Why Does God Allow Pain and Suffering?
by Jen Hatmaker on September 17th, 2013

A very special and rare collaboration is happening among churches in Austin this fall. Over 350 churches – Baptist, Methodist, Lutheran, Episcopal, Presbys, Non-denoms – have come together in a citywide sermon series called “Explore God.” Across all these boundaries, we are discussing the same Giant Life Questions in our sanctuaries and small groups for seven weeks:
  • Does Life Have a Purpose?
  • Is There a God?
  • Why Does God Allow Pain and Suffering?
  • Is Christianity Too Narrow in Our Culture?
  • Is Jesus Really God?
  • Is the Bible Reliable?
  • Can I Know God Personally? 
I’ve never seen anything like it. I am deeply proud of my brothers and sisters for setting aside differences for the sake of the city. It makes me incredibly weepy.
This Sunday is Question #3: Why does God allow pain and suffering?
I was at the kids’ school yesterday talking with a friend on staff, and she told me her boyfriend suffered a devastating loss earlier this year, and she responded with the traditional Christian stiff upper lip: All this is for a reason, God will work it out, This will be okay in the long run. But just this month, a shocking loss found her zip code, and all those words failed.
I’ve not stopped thinking about it, especially as so many people I love gather Sunday to discuss this very conundrum.
Suffering transcends all class, race, ethnicity, culture, privilege. The wealthiest, most successful man on earth could lose his only daughter in a car wreck this afternoon. There is no corner untouched by grief, no demographic, no alliance. If you haven’t suffered, just live longer.

With anything so viscerally devastating, the Christian community has long tried to explain it. At the beginning of the written word, we see this tension: Job has suffered in ways incomprehensible leaving a wake of crushing confusion. God tells us it was Satan, Job tells us it was God, his friends tell Job it was him. The finger-pointing is instinctual, because what we have always wanted to know when tragedy strikes is WHY.
To this end, the church has a history of formulizing suffering, giving it tidy origins and endings and whitewashing the horrid, debilitating middle. We’ve assessed the complicated nuances of universal sorrow and assigned it categories, roots, principles. Or in the face of uncertain causes, we recite some of the coldest, inhumane theology:
"God is sovereign. Deal with it."
In an attempt to understand the ordinary grief of human life, I fear we’ve reduced a complicated reality to an unmanageable burden; we’ve put a yoke of despair on people who mourn, assigning accolades to those who “suffer well” and, in ways overt and subtle, urging our brokenhearted to buck up. Then adding insult to injury, we fall into the trap of explaining suffering, as if any one of us could possibly understand its eternal scope.
Here is what we know about suffering from Scripture:
  • Sometimes people suffer because of self-inflicted misery. Humans have long been their own worst enemies. We are a self-destructive people. Adam, Eve, Jonah, David, Saul, Judas.
  • Sometimes people suffer at the sins of others, which God would never cause, endorse, or initiate. It is contrary to his holy, perfect nature. Bathsheba, Daniel, Tamar, Hosea, The Good Samaritan, Paul.
  • Sometimes people suffer through no human fault at all. The best of God’s saints had their night. This is no indicator of divine disfavor. Life is simply hard.
  • Sometimes people suffer because people get sick and die. This happens to every person, family, and community on earth. There is zero immunity from death. Even Jesus wept salty, human tears at death and the grief of his friends.
  • Sometimes people suffer because we live on a physical earth involving tornadoes, earthquakes, wildfires, tsunamis. Natural disasters are a part of any living, shifting, fluctuating planet. (And the longer we irresponsibly plunder and harm it, the greater it will groan and creak and protest, but that is a different blog.)
  • Sometimes people suffer because we have a vicious enemy who hates us and is out to steal, kill, and destroy everything redemptive and beautiful.
The point is, there is no formula for suffering. There is no one answer. There is no pat explanation. Simply stating that God is sovereign is woefully incomplete theology, as Scripture has clearly identified numerous root causes of suffering, some of which are entirely incompatible with God’s character. We cannot possibly explain sorrow in a 25-minute sermon with three points that all begin with an M.
To put the burden of stoic acceptance onto our people is cruel and unusual, as is suggesting their suffering is likely punitive. Our platitudes will fall dangerously short. In the face of brokenheartedness, we need not counsel people in the way of spiritual justification, for we know not what we say. Nor should we lead them in the way of tidy grief, for we heap burning coals on aching heads.
Suffering invites us to be radically human with one another, perhaps doing nothing more than reaching across the table, clasping hands, and weeping together. We are afforded the chance to create a safe place for someone else to mourn; nothing is needed but space, proximity, presence, empathy. You cannot possibly give an answer, so don’t try. Grief cannot be sidestepped; it must be endured, so may we be a people who endure with one another rather than constantly mitigating, explaining, propping up. Let’s just hold one another through the dark night and wait for the sun to rise.
Though it is human nature to master all knowledge, we simply must concede that so much of life is a mystery, as is the way God moves and redeems. How can we possibly fathom it all? We don’t always get the answer to WHY this side of heaven, so we need to stop talking about spiritual mysteries as if we are in possession of all understanding.
Here is what we know about suffering and what we should cling to:
  • God is impossibly loving. He loves us. He loves our families. He loves creation.
  • God restores things; all of history points to a God who makes sad things right.
  • God doesn’t tempt, abuse, endorse wickedness, abandon, or hate.
  • In our darkest moment, when we are crushed, Jesus is as close as our own breath.
  • He has given us to one another as agents of love and grace and safety.
  • He told us 100s of times to comfort each other, making sure we are cared for.
  • Jesus wept over death and grief; shed your tears, friend. We have a Savior who cries.
  • It is not the Body’s responsibility to explain why. We are family. We circle the wagons. We make casseroles. We weep with those who weep.
Pastors in Austin and everywhere else this weekend, friends, church, let’s be gentle with our broken. Let’s hold fragile hearts with loving hands, terribly careful with our theology, using it as a balm, not a bludgeon. May we be slow to formulize and quick to empathize, because life is so very hard and until God makes all things new, people are dying for a cold cup of water in their suffering.
If you are suffering today, imagine me grabbing both of your hands and inviting you to mourn; we will stand watch while you grieve. No need to pretend or whitewash. That is unnecessary among brothers and sisters. We may not get a why, but we know the how: together. Jesus is so good and He loves you. The sun will rise with healing in its wings, but until it does, may we all learn to be a soft place to fall, cushioning the blow of suffering until Jesus turns it all into glory.

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displaying most recent 100 comments

Janelle - September 17th, 2013 at 2:41 PM
When my friend lost her dad in the bombing in Oklahoma City, words failed me. All I could do was sit and cry and pray with her. Later she told me how grateful she was that I didn't approach her with the typical platitudes. I wish I could say that I was so wise that I knew that was what she needed, but literally I had NO words. I did however learn from that experience about what a grieving person needs. This was beautiful.
Epicurus - September 17th, 2013 at 2:42 PM
"Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?"
Larry - September 17th, 2013 at 10:06 PM
Seems you need to read the word more, my friend. He is able to prevent evil if you are in covenant relationship with Him. If not in covenant relationship, you are not afforded his protection.
Sue - September 18th, 2013 at 3:49 AM
I suggest you read the answer of Epicurus more carefully. Note the question mark!
Mark - April 7th, 2014 at 9:33 AM
Your covenant relationship idea, in its power over evil, is in a word, BS.
barbara fabian - April 7th, 2014 at 11:02 AM
How can a 4 month old with a sin filled mother have a covenant relationship with GOD?? She needed to be rescued from her life of pain not raped until she bled to death!! No I will never get it!!!

sarah k - September 17th, 2013 at 3:00 PM
Jen, thank you so much for these words. I have been profoundly hurt by the attempts of Christians to provide Biblical "answers" in the midst of my suffering. When I don't respond well to those "anwers" ("God is sovereign; just trust him," etc), I am looked at askance and thought to be losing my faith. It's maddening and crushing to be judged and criticized in addition to my grief.

