Why Does God Let Us Suffer?
by Bob Olson, Editor
If you’re suffering due to a crisis, tragedy or loss, no doubt you have likely asked yourself, “If there really is a God, why does He allow us to suffer? Why does He allow children to starve or die? Why does He allow crime and terrorism? Why does He allow our loved ones to become ill or have tragic accidents? Why does He let people struggle financially or become homeless?”
More specifically, you’re probably wondering why God allows YOU to suffer. You’re a good person. You might not be perfect, but you’re certainly not evil. So you’ve probably asked yourself, “Am I being punished? Is God ignoring my misery for some reason? Why is this happening to me? Why now? And what did I do to deserve this?”
While many of us have asked ourselves these questions at various times in our lives, few people ever learn the answer. Yet there is an answer, and it is incredibly liberating, even relieving. Not only does it relieve us of our anger toward God (it’s okay; it’s natural to feel anger toward God), it also frees us from our frustration and resentment toward the cause of our suffering—our illness, our injury, our crisis or the person whom we blame for our tragic circumstances.
I’m an ordinary guy living a fairly ordinary life. So I’ll be the first to tell you that I never expected to know the answer to one of life’s most mysterious questions: Why Does God Let Us Suffer? In fact, I’m not even religious, so I never expected to be teaching people about God, period.
The truth is that up until recently I always had a knee-jerk reaction to anyone who used the word God. I preferred people use words like Universe, Source or Creator. God seemed way too religious to me. Since I feel that everyone should be able to choose their own spiritual beliefs, the word “God” always reminded me of the religion my parents chose for me, and I needed to swing far away from it for a while before I was ready to finally settle somewhere in the middle.
I’ve now had a change of heart. I like the word “God.” It means whatever we want it to mean. It’s no different than saying Universe, Source or Creator, unless we give it a meaning that we don’t like. So I use it now to mean the creative and loving energy of the infinite universe.
The point being that never in a million years did I expect to find myself talking about the Purpose Of Suffering by talking about God, but something happened that changed all that for me. I had a spiritual crisis of sorts—well, another one—that led me to begin asking these same “Why?” questions for myself. In early September, my wife, Melissa, was diagnosed with breast cancer, which got me asking, “Why her? Why now? How can God allow the healthiest, most loving and compassionate person I know to get cancer?”
To be frank, if I had got cancer, I wouldn’t have been all that surprised. I’m not sure I would even have questioned God about it. I eat well but I don’t eat as healthily as I could. I don’t drink much but I like a glass of wine or beer every so often. Plus, I like to smoke a cigar now and then, even though I know the risks. And, although I’ve cut way back, I abused coffee for years—I’m talking over a pot of coffee a day. Add to all this my inconsistency at exercise and my workaholic mentality, which causes me to have a pretty high stress level, and it all shows that I could be doing more to remain healthy. So I really couldn’t have waved my fist at God if my health took a dive.
On the opposite hand, my wife, Melissa, is the epitome of health. She only eats foods that are healthy, even organic. Not that she deprives herself of a treat now and then, like chocolate, but it’s seldom and it’s usually the best chocolate made from 88 percent pure cocoa. She has also exercised consistently for the past twenty years, three or four times a week. And she meditates, not that she really needs to meditate because she is also one of the most peaceful people I know. Plus Melissa oozes love and compassion for all living beings, human or animal, which has not only got to be good for her soul but also her brownie points with the Big Guy, God.
So when Melissa was diagnosed with breast cancer, I questioned God, though this wasn’t the first time in my life that I’ve asked the “Why?” questions. In the past, I had my own suffering through the years, the two most challenging being a 5-year clinical depression that was so severe that I was out of work for 4 years and had to get 21 shock treatments, then there was the loss of my father due to lung cancer when I was 35 and he was just 64 years young. I learned a lot about suffering during those troubling times, but I was mostly left with more questions than answers in a spiritual sense. And, boy-o-boy, did I ask the “Why?” questions a lot.
I now recognize that my depression and my father’s passing were catalysts that led me to investigate answers to my spiritual questions. And, in 1999, two years after my father’s passing, I had an experience with a psychic medium—a reading of spirit communication—that provided me with so much indisputable evidence that it blew my mind wide open, proving to me that there was more to life and death than I had ever allowed my skeptical mind to imagine.
This spiritual experience then led me to explore other spiritual experiences such as past-life regression, guided meditation, medical intuition and aura clearing, and some of them taught me even more spiritual insights that I had never before allowed myself to believe. All the same, despite my research and exploration in the field of spirituality from 1999 to 2008, nothing I learned or experienced, in itself, gave me the answer to the Spiritual Purpose of Suffering. In fact, I even surrendered to the possibility that I might never find the answer.
At some place along the way, however, I developed a greater spiritual insight that I can only assume is due to the accumulation of all my experiences together. There seemed to be a tipping point that turned my knowledge into a Knowing. And my spiritual awareness about the particulars of what I’d experienced became an awareness of a much bigger picture. Although I don’t know when this actually occurred, I became aware of it the next time I asked the question, Why Does God Allow Us To Suffer? And I was as surprised as anyone would be that I had the answer.
It was when Melissa’s diagnosis arrived that I asked the question again and realized that something was different from the last time I’d asked it. I actually knew the answer. Suddenly, there was a shift within me that changed my normal fear response to a feeling of inner peace. This is when I had what I’ll call an unexpected download of insight that answered all my questions about Why God Allows Us To Suffer. And so I began writing these spiritual answers down.
