat the right food, then we will pay later when our body gets sick and fails.

That which is true of the body is often true of the spirit. We may say we believe in God and are a Christian, but if we don’t find time to study God’s Word, to trust in Him and utilise His power, we will certainly pay a price later when life’s many problems break us. 
We live in a fast-paced world filled with mental break downs, depression and suicide. We are all running up accounts of stress that must be paid some day. We can save much grief and avoid mounting debts if we simply remember – prevention is better than the cure. God says we should be without fear and worry, and our burden should be light (Mat 11:30) – but here is where we go wrong, we fail to hand our problems to Him.
Each day we should put aside a little time to be with God and exercise our trust in Him. Yes, this is difficult as we have so many other distractions vying for our attention – but what is the alternative? If we keep running up debt we will eventually become spiritually bankrupt. We will never have the inner peace promised in the Bible. 
We must give our mounting debt of stress, fear and worry to our Heavenly Father and sincerely trust that He has the resources and solutions to resolve them.
“Come to Me, all you who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28

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There is suffering: because we separate ourselves from God.

God and Suffering ChristianIt would be ridiculous to cut through the branch on which we sat.  The branch is supported by the tree and, in separating our perch from its support, not surprisingly we would go plummeting down.

Similarly, if we cut ourselves off from God, we sever the very support that sustains us.  God supplies all our needs.  He upholds and governs all the laws of science.  He controls the traffic of the universe.  He maintains the delicate balance in nature, such as oxygen, sunshine and gravity, which keeps us alive every moment.  He has promised to sustain all those who acknowledge His Word.  And He has written His wisdom (the Bible) to increase enjoyment in life for those who apply it, thus providing a place of refuge which puts everything in perspective.
How silly to separate our existence from our Omnipotent Benefactor.  When cutting loose from our ‘Divine Support’ we should not be surprised when our life takes a dramatic plummet downward.
I have blotted out like a thick cloud, your transgressions, and like a cloud, your sins.  Return to Me, for I have redeemed you. Isaiah 44:22
Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened and I will give you rest.  Matthew 11:28 NJB

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There is suffering: because we have been chosen for a special mission.

Christian SufferingA missionary is someone sent on a mission.  A Christian missionary is understood to be a spiritually-gifted person sent to a foreign country to overcome language and cultural barriers in order to teach the Gospel.

We have a very narrow view of what is involved in being a missionary if we believe it is only to preach in foreign countries.  Truth is God requires us all to be missionaries within our immediate surroundings.  We are to witness to those who cross our path (by word or by action), whether at school, home or the office.  No matter in what field, a Christian should be a beacon of integrity, grace and peace.  When those in our periphery ask what makes us so relaxed and happy, we can reply in lingo they understand.
However, missionary work is even broader than this.  Sometimes God requires us to go into foreign circumstances (adversity or prosperity) where our lives are dramatically changed.  No-one complains about prosperity, but when suddenly hit with adversity we could initially curse God and ask: ‘Why have You afflicted me with this tragedy?  Haven’t I tried to follow You with all my heart?’ 
In response, God may convey to us that many people are also suffering through similar tragedies and they, too, have been calling out in confusion and seeking answers.  Because of this, God needed a strong Christian who understood their pain, who could give them answers, comfort and lead them to Christ and eternal life by example. 
When our lives are suddenly and dramatically changed, it could be that God has specially chosen us for a very important mission.  God knows that our hardship will not only strengthen our faith but will give us an insight to what others are enduring.  God is preparing us to be a “missionary of circumstance” and our life will be a blessing to many.
My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.  James 1:2-3.

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There is suffering: because we live in a fallen world.

God and Suffering ChristianDecisions made by a king affect his entire nation.  If good choices are made – his country prospered; bad choices – his country suffers.  If a frivolous king spends his country’s wealth, all citizens and generations that followed suffer the repercussions.  When a king declares war, he does not fight alone – he has made the decision for the entire country. 