My baby boy should be just over two months old now. Instead he is lying in a cemetery under a gravestone. And nothing will ever make that okay. And it bothers me when people say that they never doubted God or asked him why. If they didn't, that's fine--but that doesn't mean it's wrong to do so. I think it is a terribly dangerous thing to imply or directly teach people that they can't bring their pain and questions and doubts to God. If he is as big as we say he is, he can handle it--the psalmist and prophets certainly thought so.

Thank you for reaching into the darkness as so few people do. Those who do are the true friends.
Melissa - September 29th, 2013 at 8:52 PM
Sarah K., I too lost a son. He would be a year and a half now. I would love to grieve with you, because I get it. After I lost him, a "friend" told me that "Gods timing is perfect." I was in the darkest place. Please feel free to email me. I'd love a friend who understands.
Becky - September 17th, 2013 at 3:17 PM
Can you please give us your responses to ALL of the other questions/discussions?
Julia - September 17th, 2013 at 3:25 PM
Jen, I know you probably will not have time to read this, but thank you. Tis goes plectrum with what I challenged my college age Sunday school class with. I will use it as a reference next week.

Your words are beautiful. They inspire critical, consuming thought. Thank you for making us think harder, contextualize, and accept more.
Preston - September 17th, 2013 at 3:35 PM
Preaching this topic this weekend in Georgetown. Going to be sharing this to my church as primer. Like you said, "No way we can preach this in 25 minutes." Always so blessed by your words.
Kim broad - October 17th, 2013 at 8:12 PM
Where do you preach at ?
Amy - September 17th, 2013 at 3:49 PM
I lost my dad this week...thank you so much for your precious words...
Debbie - September 17th, 2013 at 3:51 PM
awesome. The Sovereignty of God itself explains that He loves us and He restores us. Love that you wrote this heartfelt and so heart-focused post.
Julee - September 17th, 2013 at 4:03 PM
Jen, Thanks for dealing with this, esp love the last paragraph. Matt Chandler shared his take on what God does also in the midst of suffering: 'So for whatever reason, God said, "This isn%u2019t punishment. I%u2019m going to make much of Myself, and I%u2019m going to draw you very close to Me. And I%u2019m going to expose some things about your heart you didn%u2019t know where there, and I%u2019m going to make you so dependent on Me, more dependent than you ever dreamed or imagined. And I%u2019m going to show you some idolatry in your life that is keeping you from more of Me." And it wasn%u2019t punitive; it was a deep and divine act of love that let me have that seizure on Thanksgiving. I believe that, and I want you to believe that because your time to bleed will come.' I absolutely love this!

Lisa - September 17th, 2013 at 4:19 PM
Tess - September 17th, 2013 at 4:22 PM
Lovely truly. And so true. "He has given us to one another as agents of love and grace and safety".

Thank you for these words
Donna - September 17th, 2013 at 4:49 PM
Amen. Amen. Amen. Our family lost my brother in law at the age of 47 to cancer two years ago. It was absolutely horrific. I learned more about suffering and grief during that time than any of my 45 years on this earth. Every point you make here is 100% true, Jen. The ones who held my hand during grief, who gave me comfort, casseroles and their own tears were my blessings and my sustainers. We did not have to 'be strong" because we had people who were being strong FOR us. Amazing stuff. Life changing. LOVE this blog. Thank you.
Rachel Toalson - September 17th, 2013 at 5:06 PM
Two years ago my husband and I lost a baby girl on a Friday afternoon and were expected to lead worship at our church that Sunday because "it was just a miscarriage." Had we not been so tethered to the kingdom church (not that one particular church, which we left soon after) and to the God who directs our paths into this way of community, I wonder if we would have left the institutional church altogether. My husband braved his way through those worship songs. I stayed home in bed, unable to face all those who did not believe in the real of this pain, unable to rage at or talk to or most of all sing to my God who gives and takes away.

I so appreciate your post. We, the Church, have got to be better about allowing this grieving in its entirety, as uncomfortable and messy and heartrending as it is. And maybe we even need to stop saying so much and just walk with the grieving through all that ugly because these words we say ("God knows best." "You should be happy you have three other healthy children. You know they say one in four..." "God never gives us more than we can handle), they don't heal that gaping wound like the whisper words of Jesus do. And the people who pointed me toward that Voice within, without saying a word themselves, were the ones who held healing balm in their hands.

Thank you for using your voice (and the stage at ANC) to call the church into a better way.
Michelle - September 17th, 2013 at 5:16 PM
Wow what timing! my teenage nephew was in a car accident Friday night that took the lives of two other teens. My nephew survived. It is been pure hell this weekend. I can't imagine what the families are going through. But we are all grieving and know there is a long road ahead for all involved in different ways. I will share this with my family. Thank you
J.C. - September 17th, 2013 at 5:18 PM
My dearest friend had to bury her infant daughter. While everyone busied themselves trying to encourage her that life goes on, that she could have more children, that God had a plan, that it wasn't meant to be...she and I spent hours on the phone in silence. Literally hours. Partly because I did not know what to say, and partly because she didn't need me to say anything at all. We are 3000 miles apart, but it didn't phase us. She in a ball, in her closet, weeping and moaning and calling out to God. Me on the line silently crying with her and whispering prayers towards heaven for her broken heart. Our time on the phone included sweet connection, words of love, and even laughter through the tears. Several years later, she has two beautiful and healthy children. But to this day, she reminds me that those phone calls in the dark...the silence...the weeping...and letting her grieve openly without apology were the most healing part of her grieving.
RB - September 18th, 2013 at 9:07 PM
This is seriously beautiful. I just had a friend's child that died in a freak accident and I just didn't know what to say, so i didn't say much and I felt so inadequate. All I could do was cry and pray for her and cry out to God on her behalf. Thank you for sharing J.C. There is so much truth to "weeping with those who weep" and just allowing grief to happen.
Bemby - September 29th, 2013 at 3:43 PM
Bless you for being there for your friend. Not many can do that when they have not walked that same path. I had a friend who listened to me cry on the phone at 3:30 am when I was grieving losing my 2 1/2 year old to pneumonia, she didn't have to say a thing just be there for me. I had no idea I would need her and others just 4 1/2 years later when my 3 1/2 year old passed away from a brain tumor. The Lord provided several friends that had the courage (and it takes tremendous courage to stick with the grieving) to walk this very difficult path with me. Thank you for being that kind of friend, she will never forget it.......it's been 26 and 22 years since they went home to the Lord I will be forever grateful to them.
Patti VDG - September 17th, 2013 at 5:25 PM
Jen Hatmaker, you are one in a million. You have blessed my life in so many ways and so many times. May God bless you and your family as you continue to follow Him.
Bekah - September 17th, 2013 at 5:26 PM
So you do not believe God causes us pain to grow us?
MEC - September 17th, 2013 at 5:32 PM
"In our darkest moment, when we are crushed, Jesus is as close as our own breath."

...But what if you can't feel him there? No matter how much you wish you could, you just can't feel him there? What am I doing wrong? Lack of faith?
sarah k - September 17th, 2013 at 6:06 PM
MEC: I don't feel him there either. I don't think we are doing anything wrong. It is just some people's experience--which stinks, to put it mildly.

I do think that we are not alone in this experience of the darkness feeling like the complete absence of God, though. I see that in the psalms, and in the OT prophets, and I think you can read it between the lines of New Testament passages like Hebrews 11. I often find myself now looking for what is NOT said in Bible passages--for the silences that I assumed meant everything was great and fine and easy. But now I think they didn't mean that.

I have no answers for this but wanted to say that I feel it too. I hope someday we will both feel his presence again. I am still waiting for it--waiting for him to show up again in a way I can see.

