If God is good, why do we suffer?

Audio Transcript

The question of God’s goodness and suffering is one of the hardest questions ever, and the way we answer that question has a lot to do with how we understand what the Bible says about God, ourselves, and our world. It also has a lot to do with how we go through life individually and relate with other people. I say all these to mean that there are no easy answers. What we see in the storyline of the Bible is that, ultimately, we have a God who is sovereign and superintends over everything. He is in control, he is in charge, nothing can stop him, he doesn’t react to things, he looks ahead of time, he sees things as they happen, he plans things, and yet within this sovereign world of God, we have human beings who are morally responsible agents and are not bound to do things against their will. So, those two things come together when answering this question. 

So, for instance, we see in Job’s story that God was very much involved in all that happened to Job, nothing happened without God’s say-so, and the devil was not acting without God’s knowledge. We see that God is very much involved and yet we don’t see God being responsible for bringing about the evil that happened to Job. God wasn’t evil in bringing about Job’s suffering, all of that was the devil’s working, and yet when we come to the end of the Book of Job, Job is asking God,

“Why? I’ve been this good guy and great person, why did you allow all of this to happen to me?”

And God basically tells Job that, you can’t find out my ways, you can’t know everything about me, you can’t know how I’m working things out and so, there are aspects of this question that one cannot fully answer. 

 However, on another level, the answer is in reconciling that with what we see in the storyline of the Bible. We see a God who listens to us. One of the earliest happenings in the book of Genesis is when Abraham and Sarah send their servant girl, Hagar away. God was not pleased with the way Sarah treated Hagar, so God appeared to Hagar in Genesis 16, and God saves both Hagar and her son, and Hagar says, “This is a God who sees me, this is a God who hears”  

This is contrary to everything you will expect from a god at that time. Firstly, Hagar was not from the same tribe as Abraham, she wasn’t part of the Called and Chosen people, but worse still, she was a servant and a woman. These are several layers of injustices piled up against her in that context and yet God listens and appears to her, and we see that repeated throughout the storyline of the Bible, and so ultimately, we see a God who listens, hears and who in the person of Jesus Christ, enters into our suffering in the incarnation, he doesn’t come outside of our condition but identifies with us and dies the death meant for us, and he uses the same suffering he experienced to save us and bring us back to life from the death that we are already experiencing.  

The Bible tells us that we are going to experience some deliverance from the effects of our suffering, and that’s where miracles come in. That, when we call upon God and trust him, he can, by the power of the Holy Spirit, intervene in our circumstances but God does not always do that. One of the greatest missionaries in the Bible was Paul, and you see him say in 2 Corinthians 12, that he is experiencing some kind of suffering and he cries out to God, asking for deliverance. At other times, Paul had called upon God, and God answered him. Yet, in this instance, we find that God does not grant Paul the answer to his request as he has asked. God performs miracles, and sometimes, God withholds miracles from us, but ultimately, we find that God’s storyline is not primarily about delivering us from the trials we’re experiencing in this life, as it is about preparing us for a world that is to come.

God’s storyline is not primarily about delivering us from the trials we’re experiencing in this life, as it is about preparing us for a world that is to come.


When the new heavens and the new earth comes, God ultimately reconciles all of these injustices and sufferings that we’re experiencing, and takes them away. There are no easy answers to the question of God’s goodness and suffering but ultimately, what we can say about the goodness of God and the suffering we experience in our world, is that God sees, hears and intervenes now. Sometimes, he doesn’t, but ultimately, he is going to take all of that pain and suffering away. 

Answered by Emmanuel Oset, Leader at City Church, Lagos