Initially, God created a paradise for mankind.  It was never His design for us to live in a corrupt world, in a dying body.  He originally created perfect environment and in it placed man (with the power of free-will) to rule over it.  
Adam was the head of the human race.  When he chose against God, that decision did not just impact him; all future generations of humanity suffered the repercussions (expulsion from paradise and death – first spiritual, then physical).    
In times of adversity we are often guilty of pointing a finger heavenward saying: ‘How can God let disasters, illness and wars occur?’  We must remember that we are not in Eden anymore.  Because of mankind’s collective freewill, we now live in a dying, diseased world – in our dying, diseased bodies with our corrupted souls – making further stupid decisions that have further consequences.  This world is the bed that we have made for ourselves.    
If God is perfect righteousness, He must judge and condemn all mankind for all have sinned... (Romans 3:23).  However, God is also perfect love and He has never stopped working to bring us all back to paradise.  Still, there is a price to pay for our sins and God declared that he would pay our penalty.  He came down to Earth as a man (Christ) and took all the repercussions of sin unto Himself.  1 Corinthians 15:22 states: For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive.
As a glorious result of Christ going to the cross, the path is clear for those who wish to return to paradise.  It is as simple as: believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved (Acts 16:31).  Adam may have lost paradise with one bad decision, but we are now free to find paradise (Heaven) with one good decision (John 3:16).  
We must stop seeking ‘Paradise’ in this world – it is lost.  God clearly tells us that it cannot be found on this corrupt and dying planet.  God has provided the eternal solution to our current mess – Christ.  It is now up to us if we personally accept Him to save us.  If we do, God guarantees our future will be paradise. 
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Romans 6:23.

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There is suffering: to remind us that we need help.

God and Suffering ChristianIf we had the powers of superman, with all the fame and approbation that goes with it, how long would it take for us to become super-proud? 

Those who are rich in beauty, strength, wealth, success or power, seldom seek God.  Jesus said: ‘It’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of the needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.’
When we are rich with the things of this life, it is easy to start believing you have it all sorted; you’re totally independent – a lone wolf.  Bit by bit, we soon start echoing Satan’s sentiment: ‘I don’t need God – I can be my own god’, (Isaiah 14:13-14).  We easily forget, if not for the grace of God, we wouldn’t have the basic necessities to keep ourselves alive, such as: gravity, oxygen, sunshine and water.  More importantly, we can’t save ourselves from Judgment through our own merit, (Ephesians 2:8-9).
If not for sudden loss, failure, rejection or sickness, many of us would never learn how dependent we truly are. In this corrupted world, God is not the author of suffering; however, He will use life’s rude awakenings to encourage His wayward children back to Him. 
God never intended this crooked planet to be our permanent home.  He desires Heaven for all His earthly children.  Yet, at the point of death, God must respect the decision of those who chose self-dependence and have rejected His salvation. God will separate Himself from them for eternity.  And, a place devoid of God’s graceful provision can only be described as Hell, (John 3:16). 
The clock is ticking.  We only have a limited time to seek Him.  All we need is a spare split-second and faith (in Jesus Christ) to assure our place in Heaven, (John 3:36).
Sadly, too many are super-proud and have no time for God.  They are far too independent to seek salvation.  Instead, they lean heavily on their riches, their beauty, their popularity and their natural ability.  This is why God often allows our crutches to be kicked out from under.  For most of us, it requires falling flat on our faces to finally ask for a heavenly hand-up. 
As the Apostle Paul testifies in 2 Corinthians 12:10: Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake.  For when I am weak, then I am strong.

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There is suffering: when wills collide.

God and Suffering ChristianIf we are stupid enough to be on railway tracks and see a train speeding towards us, we either get off the tracks or we stay and get whacked.   A train cannot suddenly swerve and change direction as its course has already been set.