MEC - September 17th, 2013 at 9:52 PM
Sarah, thank you. This definitely gave me food for thought. I'll be praying for both of us, hoping against hope to feel that comfort again. Your words are inspirational.
Andi - September 17th, 2013 at 9:17 PM
I think sometimes I rely too much on feelings to guide me. The Truth is this: He is here because scripture says He is. The Evil One would love nothing more than for us to think we're alone and abandoned when we're not. He is there whether we feel it or not. Just like as when you were a child, our parents LOVED us, whether we think they do or not. God is there. He is in you, beside you, in front of you...has been since we accepted Him as our Savior. NOTHING can separate that, not even OUR lack of faith!!!
MEC - September 19th, 2013 at 9:04 PM
Andi, good analogy to the love of a parent/child. I guess I just wish I could feel him right beside me sometimes, with things so tough right now. Maybe it's my selfishness, maybe it's a lack of faith, but I could really use that 'divine hug'.
Thanks so much for your encouraging words.
Shannon Heath - October 9th, 2013 at 3:04 PM
I want you to know have been there..where I couldn't feel His presence. But He was and is there. It may take days or weeks or months but keep calling out His name. Seek the Lord and He will be found. There are many reasons we can't feel or hear Him at times.. Like Jen said every situation with God is a little different. Why? because your experiences differ from mine. Where you are in your walk and His plan for your life is different from mine. But keep seeking, keep trusting, and keep going. It is in doing this that you will have spiritual breakthroughs like no other. I too lost a baby, I too lost my fortune, I too have been redeemed.. and Bless beyond anything I could have imagined. My prayer was and still is that God would get all the Glory that He could because it was too Hard to do otherwise and that as I trusted him He would just give me a glimpse of His glory that I could understand. We are now in another season of trial.. and I will trust Him even when I don't understand because of all He has done before. Had I not gone through all of that I would not be prepared for where I am. Faith is like a muscle very few people just receive it. Most people have to wrestle to get there.. Just keep crying out and wrestling until you know, ask Him what it is He needs from you and tell Him what it is you need from Him . I will pray for you.
Sigby - September 17th, 2013 at 6:01 PM
I lost a baby earlier this year at a point most people apparently do not consider that devastating. I am doing better every day with God's help restoring me. I have felt a need to 'be strong' for those around me that need to hear I am doing better. My aunt told me He is big enough to hold your sorrow and your anger. Lean into His arms and cry and rage because He will be with you, support you, and He understands. I needed this reminder even though it made me cry again. Grief is not a comfortable subject but it is such a part of being human that knowing how to handle grief with grace and compassion is so important. Thank you for the healing words today. I pray that when I need to comfort someone in their grief I am as up for the task as my supporters were when it was my turn to be comforted.
Lisa - September 24th, 2013 at 3:48 PM
Sigbe, I cried as I read what your aunt told you. She must be an angel blessed by God. I too have had my heart broken. No one knows what to say so they say all the wrong things. Going thru grief isn't something that's choosen. It's a process that isn't the same for everyone. When you love someone and they die that doesn't mean that you stop loving them. Thank you for your words and may your heart be on the mend by the grace of God!
Leslie Gustafson - September 17th, 2013 at 6:15 PM
Thank you from the bottom of this counselor's heart, and Amen.
Shirley - September 17th, 2013 at 6:17 PM
I just saw your blog from a friend's FaceBook post regarding HGTV today and just read your blog on grief. Thank you. My mom died 6 weeks ago; we were extremely close and I am the only daughter. Most Christains are weird like you said, say strange things. "She's in a better place, she's with your dad now, her suffering is over etc etc."
My Mom just died-do you understand that?! I am now an orphan!
You have given hurting people permission to grieve, and for however long it takes.
I can't find how to follow your blog however for updates.

Lori - September 17th, 2013 at 6:27 PM
Thank you Jen....lost my son in a car accident a year and half ago.......
Lisa - September 17th, 2013 at 6:27 PM
Wow. Thanks.
Caroline - September 17th, 2013 at 6:36 PM
Thank you!!!
Margaret - September 17th, 2013 at 6:40 PM
Jen, you said "as Scripture has clearly identified numerous root causes of suffering, some of which are entirely incompatible with God%u2019s character." God's character is never compromised in scripture. He cannot act OUT of character. All things He does is loving and for our good. He alone is sovereign in all things He allows and causes to happen in our lives. If God's hand was not in our hard, physical suffering, then there would be no hope that He is in control of ALL things. He causes ALL things to happen for His glory, our good, and for us to turn and depend WHOLELY on Him. Without suffering, I would not have been sanctified as I have. I think your blog post promotes a very low view of God which is unhelpful for your readers.
Heather - September 19th, 2013 at 11:34 PM
I think there's one big distinction here that must be made. God *allows* for all things, but does not *cause* all things. For instance, in Job it was Satan that caused his suffering, but he had to ask God for permission first. God Himself did not cause it. Jesus said the thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy. If we believe God is the author of destruction, we do not have a correct view of God.
Stacy - September 17th, 2013 at 6:53 PM
As the mother of a child given a fatal prenatal diagnosis at 12 weeks gestation, who carried him to term, who held him for the 16 minutes he lived (and then for hours longer), and who buried him in a cemetery not even a week later.. All I can say is THANK YOU. Your words are SO spot on Jen. Amazing post
Laura - September 17th, 2013 at 7:13 PM
Having suffered, having grieved, let me say, "Amen."
Rachel - September 17th, 2013 at 7:31 PM
Thank you so much for writing this. It was exactly what my heart needed. Our family is going through some very hard things right now and I find myself asking this question but even more heartbreaking, hear this question from the lips of my 7-year-old who has asked it through many tears. I have felt so helpless to answer his questions except to assure him that even though I don't understand I know that God loves us and that we will get through this.
Jill - September 17th, 2013 at 7:36 PM
All I can say is thank you. I have sat with these very words for months now and just never put them down for others to read. We are just beginning to heal from some of the most painful family experiences and how we have been treated and the things people have said to us are beyond hurtful. Our family will never be the same and yet, we will continue to trust in God and His love for us. Even when it didn't seem to be there and we felt so alone. I trust this post will bless many and hopefully open the eyes to the rest who have never walked a moment in the shoes of those suffering. God bless you and keep you!
Kim - September 17th, 2013 at 7:50 PM
God knows what we need & never fails to amaze me with His timing. This post could have been written for me, as today, we found out that my brother has Stage 4 cancer. I believe God is still in the miracle business, but nevertheless, I am in mourning for the journey that he's about to embark on. I do not ask Why, so much as How, how does my family get through this. I know that God will get us through, but it is nice to know that we have a loving church family that will "circle the wagons" & grieve with us. God bless.
Flower Patch Farmgirl - September 17th, 2013 at 8:07 PM
One of the 300 questions I've stored up for you: Jesus Freak by Sara Miles. Have you read?
This is beautiful, btw.
Amy Thedinga - September 17th, 2013 at 8:08 PM
Jesus wept when his friend died. But then he raised him from the dead. In Jesus, we have hope for resurrection. The same Jesus who instructed us to pray that things would be on earth as they are in heaven. There is no suffering in heaven, so since there is still so much devastating suffering on earth, the church has work to do. Should we bludgeon our broken with pat statements and platitudes and formulas: goodness no. We should weep with those who weep and comfort one another in our sorrow. But we should also point to the power of the resurrection. To the hope we have in Jesus to make ALL things new. When I have been broken by life's tragedies, I am so thankful for the people who not only sat with me in my darkness, but gently and lovingly pointed me toward the light. To remind me of the faithfulness and goodness of God when my weary heart couldn't see past the pain. Not fixed or preached at, but pointed toward the Light and the incredible hope we have in Him. In this life and the next.
Andrew - September 17th, 2013 at 8:24 PM
Are you saying that God is "ringing his hands" helplessly in heaven as all this happens?! That is definitely false theology.
Linda - September 17th, 2013 at 8:39 PM
Thank you for the wisdom given here.
Joanna - September 17th, 2013 at 8:48 PM
I think I share the same concerns as Andrew. Yes, we have a God who weeps with us and who is tenderly near to the broken-hearted, but we also have a God who reigns. God did initiate Hosea's pain (He instructed him to marry a prostitute, knowing she would be unfaithful). He did "endorse" Paul's suffering (not removing his thorn, but telling him that His power is made perfect in weakness). The Bible tells us that God disciplines those He loves, that it tells us we are true sons. Is all suffering discipline? Of course not. But some is, and it feels painful because He uses it to refine us somehow. Job suffered at the hands of the enemy, but who allowed Satan to afflict him? God. He is good and wise and compassionate and sovereign, and how all of those things work together is a mystery, especially to the hurting. We grapple and we mourn and we sometimes we wrestle and rail, but we simply CANNOT erase some of His attributes to make life easier to comprehend in the dark night of grief.