I wrote the answers that were in my head. I couldn’t stop, even though I really didn’t have the time for it. I didn’t write nonstop; I wrote a few hours here and there, though my writing was seriously hindered by my responsibilities of life, namely my work. Nevertheless, every time I stopped and then started up again, the answers were right there at the forefront of my mind, just waiting to be recorded.
I guess I wasn’t writing fast enough, because, suddenly, as if God wanted me to write these answers down without interruption, something that would have normally seemed financially disastrous happened—my current client decided to cut our contract short halfway through the job. I now had more time to write.
Although this was going to cost me many thousands of dollars, the bulk of my income for half this year, I was oddly peaceful about the loss. Deep within me, I understood why it was happening—I understood why God allowed it. It was as if an inner peace encompassed me and took away my fear, my worry, and allowed me to have a depth of knowing that there was a purpose to everything that was happening, both Melissa’s diagnosis and my financial misfortune. I also knew I was meant to keep writing these spiritual answers for other people to learn, as well.
I won’t say I had a conversation with God like Neale Donald Walsch, although I’m not sure that the information wasn’t coming to me in the same way. It might just be a difference in perspective in how we describe it. To me it is more of a download where the answers to these timeless questions of spirituality are just there in my head. Suddenly, everything I had learned and experienced over the past 9 years began to have perfect clarity. What was once like puzzle pieces that didn’t always fit together now snapped together precisely to form the big picture; and my questions about suffering now made sense.
If you’re thinking to yourself, “Who is he to have these answers?” Well, I’ve asked myself this same question. I’m just an average guy. I’m not the most intelligent, the most educated, the most successful or the most talented in any way. I’m not even gifted like some of the spiritual practitioners I’ve met. I don’t know why this insight showed up in my brain. But I guess we could ask the same of many authors and speakers. Who is this one or that one to know what they know? In true spiritual fashion, and using a valuable point inspired by Marianne Williamson, who am I NOT to know these answers? No doubt they are available to all of us, if we ask for them.
If there is one thing I’ve learned over the years, it’s that if something is helpful or even life changing to my life, then it will be helpful or even life changing to other people’s lives, as well. Consequently, knowing how this new insight has given me a deeper sense of inner peace than I have ever experienced before—and during a time of crisis in my life, no less—then I can only assume it can do the same for you or others, which is why I’m compelled to share it.
I’m not promising a spontaneous end to your suffering. Suffering has a purpose, so it’s not meant to be eliminated. But knowing the purpose of suffering, in itself, takes a lot of the bite out of it. And the spiritual answers to the “Why?” questions lead us to recognize the message or guidance our crisis, tragedy or loss is trying to show us, which, subsequently, helps us to find meaning in it.
Obviously, if you are grieving the passing of a loved one, no insight is going to bring your loved one back. If you have lost a leg or arm in some tragic accident, nothing I can teach you is going to grow it back. These answers will not undo the tragedies of September 11th, 2001 or those of Hurricane Katrina or Columbine High School. The benefits of understanding Why God Allows Suffering is in the perspective shift—your paradigm and thought transformation—as well as the peace that comes from Knowing (not just believing) that everything is as it should be.
“Knowing” means that you know some spiritual truth at a your core, which sits at the most satisfying level of your being, as opposed to believing what someone else has told you is true, which sits at an unsatisfying and often frustrating level.
For me, Knowing the Purpose Of Suffering has also removed any feelings of separation from God. I no longer feel alone and, instead, feel guided and loved by God. What I have learned has not only taught me to diminish my level of suffering by understanding the purpose of my current challenge, it also has allowed me to accept it, surrender to it (versus trying to control what cannot be controlled), and to gain the awareness necessary to move forward, rather than getting stuck in the chaos and fear caused by my circumstances. With that said, I must admit that I have to constantly remind myself of this Knowing (these answers) that I have acquired in order to maintain my inner peace. Spiritual awareness seems to be a process and not an event.
In a nutshell, what I can tell you is that we are not being punished or ignored by God when faced with crisis, tragedy or loss. We are simply spiritual beings having a physical existence. And we come to this physical dimension because we can experience things here that are impossible to know in the safe and loving environment of the spirit world (our true, eternal home). Taken one step further, we come to this physical dimension to learn and grow from certain experiences; that is, we come for a purpose. And every event from the joyful moments to the disheartening ones, from our births to our deaths, occur with perfect precision so that everyone’s purpose for being here is supported via an intricate weaving of infinite intelligence.
Every experience, whether positive or negative on the surface, is leading us toward our purpose for this life. Some challenges guide us in new directions if we have gotten off course from our purpose, and some challenges lead us to a new depth of Knowing in themselves. Our free will gives us choice, but it is exactly this ability to choose that is often our greatest challenge. Will we choose to surrender and accept our new circumstances caused by our crisis, tragedy or loss, or will we choose to live in suffering by focusing on what was or what will never be again because of what’s happened? There is meaning in our suffering and it is our choice to fight it and miss out on this meaning or recognize it and grow from it. The latter choice is where suffering ends and transformation begins.
I’m still downloading this information, so it’s clear that these answers are so much more than a blog. My intention for writing about this here is to give you a glimpse of the hope, comfort and peace that comes from understanding that God has not abandoned us in our suffering—that there is purpose in our misfortunes. Until I am able to put together this information into a more in-depth lecture, audio program or book, I’m merely hopeful that this introduction alone might give the right person at the right time the hope they need to consider that there is purpose in their challenge and that they are being loved and guided by God (the Universe, Creator or Source) along the way.
I’ll keep you posted as things progress. In the meantime, I encourage you to ask for the answers yourself, as you might be astonished to find that they are right there inside your head.