Is Suffering Part of God's Plan?

Did God intend for us to suffer? Michael Frost explores whether or not suffering is part of God's plan.

Questions for Discussion and Personal Reflection

  1. Have you ever thought you understood why suffering happens? What was your explanation?
  2. How have you seen faith in the midst of dire circumstances?

I saw a film recently about a guy who was, um, paralyzed from polio and living in an iron lung, and he was a very religious guy— a Catholic guy— and one of the other characters in the film said to him, "So you're religious. Well, why?" And he said, "I've got to have someone to be able to blame for all of this." I am convinced that God is actively involved in the world. If you ask me to explain or describe where and when and why and how, there are times I just shake my head in, in wonder and I, I can't explain. I can't explain why he allows this and disallows that. Why does God, uh, turn up in people's lives when they've prayed for this or that or the other thing, and yet there seems to be such intractable violence and bloodshed and fear and, and horror in the world. I can't explain the whys and wherefores of everything and, and where God is at every point in time, but I do by faith believe that he is present. People I've encountered who have the most resolute, unshakable faith are people who have that faith in the midst of the most dreadful situations. I've encountered extraordinary faith in Cambodia, in, uh, Russia, in, uh, Sudan, uh, South Africa, Zimbabwe, where there's intractable poverty, injustice, brokenness, fear, the effects of, of war, uh, in some cases genocide, and yet somehow even in spite of all that suffering and all of that disappointment, faith blossoms and flourishes in spite of it. Sometimes I feel like our questioning of where God is at work and where he's doing, what he's doing, and why he's not doing this or that comes from a place of, uh, kind of an armchair of, uh, of, comfort and peace and the questions seem to me sometimes to be much more theoretical than they are actually rooted in life experience. I don't ever like to say suffering is part of God's plan because I don't think that ever God had that in mind, but I, I think that God is able to use whatever, whatever might come our way, God is able to use it for, for good and that includes difficulty and misfortune.