I think we need to be careful, in wanting to comfort the hurting and defend God from accusations of being evil and unfair, that we don't ignore the full counsel of Scripture.
monda - September 18th, 2013 at 3:29 PM
Puzzled at the Prospect - September 21st, 2013 at 8:28 PM
This has been on my mind a lot lately -- this idea that God cannot cause suffering. I keep going back to the fact that God was the one who offered Job up to Satan. Satan did not ask permission to work on Job. God instigated that -- "Have you considered My servant Job?" I find this oddly comforting.
Leah - September 17th, 2013 at 9:38 PM
Can only say thank you for such timely words. I am 26-years old and come from a very close-knit family with lots of aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. Five weeks ago one of my cousins was tragically killed in a car accident. He was eighteen years old. We were all in shock when we heard the news. That first week felt like an eternity. I know the grieving process is going to be long and hard. Sometimes all we need is someone to hold our hands while we weep and sob. We don't want someone to give us poetic words about how everything is going to be okay. I know the Lord is Sovereign and I know I will see my cousin again in Heaven one day. But for now I weep. I need people to know that I'm not having a crisis of faith, but that I will cry for a long time about this.
Sara McNutt - September 17th, 2013 at 10:03 PM
We lost our only daughter this past April 26th, 2013 at 30 weeks and 1 day in my belly. I linked to this post today in my blog because you've stated difficult truths so succinctly and beautifully. If there's one thing that's completely unpalatable, it's "Christian" platitudes.
I would't have chosen our story in a million years. I want my sweet girl back. I want her in my arms. I want to rock and nurse every night and lay her down while tears roll down my cheeks as I stare at her chubby perfection. I want her back more than I want my next breath. But the impossible conundrum for me is that while I wouldn't have chosen this story, I wouldn't trade it either. I wouldn't want to be who I was before this. God has produced depth and compassion in me that simply couldn't be there without having been in the trenches myself. He's drawn me nearer to himself and wrapped me tighter in his love and grace than I ever knew was possible when the darkness seems crushing and debilitating.
All I can say is, Amen to this. Amen.
Rebecca - September 19th, 2013 at 6:40 PM
Sara - what a beautiful post and what a beautiful person you must be. I lost a baby last year and I felt the similar. When you said you wanted her back more than I want my next breath ... yes, that. And when you said that you wouldn't trade it - I agree too. I too am not the same person and I believe I have become a much more compassionate person.

I am now pregnant again and each day I pray that God will simply walk with me, hold me, and surround me with loving people, no matter the outcome of the next ultrasound, the next test. I don't ask for specific outcomes. Just that He will walk with me.
MEC - September 23rd, 2013 at 12:21 PM
I am completely blown away by the depth of your love and trust in God. You are a beautiful soul.
CeCe - September 17th, 2013 at 10:10 PM
I beat breast cancer last year and for four short months, I was free of it. Now I have stage 4 and the statistics are horrible. People ask me "Why would God give me this cancer?" I respond that since the fall of Adam, we live in a broken world. PERIOD. My cancer is part of that broken world. The world God created was perfect and we jacked it up. Still praying for a complete miracle-that he will cast my cancer to the east and west, never to return again. But I will be healed either this side of heaven or the other.
kristen - October 6th, 2013 at 6:24 PM
Yes. There is sickness and death because there is sin in this world. Not our sin - just sin. And in the sense that God has allowed sin, he allows us to suffer. But His grace is sufficient and He is made strong in our weakness. He can give us strength and peace to deal with our suffering. God bless you.
Kathy - September 17th, 2013 at 10:43 PM
I recently attended a reading by Pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber from her book Pastrix and I was struck by her repeated reference to experiencing God through some form of "death and resurrection - the recurring
experience of seeing the emptiness, weeping over our inability to fill it or even understand it, and then listening to the sound of God speaking our names and telling God's story". As I am now in the process of facing the slow sad deterioration of my parents' physical and mental heath Nadia's perspective helps me accept the constant "death and resurrection" of life's events that bring us ever closer in our relationship to God who gave his only son for all of us.
Patty - September 17th, 2013 at 11:26 PM
Hold me; let me cry until I stop crying.

Brenda Baird - September 17th, 2013 at 11:36 PM
Simply beautiful! Crying... :)
Jawan - September 18th, 2013 at 12:15 AM
And to put your words to song, get the Kleenex because we need the reminder of the gospel that we daily forget (I know I do!)... http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=qyUPz6_TciY&desktop_uri=%2Fwatch%3Fv%3DqyUPz6_TciY
Matt - September 18th, 2013 at 2:02 AM
Or perhaps there are no gods. You can't credit god for all the good things without also discrediting him for the bad.
Christina - October 3rd, 2013 at 12:06 AM
Matt, agreed.

I don't believe it has anything to do with gods/ devils etc. The universe is indifferent and good and bad things happen to everyone. It's hard for me to grasp people who have had a child survive a horrible illness or cancer and hear the parents say " god answered our prayers ." While in other hospital rooms all over this country, apparently god didn't answer theirs because their children will die.
Brad L. Burge - September 18th, 2013 at 5:33 AM
What is the Purpose of Suffering?
Suffering entered this corporeal world as a result of mankind not trusting God. Thus, we should trust God.

God's promises are certain. God has promised an eternity without suffering to those that trust in God's Son, Jesus Christ the Lord.

Eternity is an infinitely longer time period than this corporeal life. Christians must evaluate all things in the scope of eternity.

Suffering will exist in this life, until Jesus returns to end it. As long as we exist corporeally, we will have to live with suffering.

Therefore, what is the purpose of suffering? Suffering is a reminder of the result of not trusting God. So, at each moment that we are reminded by suffering, we must shift our thinking and thank God for God's certain promise of our eternal existence without suffering and the relatively extreme brevity of our existence in this suffering world.

James 4:13-14
Now listen, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money." Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.

