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Suffering Doesn’t Mean God Failed

After being tempted to forsake His purpose on Earth, Jesus reminds the Devil in Matthew 4:7 of what is written, Deuteronomy 6:16, which says, “Do not put the LORD your God to the test as you did at Massah.”

While there are many lessons taught in this particular passage, the most important one is the need to accept God for what He is: God. He is God who is above us and God who does not answer to the judgment of human beings.

Unfortunately, human beings are often tempted to put God up for judgment, especially when their expectations of Him are unmet.

This issue came up recently on online forums after at least 115 people died when wildfires ripped through Maui in August of 2023. Horrified citizens fled before the flames with very little warning and were forced to leave behind beloved belongings and, along with them, irreplaceable memories. [1]

Those who experience or witness traumatic miscarriages, suffer agonizing diseases, or endure horrifying natural disasters like wildfires are often described as having their faith “tested”since horrors like these sometimes lead people to question their belief in God, regardless of whether they have been personally affected.

These people have an expectation that God should not allow such things to happen. This is especially true of natural disasters like wildfires since they occur on a magnitude so far beyond human control. If one dives down the rabbit hole of the internet, one will see a number of posts on sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Reddit in which self-proclaimed atheists decry God because they’ve seen people die horribly in natural disasters like fires.

It is no secret that religiosity has been on a steep decline. [3] Although there is little definitive research on the issue, it is clear that one of the main reasons people leave the church is because of God and the church’s perceived failure to respond to large-scale suffering. [2]

Many leftists who write articles on this religious decline lay the blame solely at the feet of God and the church. Pointing to shrinking attendance numbers as if God Himself failed. However, most things in life are rarely as simple as that.

As Christians, one must acknowledge that while the church is certainly partially responsible for people’s crisis of faith, this is also, in part, a fault of the parishioners themselves because their expectations of God have become unreasonable. We should all know from the Bible that to follow God is no guarantee that one will be protected from the horrors of a Fallen world; all but one of the apostles was martyred, and, in fact, it says in Matthew 10:21-23 “You will be hated by everyone because of me.”

This is not to say that we should not respond with compassion and kindness to those who are personally mourning the loss of their loved ones and homes as a result of the Maui fires. If these people feel angry at God at the moment, they are in good company since even King David cried out to God in anger in 2 Samuel 6:8-17.

Nonetheless, we must all remember that God is not responsible for wildfires; we are. Humanity chose the apple in Genesis 2:4-3:24, and humanity chose the Fall. All the human judgment in the world will not change that fact, and it is actually proof of the very problem. By putting ourselves in the judgment seat of God, we sin even more, sinking deeper into the trap of our sinful nature. It is this sin that leads to the broken world in which we live, a world into which death has entered.

This is why scripture is such an important part of the Christian life because it forces believers to confront the truth of what it means to follow Christ.

It does not mean one never feels anger toward God. But we should not walk away from God over suffering. He never said we wouldn’t suffer. For those who choose God, their souls are saved. But even so, we all know that our earthly bodies will be subject to death and decay until we receive our glorified bodies at the resurrection.

We know from scripture that God’s plan will not fail. As we are told in Joshua 21:45, “Not one of all the Lord’s good promises to Israel failed; every one was fulfilled.”

Foundations of Truth hereby waives all claim of copyright (economic and moral) in this work and immediately places it in the public domain; it may be used, published, edited, and distributed in any manner whatsoever without any attribution or notice to Foundations of Truth.


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