Does God Allow Pain?

Dear Friends,

Does God allow pain? And if so, why? The question of suffering is a huge one and one that has been debated and argued about many times. I'm aware of how contentious an issue it can be, so I want to try and be as sensitive as I can as I share from my limited understanding and my experiences.

We will never fully understand God, at least not this side of heaven. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 13:12 For now [in this time of imperfection] we see in a mirror dimly [a blurred reflection, a riddle, an enigma], but then [when the time of perfection comes we will see reality] face to face. Now I know in part [just in fragments], but then I will know fully, just as I have been fully known [by God]. (AMP)

I've been studying Genesis and this week it was Genesis 32:22-32: 'Jacob Wrestles with God'. (The subheading in the NLT Bible) which particularly drew my attention.

This left Jacob all alone in the camp, and a man came and wrestled with him until the dawn began to break. 25 When the man saw that he would not win the match, he touched Jacob’s hip and wrenched it out of its socket. 26 Then the man said, “Let me go, for the dawn is breaking!”But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”
27 “What is your name?” the man asked.
He replied, “Jacob.”
28 “Your name will no longer be Jacob,” the man told him. “From now on you will be called Israel, because you have fought with God and with men and have won.”
29 “Please tell me your name,” Jacob said.
“Why do you want to know my name?” the man replied. Then he blessed Jacob there...
31 The sun was rising as Jacob left Peniel, and he was limping because of the injury to his hip.

God, in his power, "touched Jacob's hip and wrenched it out of its socket." Ouch! This suggests pain to me and, as I understand it, God was the one to cause it in this instance. And because of the injury Jacob, from then on, had a limp.

But why would God do this?  Does God take delight in watching people in pain? In seeing their suffering? Is he a cruel God? Is it because he is all powerful and can do as he likes to whomever he likes?

I don't believe so. In fact, the Bible teaches us that God is a God of love, of grace and mercy. God is good and kind. He does not find joy in pain and suffering.

I do believe there is always a purpose in whatever God does and I believe that what he did here, when wrestling with Jacob, was actually because he loved him. Bear with me, whilst I try to explain where I'm coming from.

Jacob was an extremely independent character, who liked to be in control, who was proud of his strength.  God wanted Jacob to learn to depend on him and allow God to be in control. God did this by making Jacob weak. As a result of God's hand on Jacob's life, Jacob, from then on, walked with a limp. It was a constant reminder of his weakness and it taught him to lean on God rather than rely on his own strength.

As a result of this painful encounter, we're told in v29 that God blessed him. God gave him a new name, or in other words, a new character. God transformed him.

From my personal experience, I believe God has allowed me to experience pain and weakness - mostly through M.E. and chronic migraines. Not to bring me down and not to destroy me. I see it as an act of love because through it he has taught me that his strength is shown in my weakness.

As Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 12:7b-10 So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud.
Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. 10 That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (NLT)

My weakness keeps me leaning on God. If there was a choice between choosing my own limited strength and God's strength, I know which one I would rather choose. So, I'll keep my limp if it means I get to lean on God.

Just as God changed Jacob, he is changing me too, transforming me that I might grow more and more like his Son, Jesus.

To Think About:
What painful experiences have you been through or are going through?

What has God taught you (or is teaching you) through them?

What might your limp be? (E.g., illness, divorce, financial worries, unemployment, infertility, etc.) How do you think you can glorify God as you limp?


If  what you read was of interest to you, then you may like to know that my book "Dear Friend...52 Weekly Devotions to Encourage, Challenge and Inspire" is available to buy from Amazon. (It's content is material adapted from previous blog posts.) To learn more, click on the link below:

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