Acts 16:16-34
Paul and Silas in Prison
Once when we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit by which she predicted the future. She earned a great deal of money for her owners by fortune-telling. This girl followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, "These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved." She kept this up for many days. Finally Paul became so troubled that he turned around and said to the spirit, "In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!" At that moment the spirit left her.
When the owners of the slave girl realized that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to face the authorities. They brought them before the magistrates and said, "These men are Jews, and are throwing our city into an uproar by advocating customs unlawful for us Romans to accept or practice."
The crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas, and the magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten. After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. Upon receiving such orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks.
About midnight [after shifting their thinking regarding their suffering] Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everybody's chains came loose [Our prison doors and chains will also soon be no more]. The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. But Paul shouted, "Don't harm yourself! We are all here!"
The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. He then brought them out and asked, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?"
They replied, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved%u2014you and your household." Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his family were baptized. The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God%u2014he and his whole family [Others can witness our response to suffering and desire to know Jesus Christ the Lord].
[Text within brackets is my comments]
Joe - September 18th, 2013 at 6:05 AM
I'm really glad that this blog post was able to help some people%u2026 However, personally I don't understand what she said a different than what most Christians say. She just, again just to me, seemed to Couch it in dramatic imagery. But the points were all the same. We can't understand God so don't ask why. We don't need to know why. God is a mystery. Having been a Christian for over 30 years I don't see the difference, or I need help seeing the difference between what she is saying, and typical religious/Christian catchphrase responses. Maybe someone here can help me explain why this was different.
Audra - September 18th, 2013 at 6:14 AM
Beautiful song and words from John Piper on this topic: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qyUPz6_TciY
Christi - September 18th, 2013 at 6:19 AM
Thank you! Love this. :)
Stacy - September 18th, 2013 at 7:00 AM
Jen, Have you read Good Grief! by Erica McNeal? It is an incredible book that deals with this same topic, but also tells you what not to say, what to say, and how to actually help people who are hurting. She is a young cancer survivor (two or three times), buried her child, has had miscarriages, and an adoption that went wrong. She explains why Christian cliches are hurtful instead of helpful and then gives suggestions of what to say instead. When my husband died, a friend gave the book to me. I didn't want to read a book about grief. But after so many people said such hurtful things to me, I read it. I'm so glad I did and bought a few books for family members and said, "If you really want to help me, read this, then do it!"
Amy - September 18th, 2013 at 7:07 AM
Joe, the difference I see is that in Jen's post there is no shame in grieving. No shame in being hurt by life's turns. No pressure to become a pillar of strength. No pressure to understand and demystify.
I had a teenage friend die. I was close to his mom's age. The worst comment from a highly Christian friend was "God will use this for good for the church". I could have given a shit what God used it for. Today, even after 15 years I just want my friend back. Don't give someone that kind of pressure! The question of why always has to be answered by Christians...I read from Jen, stop the talk, begin the bearing with one another. Shut up and listen and mourn. To me, that's a huge difference. My friend who decided what the death was for? I haven't had the energy to even spend time with her since.
Tricia - September 18th, 2013 at 7:16 AM
Amen and Amen!
Rachel - September 18th, 2013 at 9:01 AM
I struggle with this. I don't understand why God does not intervene when there is true innocent suffering: the recent rape of the 5 year old girl, people born into the North Korean camps, children sold in human trafficking as sex slaves. I could go on and on. I'm sure the child being raped/beaten is crying out to God begging for help.
Linda - September 18th, 2013 at 10:02 AM
Finally, someone whose eyes are open and is clothed in logic and wisdom, understands the why-s. Absolutely stunning words of explanation and thoughts of a reflective Christian. Thank you so much for this article. I will be sharing it.
Tyler Richards, AOJN - September 18th, 2013 at 10:07 AM
I think something your blog leaves out is the fact that while life is hard, and we suffer, we do not do so alone. God suffers with us and is present to us and with us in the midst of our pain.
Tonia Booker - September 18th, 2013 at 10:45 AM
I lost my mom to ALS (Lou Gehrig's) almost 6 years ago. I have never seen a woman glorify God more than her in her suffering. She continues to teach me.
I lost my father this past summer.
Grief is an all over body experience, painful and beautiful. I have felt closer to God and yet such intense pain.
Thank you Jen for bringing perfect words to define what I feel and encourage my heart that Jesus is as close as my very breath.
Bless you! Bless you!
Fran - September 18th, 2013 at 10:45 AM
I have no idea if you will even see this, but mercy what a timely word. I have a coworker whose niece's husband died in a car accident 3 weeks ago, pregnant at 20 weeks on the verge of possibly losing this baby, a confused and sad 6 year old boy who doesn't understand any of this, alcoholics around trying to tell her what is right, and other family members who are dealing with way more than anyone ever should. ITS JUST NOT FAIR and we are all at a loss for what to say. I read this article yesterday and now printed it off for my coworker and trust that God will bring some sort of comfort to her and her family as they try to even breathe. Thank you Jen. I appreciate you.

Cara - September 18th, 2013 at 11:36 AM
Hi Jen, I'm a recent fan of yours. My friends & I heard you at the Women of Faith conference in Peoria, IL. My friend Kara has always raved about you, but I hadn't read your blog. When you mentioned it onstage, I looked it up right then. I had to stifle my laughter about your TODAY show experience in the middle of the conference.... oops! :) So, I was reading your suffering post today and I was reminded of when I was in NYC this past March and got interviewed for exploregod.com. After I got back, I couldn't remember the site name for the life of me, and your intro (about the Austin church coming together) intrigued me (and sounded so familiar to how they had explained their project)... so I went to the website and bang, there I was (well about 5 seconds of me, ha). Anyway, I didn't know if what you were talking about what associated with this website or not. It sounded to similar to not be. Thanks for all you do, your ministry, your mission, your sacrifice. I'm in the middle of 7, and I think the Mom's Group I attend is going to start a discussion on it. Thanks for being a catalyst to a great conversation & hopefully life changes! Best wishes on your HGTV series! I will be a faithful follower! :) Blessings!
Debster - September 18th, 2013 at 12:34 PM
Oh! the blessings that come from your act of obedience and discipline in the Word, Jen Hatmaker! Continue please, so that we can ALL wrestle out our faith in the open for others to hear, read and question. May we all remember that God is capable of taking our questions, mis-understandings and fears and turning them to glorious things for His Purpose. You Go Jen! Live it out.
Laura - September 18th, 2013 at 12:42 PM
Thank you so much for this! My brother passed away in June. He suffered from a disease for 10 years, then 3 weeks before he passed he was diagnosed with an aggressive form of leukemia. No matter how many times someone tells me that he is no longer suffering and he is now in the place we all long to be - with the Lord - my heart still grieves that he is not here. And while I am still mourning, the world has moved on and assumes that I have too. I cry in my car, I cry while getting ready in the morning, I cry at my desk, and I cry in my bed. Grief goes on long after the funeral and is not consoled by platitudes and trite responses. May we all learn to weep with those who weep instead of brisking them along as if their pain has reached its statute of limitations. Thank you, Jen!
Elizabeth - September 18th, 2013 at 3:24 PM
Thank you that while your blog is funny, pokes fun at life and yourself, it also go deep. You are refreshingly real and honest as is this post. Your words are true and necessary. They also ring true to my recent *rough patch* as I like to call it. Suffering sucks. If it didn't, Jesus probably wouldn't have asked for it to be taken from him. He obediently and honestly walked through his suffering. I'm so thankful God has walked this road which allows me to have a shot at doing the same.
Sharon - September 18th, 2013 at 3:42 PM
Some very good points here. I would add that having a deep understanding that God is GOOD always and is without any desire to harm is very helpful in finding peace in the midst of the storm.
Stefani - September 18th, 2013 at 4:36 PM
The best gifts anyone has ever given to me when I'm hurting is to hug and cry and to not be the first to let go... to just BE with me. And in that way, I look back and see how some of my worst times were also some of my 'best' too, even though it feels weird to say that.
Marie - September 18th, 2013 at 9:39 PM
Will of God May the most just, most high, and most amiable will of God be done I all things, may it be praised and magnified forever. Amen
Carol - September 18th, 2013 at 10:54 PM

In these last days human secularism is creeping into the church more and more... teaching all types of heresies mainly the worship and the coddling of people... throwing out the worship of God and His Holiness.

In these last days let us all continue to encourage folks to rejoice in the Lord... for He is our Only Hope. He is our only Savior. He is our only true comforter. He is the author and finisher of our faith. He is the Only one who reveals the Father to us... building our Faith in Him. We cannot please God without Faith. All the good deeds in the world are nothing without Faith. From Faith we do good works. Without Faith we are nothing and have nothing but only lost and in desperate need of God... especially for life after this life.

No man can save us but Jesus Christ. Let us focus on Him, let us point others to Him, let us rejoice in Him and follow Him and Praise His Holy name! Let us stop coddling sinful men... who never want to repent nor feel they need to repent. Pray they will be humbled and receive a godly sorrow for their sin... that they may repent... and be saved through Jesus Christ.

The anti-Christ spirit is in the world to convert the hearts of men to men... and away from God. Under the umbrella of togetherness, peace and harmony satan is striving to get the followers of Christ to accept all sorts of insurrections, rebellions and immoralities within the Church... even the acceptance of homosexual pastors and priests and church members. This should never be! This is an abomination to God! But they do not read God's Word to know God's truth.

These are the last days and our soldiers of the Faith, our forefathers and founding fathers of this nations understood and built this land on Godly Principles and Laws founded in God's Word... but through the years the self centerdness of our society as a whole... as we have progressed technologically... and most of our needs are seemingly met... many have forgotten to call out to our God... and we as a nation have watered down and perverted God's Word to fit the sins of men.

No one is talking about evil, sin, satan, hell, repentance, eternal life, the great beyond etc. We have turned Christianity into Motivational speaking... Only to encourage and lift up our ego... but never teaching God's full truth and never lovingly rebuking those who continue to sin blatantly and wantonly... so that they may repent and be saved through Jesus Christ.

We must be careful... I truly believe in the next few years there will be a move to unite the churches under the guise of 'Christian Unity' but do not be fooled. This will be the headliner and setting up for the anti-Christ's false prophet, a man who will become the worldwide spiritual leader over all these united ungodly churches gathered together... and they will worship the anti-Christ. When you see this gathering of these types of churches (especially the mainline churches who have walked away from the doctrines of the New Testament even excepting homosexual pastors) then beware and take heed. Listen to their doctrine. Is it still Biblical... or is it fleshy and ego stroking? If so flee from such watered down man pleasing churches.

