Why would God allow my mother to suffer?

A fellow caregiver asked...

I have been watching my mom battle stomach cancer. She is deeply religious and before this read her Bible every day. She is almost always in a constant state of pain and I sometimes wonder how God could allow someone to suffer so much, especially someone who has really helped so many people. My mom was known for always having an open door and in high school she even took in one of my brother's friends who was kicked out of her house and raised her like a sister to us. We've all been trying to pitch in and help, but the situation just seems so unfair.

Expert Answer

Shelly Beach, MRE, is a seminary graduate; instructor at Cornerstone University in Grand Rapids, Michigan; author of seven books; and contributor to The NIV Stewardship Study Bible. She speaks nationally on faith, writing, and caregiving and is a host on the website Help for My Life in roundtable discussions on care issues. Beach's most recent release is Ambushed by Grace: Help and Hope on the Caregiving Journey.

The question of why God allows suffering is one most of us will wrestle with at one point or another, especially if those we love are hurting and people we love and admire like your mom. And while we sometimes can come up with logical reasons for pain, sickness, and tragedy, the truth of the matter is that in this world we often don't know all the reasons for suffering.

Suffering can bring about good things. It can cause us to grow in compassion and mercy. It can cause us to evaluate our lives and draw us toward reconciliation and forgiveness. Suffering can also become a spiritual "refining fire." Joni Eareckson Tada, who has lived as a quadriplegic for more than forty years has said, "My wheelchair is the prison that God used to set me free."

But most of us are really asking an underlying question when we ask why God allows suffering. We're often asking whether or not our world is out of control or whether we can trust God at all. We want to know that life isn't a roll of the dice and that God really is watching out for us in the pain of our lives. We want to know that in spite of what we see, everything will be okay.

Faith is about seeing beyond the immediate to the "big picture." It's the essence of the things that we hope for but we often cannot see. In times of suffering, it's important to remind ourselves that we won't always experience fairness and find answers in the here and now. But our faithfulness in loving God and loving others can bring rewards that last into eternity.

For more information on suffering visit Helpformylife.org, or look for encouragement in my caregiving release Precious Lord, Take My Hand: Meditations for Caregivers by visiting shellybeachonline.com.