We are created with free-will – the power to choose what we believe.  We can determine the direction we head.  God also has free-will (we are created in His image).  However, God’s will is an unstoppable force (far greater than any locomotive).  We should never set our will in opposition to His.  God’s will, like a train, is very limited to where it can go.   As a train’s direction is dictated by the tracks that are laid, God’s will is dictated by a standard of absolute and unchanging perfection.  God can never be less than perfect or compromise His perfection in any way.  God’s decisions must always line up with His perfect love, justice, righteousness, veracity and grace.
When our prayers are not in accord with God’s will, the prayers are useless.  When we do works contrary to God’s plan, they will be knocked down.  If we live a life in direct opposition to God, we must not be surprised when we are hit with divine discipline.  If we refuse to change direction, it won’t be long before we have a fatal collision (the sin unto death).  
God is not fickle and we should be extremely thankful for this fact.  He cannot change His immutable character – it is perfectly consistent with all His divine attributes.  God’s will and plan is set in stone so it is us who need to align our will with His will.  Even the humanity of Christ prayed: ‘Not my will, but Yours be done.’ (Luke 22:42, Mark 14:36.) 
People may plan all kinds of things, but the Lords will is going to be done. Proverbs 19:21 GNB

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There is suffering: Caused From Good Intentions

Good IntentionsA man saw a mother duck and her duckling crossing a busy road.  Without a second thought, he heroically jumped in front of the traffic.  Unfortunately, his good-intentioned deed triggered a massive car pile-up that froze the city’s traffic for the rest of the day and caused much injury and property damage. 

All of us soon learn that a good intentioned deed can often have tragic results.  We mean well but do not take into account the many variables.  Fortunately, God knows all outcomes.  At times He allows certain adversities to take their course in people’s lives to give those concerned the opportunity to come to Him and grow in grace. 
God knows that strength is made from overcoming struggles.  However, when we see people going through difficulty we are inclined to heroically rush in to instantly sort out their problems.
What have we done?  We have come between them and God and inadvertently robbed them of their chance to grow.  Our sympathy and sudden interference may cost more than we know.  This is not to say we should do nothing.  But before jumping in with well-intentioned aid and advice, we should ask ourselves: do we know the facts?  Is our support and interference needed or even wanted? Are we taking sides in an argument that is none of our business?  Are we making ourselves a financial-crutch so people lean on us instead of God?  Is our desire to help from our own impulsive-nature or is it Divinely-inspired?
We may have good intentions but this will not stop unfortunate consequences.  Before we impulsively rush in (even with our own children), we should ask if the struggle they are going through is an opportunity for personal growth.  If in doubt we should seek wisdom from God – He has amazing ways of turning tragedies into triumphs.
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. James 1:5.

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There is suffering: when we take shortcuts.

Christian Problems IllustrationsA shortcut is a deviation from an established route that enables one to arrive more quickly at a desired destination.  The problem with shortcuts is they often end in disaster.

Many seek a shortcut to JOY & INNER-PEACE by using alcohol and drugs. Many seek a shortcut to LOVE & SELF-ESTEEM through unrestrained sexual activity.  Many seek a shortcut to PROSPERITY & SUCCESS by lying, cheating and through criminal behaviour.   We may think these shortcuts will get us to our destination quicker, but such deviations always end in disaster.
God wants us to be fulfilled and happy, but to reach this destination we need to follow the established path He has ordained.  God’s way is long for a reason – capacity must come before blessing.  We often think God is trying to stop us from having fun.  This is not true – He is actually trying to lead us to the place where we can experience real JOY, LOVE and PROSPERITY. 
God knows that our shortcuts in life inevitably end in disaster (He’s been watching the human race for a long time).  When we seek shortcuts, we only hurt ourselves in the long run.  If we trust in God and follow His established paths (Biblical doctrines) and do our best not to deviate (sin), we will ultimately arrive at a place of true inner-happiness, integrity and self-esteem.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths. (Proverbs 3:5-6)

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