There are still churches... but very few... who are still gladly clinging onto God's full Holy Word, Holy Spirit, and Jesus Christ... for He is our very help in time of need... our Only Hope that is within us... that cannot fade away... but will become even stronger even as the true church is persecuted. Oh true body of Christ... are we ready... are we truly ready.... ???

Abide in the Word. Abide in the Holy Spirit. Abide in the Son of God.

In Love & in Truth in Jesus Christ,
Mary Delafield - September 18th, 2013 at 11:34 PM
Great article! So very timely as this came across my FB wall only 14 hours after seeing my terminally ill 44 year old sister die from an inflection that went septic. she was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer in July and had been bedridden since the first week in August. She really didn't want to linger and this infection came on so suddenly, but may have been Gods answer to that prayer of mine! But we have just lost our older sister in February to a 5 year battle with ovarian cancer!

She was not a believer and neither are my parents. That is what makes it so awful! There are no words, only tears and hugs and as you say, that is worth so much in this time of pain.
Bunnyb1802 - September 19th, 2013 at 9:39 AM
I have lost no-one through death, there is no chronic illness in those I love & cherish. But in the space of 18 months my life has been turned upside down & in the last3 months I have been hurt, betrayed & wounded beyond all imaginings by some who I considered close friends & by one whom I thought could never let me down as he did.

I've struggled hard to understand the Why. I've tried doing the right thing, speaking words of faith & holding on. Then I lost most of my hope & a lot of faith. Yes, I got the trite words of comfort & the inevitable hopes that I am "feeling better", like I have a summers cold.

This post made me cry because finally someone seems to get it. Mourn with us, don't try to make us brave. Don't try & hurry us through the grief. Just sit with us. Love us through it, hold us & if necessary, cry with us. Don't judge us. Be with us. Answers won't actually help us deal with the grief. But having someone there, present, to be with us as we walk through it, that is a precious gift & speaks more of Gods love to us than anything else!

Thank you so much for this post.
Erica - September 19th, 2013 at 12:26 PM
Thank you for putting words to what my heart has known for a long time.
Courtney - September 19th, 2013 at 1:04 PM
Thank you so much for this post. My family of the heart lost a 22 year old young woman to a car accident in June. I know that in the first week of intense mourning as we struggled to celebrate Kim's life and accept her passing that the times I was most comforted were in prayer or when holding other family members. I look back on that first week and I know that there were so many times when God carried us through the next minute or sometimes even the next second. We have all struggled with how to deal with the comments by well meaning friends and sometimes each other in assigning a purpose or a reason to Kim's death. We have all at some point in the past few months asked why? This served as a reminder to put my trust in God - keep my eyes on Him and let Him comfort me. It also reminded me that it is okay to still be hurting and mourning.
georgia - September 19th, 2013 at 1:33 PM
where or where do i begin to leave a comment? i guess, first, read this...
it is about me. my dear friend just wrote it on her blog today. i was happy for her to share my story, as i cannot yet do so. reading this {which she linked to in her post} made me glad, because exactly as you describe... reaching across the table and simply crying and praying... is as she did with me. and has been the case for most people involved in my life enough to know of my loss through this time, whether literally or in spirit {over the phone or through e-mails and texts}.

i have been blessed to have a counselor from my old church to walk with me through the loss of our little yet unborn girl. she has never once been the "grief and suffering packaged up tidily but unrealistically" kind of counselor. she has only ever directed me to truth in scripture and made me feel that it is completely okay to travel down this {sometimes cyclical} river of grief. but i have to say, one thing she pointed out in all of this that has helped me so much is that God sometimes {as is seen throughout the Bible} shows up in big and mighty ways and delivers us FROM things. but also seen throughout God's word are stories where He delivers us THROUGH things instead of FROM them. and that helped me so much. i am not the first to suffer, and not the last. and i've been shown that i may never know God's greater purpose in all this... if there is one. but one thing is for sure... God will not waste a single opportunity to be glorified... in all things. i've been given so much permission to hurt and be angry and questioning and sorrowful and in pain among my circle of Christian friends... and beyond. there have been a couple {closest to me} who have not been able to mourn with me, because they are clinging so tightly to their faith that God would deliver me and my baby from this instead of through it, that they can not see my needs... to have those closest to me do what is more than clearly instructed in the Bible... "mourn with those who mourn." and that has been difficult, because they are family and they are the ones i expect to mourn with me the most. but God has provided other "family"... like the lovely woman who took my pictures and believes just as i do, so really IS my sister... among many others.

anyway, that is why your post resonated deeply with me. it's sad to think there are people out there suffering who are being told by their church leaders that what they are going through is punishment for their sin. at most, i can see saying it falls under consequences. but we also have a merciful God, and there has to be more than that. you are right... i don't think i will know on this side of eternity what this all means. but i do know that God is showing me so much love and care through his people these days, and i have heard so many stories {even personally} of women who went through something similar and see amazing ways that God used their loss. and so there loss was not a complete loss. and in our human eyes, it seems like it is the end all. but God has given us great capacity to heal if we let that happen. and when we can, our eyes can be opened to all that He might or has done. already, i see healing with the relationship i have with my sister as a result of my baby's condition.

didn't mean to write so much, but it was difficult to be brief, too. thank you for your post. it also made me think back to when my dad died seven years ago and a Christian coworker/friend sat with me and embraced me while i wept at work... never saying a single word, because she knew there was nothing she could say that would help, so instead she just held me until i was calm again. may many be led by your post to be more sensitive to those who are suffering around them. i know going through what i am is making me more aware of it in others around me... opening my eyes to how much it is going on more than i realized before this happened to me and i sort of walked around with blinders on.
Peanut - September 19th, 2013 at 1:38 PM
There is no God. If god is my perfect parent then he is an abusive one. I wouldn't stand by and let my child be raped murdered or hurt. I would step in and protect them. Social services would take us away from our "loving God" parent. All the burning babies in war? Oooops. God loves them. yeah right. Sorry to be so cynical but nothing adds up.
andrea - September 19th, 2013 at 6:27 PM
An interesting post. And as someone who is currently suffering through a multitude of issues, the longer I've had to spend my years suffering all alone, the more I wonder if God is really there or really cares. If he supposedly uses his people to help the suffering - tell me, where are those people?
In my darkest hours, which have been quite recent, I have felt the most alone. My faith in humanity and people I thought were friends and were there for me for anything - gone.
Where is our merciful and caring God in all of that?...
I believe in God. But I think if he was truly caring and loving he wouldn't leave us abandoned in our time of need. If he really loved and cared for us he'd send people our way who weren't afraid to reach out and listen and talk to those of us who are hurting - no matter how big or small the hurt is. Hurt is hurt - regardless of how "big" it might seem. It's true what they say that in your time of need you really find out who the people who really care for you are - or as the case may be, no one is there for you. When the going gets tough - people run for the hills.
My faith in people is broken. And I partly blame God for that.
Who abandons the ones they apparently love in their time of need?
Ariel Paz - September 19th, 2013 at 8:02 PM
For all those who are suffering, I feel for you. I too have suffered in so many ways and have cried out to God "Lord I can't take one more thing". But He promises to always be with us no matter what He allows into our lives, just as He was with Moses, with Job, and all the rest. My simple explanation of why God allows suffering is this: to draw us closer to Him and to teach us more about who He is. With every trial, every tear, and every hurt, I cling closer & closer. I learn who is in control, what God wants from me, and learn to trust that He does, indeed, work all things for my good according to His purposes. Keep the faith everyone and keep looking up!
Sonya McAteer - September 19th, 2013 at 8:46 PM
I became very ill when I was 28 I am now 49. I was told by so many people that my faith was not strong enough or I would be healed, During my sickness I became homebound and the only person I had to ask advise from was my Savior. I finally understood what was written above. Thank you for writing it. I came to understand my Father loves me but I live in a earthly world and a earthly body. I finally understood what it meant to either trust Christ or not. That doesn't mean sometimes I don't weep because of what I go through but I know he understands and this life is only temporary. He also showed me in scripture that the condemnation that was being brought on me wasn't of him. He didn't come to this world to condemn me but give me everlasting life. We have to make sure we are careful that we use the scripture in the way it really was intended. I didn't learn this from just reading, from my preacher, but by living it and asking my heavenly Father to show me the truth. Now I live in peace. Hope this helps someone else. He loves us beyond measure.
Cheri - September 21st, 2013 at 8:24 PM
We are in the CO flood right at this moment...perfect timing...powerful words that speak of hope and future ...and....you make me laugh, which could be the greatest gift right now in the midst of all the destruction...after the suffering post, i read about HGTV....love it!
Ocea - September 22nd, 2013 at 7:51 AM
This is a Godsend! Thank you, it is one of the questions I asked today, including why should I stay here. so beautifully written with such depth and compassion for all people and you speak to what doesn't work as well, though it is often not acknowledged. Authenticity goes far and deep in helping one another find love and connection through the pain. Thank you
Margaret - September 22nd, 2013 at 2:37 PM

