If God loves us so much, why doesn’t He protect us from pain and suffering? Why doesn’t God intervene when Christians are suffering, struggling, or sad and lonely?
You’re not alone if you’re wondering where God was when something bad happened to you. You’re not the only one questioning where God is. One of our Blossom readers emailed me the other day, sharing the story of her sister’s death. She was killed by her husband, who also took his own life. My reader asked why God doesn’t intervene to protect us in situations like this.
It’s the same question both Mary and Martha asked Jesus in John 11:21. “If you’d been here, my brother wouldn’t have died.” They were asking God why He wasn’t there — because if He’d been there, their brother would still be alive today. And here’s how Jesus responded…
Jesus didn’t explain Himself, offer theological reasons for not intervening or healing Lazarus, or even try to comfort or console Mary and Martha. He simply wept, because His heart was broken for the pain and suffering we face.
I don’t know why God doesn’t stop bad things from happening. But, I do know how I’m living a joyful, peaceful life! And I’ll share what I know, what I’ve learned from the terrible things that have happened to me.
Why God Doesn’t Intervene to Protect Us
By the way — Mary and Martha both said “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” But they talked to Jesus separately. And Jesus responded to each of them in different ways. He responded to them the way they approached Him.
Mary was weeping at Jesus’ feet when she asked why He wasn’t there. And Jesus wept with her. In contrast, Martha followed her “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died” statement with: “But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.” And Jesus responded theologically, with a discussion about salvation.
God will meet you where you are. But before He can meet you — and heal your wounds — you have to go to Him.
In the beginning
Cain killed Abel in Chapter 4 of Genesis. Adam and Eve’s first son murdered their second son. Why didn’t God intervene? Especially since God said Abel’s blood was crying out to Him from the ground. God’s heart was broken because of that death…and yet He didn’t intervene to protect Abel.
God didn’t intervene to protect Jesus, either. Jesus, the light of the world, our Savior and shepherd, the Son of God Himself! And God didn’t intervene to prevent Him from being crucified.
God didn’t intervene a million times in the Bible. And, He DID intervene a million times, too. Why does He protect His faithful people sometimes, but not always? I don’t know. But I do know terrible things happen to everyone, Christian or not. Rich, poor, smart, foolish, beautiful, plain, old, young — we all face pain, loss, hardship, and grief.
But that doesn’t mean we have to suffer.
God didn’t protect me from a 3 a.m. home invasion…or did He?
This morning in my journal I asked God, “Why didn’t You intervene to protect me from an abusive schizophrenic mother, foster homes, neglect and no father growing up? And what about the time that guy broke into my apartment in the middle of the night and tried to rape me? He brought two knives into my bedroom!”
And God said “I did protect you.”
The thing is, we don’t know what we’re protected from. We only know what we experience, not what we’re saved from. Jesus wasn’t there when Lazarus died for a reason: so God could be glorified in a specific way. This happens all the time — God is working all the bad things together for our good.
It’s just that we can’t always see what God is doing, or what we were protected from.
If you feel like you’re all alone in your questions or pain, read What to Remember When It Feels Like No One Cares.
But what about death, loss, grief…and murder?
Why doesn’t God intervene to protect Christians from being murdered, or good people from dying painful deaths? I don’t know. But I think it has something to do with love.
True love is allowing freedom of choice. If you truly love someone, you accept them for who they are, what they choose, and how they live. God truly loves us, which means He allows us freedom to act, choose, and do what we want. He accepts us for who we are — our abusive, violent, cruel, awful selves. He tries to teach us how to live, and He lets us live the way we choose.
We’ve always been free to choose how we want to live. And we screw it up, over and over — starting in Genesis. But God doesn’t intervene because we are not His puppets. We aren’t His robots, or toys. We are His people, and He loves us too much to try to control us. Otherwise it wouldn’t be love, it’d be a fake world with robotic people living false lives.
How Little Bee and the Holocaust helped me
I grew up reading young adult novels about girls living through the concentration camps in Nazi-occupied Germany. I think I read a couple for book reports at school, as well as some on my own time (I loved to read!). Those books made a huge impression on me — I grew up with the reality of evil. I believed in God, but I also knew the pain of the Holocaust. I went to church when I wasn’t in foster homes or sleeping in cardboard boxes in back alleys with my mom.
A book that recently pierced my soul was Little Bee: A Novel by Chris Cleave. One scene in particular: two young sisters being attacked by boy soldiers on a beach. The littler sister hides under an overturned canoe; the older sister (12 years old) is repeatedly gang raped on top of the canoe by the boy soldiers. The older sister starts singing Sunday School songs like “Jesus Loves Me”…and as the pain and abuse gets worse, her singing turns to screaming…and then to crying like a baby, howling in pain.
I think about that scene almost every day. And, I think about my friend’s 10 year old daughter who died from cancer after a terrible year-long stint of chemotherapy and bone marrow treatments. Those horrible, painful memories tear my heart apart, and they drive me to God. They help me remember that life is bittersweet, and I have no idea why things happen the way they do.
How do Little Bee and the Holocaust help me live a joy-filled life despite the grief and suffering in the world? By helping me see that our world is bitter, and yet life is so sweet. Our world is tragic and heartbreaking…and yet it’s beautiful and miraculous. Bittersweet.
Life is tragic in some ways, and amazing in others. If we knew the reason for everything, we’d be equal with God. But we’re not His equals…we’re His children. And that’s enough for me.
Help Understanding Why God Allows Pain
In Why Suffering? Finding Meaning and Comfort When Life Doesn’t Make Sense, Ravi Zacharias and Vince Vitale explore the idea of a loving God allowing us to suffer. This book will help you make sense of God’s protection even when you feel like He’s abandoned you.
There are no easy answers, my friend. The only way to find peace is to take your questions and pain to God. Pour out your heart, and ask the Holy Spirit to comfort and guide you through the depths. You will come out the other side! Trust, and keep moving forward.
Hold both the bitter and the sweet in your life. Weep like Jesus wept…and love like God does. Accept Him for who He is, and trust that He really does know what He’s doing. Accept yourself — you are a child of God, created not to understand His ways. You were created to love and glorify Him.
How do you feel, what do you think? I welcome your thoughts below. Have you seen God intervene in your life, or do you think He’s absent or uncaring?
Take good care of yourself, especially now. Be kind and gentle with your progress, and allow yourself to heal. Above all, keep looking up to Jesus. He is the source of all joy and peace.