I cannot help but to revisit this topic in my head and holding it up to what Scripture says. Then my husband pointed me to some quotations by Pastor John Piper about the suffering of Jesus and God's sovereignty. This is huge and helpful and right. We have walked through a bone marrow transplant and two brain surgeries with my husband and then 2-year-old child. God gave us the gifts of suffering for His glory. We are here to bring much glory to His name. Please read this sermon and have your heart worship ALL of who God is, not just what our human minds can grapple with. If we were to understand all about why God created ALL things and for what purpose, we would not need God. Oh but we do need Him. He is our Creator AND Sustainer.
Anonymous - September 22nd, 2013 at 11:01 PM
I sit here, reading this, and my tears have no end. I'm dealing with some depression and anxiety. I feel like a huge failure and everything that's wrong with my family and friendships is directly traced back to me. Today I didn't get out of bed.

And then I opened an email from a friend that simply said "Jesus says not be anxious, so stop worrying! Depression is not from the Lord- don't let Satan have that power over you!"

I don't think she understands the effort it took to even get up to get a glass of water.
I know this will get better. I know it. But what I wouldn't give for one friend that I asked to pray for me to show up just to hug me while I cried. Not to fix it or explain the theology behind fear and depression. Just to say I'm sorry, I love you, I'm here.

Thank you for this, Jen. Really.
diane - September 23rd, 2013 at 1:54 AM
So very timely. Within the past few weeks our group of friends have lost a sweet adorable mom to suicide, and then a young soldier friend was killed in Afghanistan. It doesn't matter how many years we've been walking with the Lord, when these things happen we're up into the wee hours of the night asking, "Why?". Thanks so much for your insight here. It's very refreshing, and again, very timely.
martha brady - September 23rd, 2013 at 10:41 AM
while it is never one of the early comments i make to a hurting person, i don't consider GOD's sovereignty something to tell a person and for them to "deal with". i have found it comforting. the two people who passed it on to me via their books were women who dealt with incredible grief personally. elisabeth eliot and joni e. tada. one was widowed at a very young age, later widowed again. joni, was paralyzed at age 17 in a diving accident.

they did not come to their comfort in GOD's sovereignty lightly...nor did many of the puritans for that matter...as they laid their wives and children in early graves! i think the comfort i learned to gain from this truth as i struggled to find comfort in the sudden death of my dad at age 54 and the stillbirth of my first child a couple of years earlier. (yes, that was when i was told to not question god! i knew that was bad advice!) (43 years ago now.)

as i read and read and prayed and asked questions...often pounding at the gates of heaven!, this was one of the most comforting truths that came to me. the what-ifs plagued me. what-if his secretary had walked in his office earlier and known he was in distress? what-if i had complained to the staff more about the inactivity of the baby? etc.

at some point, the what-ifs drive us mad if we don't realize that GOD is sovereign. this is the way it was supposed to be. he wasn't looking the other way or blinking when this event happened. he wasn't taking a nap. this was all within the eternal plan He had for me and mine...and He will use it for His glory and good purposes in my life as well!

life in a broken, fallen world is not easy. knowing GOD is sovereign over all is a huge comfort. it is not a battering ram to clobber people with. but at some point in the grieving process, it will be a comfort to the person dealing with great sorrow.

Shahla - October 9th, 2013 at 3:04 PM
Good true words Martha!
Mary - September 23rd, 2013 at 12:22 PM
Gina Perna - September 23rd, 2013 at 7:05 PM
Dear Jen, I'm not sure if I've already commented here, but I am ever grateful for stumbling upon this post from a different blog. I lost a daughter to cancer 10 years ago. Instead of being supported and strengthened by fellow Christians, those around me made me feel weak and separate when I wasn't snapping out of it or getting over it quickly enough. There's not much worse than losing your child and feeling like you are no longer good enough for God and his people. I swallowed my grief for a long time in order to placate others. That's hurt me more than I can say. I am happy to read your words and appreciate you.
Alex - September 23rd, 2013 at 11:05 PM
I have lost my daughter and my father. Two of the most precious people this world have ever seen. One never had a chance to see the joys and pain of this world, another who helped more people than I can count through his love and servant spirit. This song has helped many people close to them and maybe it can help some of you. thank you for the beautiful blog post! I have found joy despite the suffering...
I don't pretend to understand, but I do know my God loves.
Anonymous - September 24th, 2013 at 9:33 AM
I'm not even really sure where to begin or what to say for my heart has been heavy for over six months and continues to be heavy. My boyfriend (my very best friend) was out of town for work when he fell backwards off of an escalator anywhere from 2-3 stories. The fall left him with severe brain trauma, but by the grace of God suffered no other trauma to the body with the exception of a few fractures. In order to relieve the pressure in his brain a craniotomy was performed and for three and a half weeks his skull was stored in his abdomen. After those three and a half weeks a shunt was put in to drain excess fluid and his skull was put back. Since that second surgery he's encountered four other surgeries including a trach placement, feeding tube placement, a new shunt and a replacement shunt. It's been very crazy and very emotional. For about the first month, he was comatose with little to no movement/reaction and soon after he was able to open one eye and now has both eyes open, but is still considered in a coma with minimal consciousness. He's constantly changing and doing new things, but the rate in which this is all going is driving me nuts and I know there's nothing I can do, but wait and that's what I've been doing as patiently as possible. Since the day of his accident I've been with him every day; never missing a day in over six months. However, on top of all the emotions involved to deal with his accident and the never knowing of what could be or when or if he'll wake up, I'm dealing with his mother who actually hates me. Our relationship before the accident was good%u2026she considered me like a daughter. Now she withholds information, lies about what's really going on with him, and/or misinterprets what the doctors are telling her. I understand that as a mother this can't be easy, but the way she is acting, handling this, and treating me and others is completely uncalled for. I question this situation all the time because life was seemingly perfect for the two of us. Everything we wanted was happening and we had dreams and plans that were reachable and now I feel like my life is on hold and because it truly is. I refuse to give up on him, I can't, and I won't. For a situation that really has no answers because we know more about the moon than we know about the human brain...I really wish I could get some answers.
Mary Caskey - September 24th, 2013 at 2:03 PM
Kayrn - September 25th, 2013 at 12:12 PM
I'd love to recommend a new book hitting the shelves next month by Holly Burkhalter: Good God, Lousy World and Me. In full disclosure, Holly is a colleague of mine at International Justice Mission and I love her dearly. She has led the Human Rights Community in Washington for over 40 years and the book is subtitled "The Improbable Journey of a Human Rights Activist from Unbelief to Faith." Holly has seen up close some of the most devastating atrocities of our lifetime and for much of her life cursed God and all those who could possibly believe in Him given the picture of suffering in our world. The book is a chronicle of her journey and her wrestling matches with the tough questions discussed here in your entry and in the comments that follow. It was a hug for my soul reminding me that the search to answers to these questions is all part of the journey itself.
Cara - September 26th, 2013 at 12:24 PM
Oh my, the "Jesus is as close as our own breath" statement...that brings so much comfort to my soul, and I am not even grieving. Just the everyday workings can take it out of you, thank you so much for writing this!
Kerry - October 1st, 2013 at 2:38 PM
Thank you for writing this. In a span of six months, my daughter was stillborn and we found out my husband had testicular cancer. It was a dark time. As a once strong Christian, I truly struggled (still struggle) with the weight of the grief. When you wrote, "we need not counsel people in the way of spiritual justification, for we know not what we say. Nor should we lead them in the way of tidy grief, for we heap burning coals on aching head," I couldn't help but shake my head in agreement. Living in the Bible Belt, that's all I heard. It did nothing for my faith. I've prayed for three years that God would help me find my way back to Him. I'm not sure I'm there yet, but reading this gave me a renewed hope that just maybe I can find my peace once again.
Jill22 - October 2nd, 2013 at 4:11 PM
So beautiful, Jen! I have always struggled with knowing what to say to those I love who are suffering. I try to remember that showing up and being there for each other and being that still, small quiet for someone, is the most important ways to show God's love. Thanks for the reminder! P.S. On another note, I loved your quote about our earth. Please, please write that blog post too! It's so important for us Christians to not only help our suffering brothers and sisters, but also our suffering creation!
Elaine - October 5th, 2013 at 9:00 PM
I wish I had the strength of you all! I got married to my best friend Aug. 4, 2013, left for our honeymoon on Aug. 5th, returned on the 12th and he was killed instantly in a car accident one week later on the 19th of Aug. We were married for 15 days!! I question God and am so mad at Him for taking the soulmate that He had prepared for me!!!! I'm so lost right now! We had such an Amazing faith before and now I feel like I'm in a never-ending gut wrenching Hell!! Please help encourage a sister of Christ who has lost her faith!!

Andrea - October 6th, 2013 at 9:23 AM
I am so very sad and sorry this has hapened to you. Crying with you. Praying for you today. May you be able to borrow faith from others while your strength is restored. I am pleading that God will cover you with His presence in a way that you feel it even physically. I am just so sorry.
Susan - October 5th, 2013 at 11:06 PM

I am so very sorry. There really are no words to be spoken. I promise you will see God- the night won't last forever. Don't walk this road alone, for in others we often experience God's comfort.
Elaine - October 6th, 2013 at 7:16 PM
I wish I had the strength of you all! I got married to my best friend Aug. 4, 2013, left for our honeymoon on Aug. 5th, returned on the 12th and he was killed instantly in a car accident one week later on the 19th of Aug. We were married for 15 days!! I question God and am so mad at Him for taking the soulmate that He had prepared for me!!!! I'm so lost right now! We had such an Amazing faith before and now I feel like I'm in a never-ending gut wrenching Hell!! Please help encourage a sister of Christ who has lost her faith!!

Kristin - October 13th, 2013 at 10:01 AM
Hey Jen, I wonder if you read these. Anyway, this is a nice post. A hard one to accept and read. A few short months ago, on May 20th to be exact I suffered loss. Loss I never knew could or would happen to me. I am a simple person from Oklahoma. I am school counselor and I am a believer. But on May 20th I was brought face to face with the most awful loss I hope my eyes ever see and my heart ever feels. I was the counselor at Plaza Towers Elementary in Moore. I'm not sure if that even means anything to you down there in Texas. But if it does, you know what loss I speak of. I believe God was there protecting us. I don't know why 7 of my students did not survive, but I am working on being ok with that. If you are ever in Oklahoma, I would love to meet you. Your words, books, and blog have been refreshing and truth giving to me during my time of grief. Thank you.
steve - October 29th, 2013 at 7:30 PM

Can you accept the Mormon position about God and be a Christian?

1. Mormons say Adam is their God.

"When our father Adam came into the Garden of Eden, he came into it with a celestial body and brought Eve, one of his celestial wives.....He is our father and our God and the only God with whom we have to do" (Brigham Young, in The Journal of Discourses, Volume I, page 50)

Can you believe Adam is God and still be a Christian?

Adam was created by God. Adam was not God. (Genesis 2:1-25 Genesis 3:1-24)

2. "In the beginning the head of the Gods called a council of theGods and they came together and concocted a plan to create the world and people it" (The Journal of Discourses, Volume VI, Sermon by Joesph Smith).

Can you believe in more than one God and still be a Christian?

1 Timothy 2:5 For there is one God....

Ephesians 4:6 one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.

James 2:19 You believe that God is one. You do well ; the demons also believe, and shudder.

(Even demons believe in one God)

1 Corinthians 8:6 yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him; and one Lord , Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him.

Mark 12:29-32 Jesus answered, "The foremost is, 'Hear, O Israel"The Lord our God is one Lord;....... 32 The scribe said to Him, "Right, Teacher; You have truly stated that He is one, and there is on one else besides Him; (The scribe agreed with Jesus that there is but one God)


(Scripture quotes from: (NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE)

YOU ARE INVITED TO FOLLOW MY CHRISTIAN BLOG. http:/steve-finnell.blogspot.com
shay - October 31st, 2013 at 1:19 AM
I know my grief isn't as terrible as a death, but I've been struggling in college and even though i put in the time and effort, the results just aren't there and its discouraging and kinda painful. I know the Lords ways are much greater then mine, and i'm going to continue to believe that. This article helped me understand a lot about suffering. thanks
shane - December 3rd, 2013 at 7:21 PM
Why do kids have to grow up because of the things and tragedies that have happened to the
Emily Heitzman - December 16th, 2013 at 4:57 PM
Wonderful post on grief and suffering. This kind of conversation is very important. Thank you for this!
Dawn - December 24th, 2013 at 6:44 AM
Hi Jen I really enjoyed this post!! It is a question that many people wonder from time to time, and I have wondered myself. I love that you shed light on this question. Another article I've read talks about this subject and touches on why, the reason that God although having the power to end suffering isn't doing that right now. I'm putting the link below I think you or your readers will enjoy it. http://www.jw.org/en/publications/books/bible-teach/why-does-god-allow-suffering/
Paul - January 8th, 2014 at 9:41 PM
Plus he is keeping many of us from having a love life that he gave so many others.
Bill McKeen - February 1st, 2014 at 8:55 AM
Pain and Suffering:

I look ahead, I look behind, I look to the left, and I look to the right and what do I see. A lot of pain and suffering. In their faces and demeanor. I see struggle, fear and anxiety. I see tension. I see those who are suffering from mental illness and addictions. I see all those people who must endure physical pain. I see the poor and neglected, the deaf, the blind and the crippled. I see suffering in old age with all it's infirmities, And for what reason must all this be? I ask God for the answer and none is yet to be found. The cause, as the expert surmise, is for two reasons, one the free will of man, be it for good or evil and the other from the constant laws of nature, as in in birth, growth and decay with time and chance at play. I don't question the the system and I how it works. I understand it completely. The larger question for me is what purpose does it serve? In the aeon of time this echo has never been tendered. C.S. Lewis summed nicely when he said "God speaks to our conscience, whispers in our pleasure and shouts in our pain."
Bill McKeen - February 2nd, 2014 at 8:12 AM
Jen: I forgot to include my web site with an essay about "My Search for Truth" which is posted on an international web site out of Ontario, Canada. Thanks, See below


Dana - March 22nd, 2014 at 4:25 AM
Then how is it so hard to let go of a really good friend of mine He's only 29 yrs old, stage 3 of liver cancer. We have been through a lot. They're are numerous times him and I should of died together, I know god saved us. But, why take him from me, his children, his wife (who truly doesn't/can't deal with the fact he's dying. I'm the only friend who gives a damn if he dies. I will like my life has no meaning without him here.
I cry at night not knowing what's going on. My fiance understands to a degree of what my friend truly means to me.
What should I do?
Pat - April 21st, 2014 at 9:43 AM
I've been a Christian since the early seventies. Since then, I've seen other Christians (along with myself) who have struggled with numerous problems and tragedies in their lives, sometimes to the point of their lives becoming a bottomless cesspool of problems and tragedies. Many a time, I've wondered if God is really a loving and caring God or just the King of kings & Lord of lords; and does God favor some Christians over other Christians. I still wonder.

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