A CONVERSATION WITH A NEIGHBOR
Does God Care About Our Suffering?
The following is a typical conversation that one of Jehovah’s Witnesses might have with a neighbor. Let us imagine that a Witness named Michelle has come to the home of a woman named Sophia.
HOW COULD HE LET THIS HAPPEN?
Michelle: Today I’m sharing this tract with everyone in the area. It’s entitled Would You Like to Know the Truth? Here’s your copy.
Sophia: Is this about religion?
Michelle: Yes. Notice the six questions listed on the cover. Which of these questions—
Sophia: Let me stop you there. You would be wasting your time talking with me.
Michelle: Why do you say that?
Sophia: The truth is, I’m not sure that I even believe in God.
Michelle: Well, I appreciate your being honest with me. May I ask, Have you always felt that way?
Sophia: No, I grew up attending church. But I stopped going a long time ago.
Michelle: I see. By the way, allow me to introduce myself. My name is Michelle.
Sophia: I’m Sophia.
Michelle: Nice to meet you, Sophia.
Sophia: You too.
Michelle: I’m not here to force my beliefs on you, Sophia. I am curious, though. Is there something in particular that caused you to doubt God’s existence?
Sophia: Yes. My mother was involved in a car crash 17 years ago.
Michelle: I’m so sorry to hear that. Was she injured?
Sophia: Yes, she’s been paralyzed ever since.
Michelle: That is so sad. You must be devastated.
Sophia: I am. I just can’t help but wonder, If God exists, how could he let this happen? Why would God allow us to suffer like this?
IS IT WRONG TO ASK WHY?
Michelle: Your feelings and questions are understandable. When we suffer, it’s only normal to wonder why. In fact, even some faithful men and women in Bible times wondered about that!
Michelle: Yes. Would it be all right if I showed you an example from the Bible?
Sophia: I would like that.
Michelle: Notice what the faithful prophet Habakkuk asked God, as recorded at Habakkuk, chapter 1, verses 2 and 3: “How long, O Jehovah, must I cry for help, and you do not hear? How long shall I call to you for aid from violence, and you do not save? Why is it that you make me see what is hurtful?” Do those questions sound similar to the ones you’ve been asking?
Sophia: They do.
Michelle: God never scolded Habakkuk for asking those questions, nor did he tell Habakkuk that he simply needed more faith.
JEHOVAH HATES SUFFERING
Michelle: The Bible teaches that God notices our suffering and that he cares about it.
Sophia: What do you mean?
Michelle: Let me show you an example here at Exodus 3:7. Would you mind reading that verse?
Sophia: All right. It says: “And Jehovah added: ‘Unquestionably I have seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt, and I have heard their outcry as a result of those who drive them to work; because I well know the pains they suffer.’”
Michelle: Thank you. Based on this scripture, does God notice when his people suffer?
Sophia: Yes, it seems that he does.
Michelle: And he’s not just vaguely aware of what happens. Look again at the last part of that verse. God said: “I well know the pains they suffer.” Do those sound like the words of a cold or aloof God?
Sophia: No, not really.
Michelle: Of course, it’s one thing to notice a situation, but to be moved by it
Michelle: With that in mind, let’s read about another instance when God’s people were suffering. It’s recorded at Isaiah 63:9. The first part of that verse says: “During all their distress it was distressing to him.” Would you say, then, that God was affected by the suffering of his people?
Sophia: Yes, it does sound that way.
Michelle: The truth is, Sophia, God cares a great deal about us, and he hates to see us suffer. When we hurt, he hurts with us.
WHY HAS HE WAITED?
Michelle: Before I go, there’s one other thought I would like to share with you.
Sophia: All right.
Michelle: Consider what the Bible teaches us about God’s power. The verse I have in mind is Jeremiah 10:12. Would you please read it?
Sophia: Sure. It says: “He is the Maker of the earth by his power, the One firmly establishing the productive land by his wisdom, and the One who by his understanding stretched out the heavens.”
Michelle: Thank you. Let’s think about this verse for a moment. Would God have needed a lot of power to create the vast universe and everything in it?
Michelle: Now, if God has the power to create everything around us, would we not expect that he also has the power to control his creation?
Michelle: Think again of your mother. Why does it bother you to see her suffer?
Sophia: Because I love her. She’s my mother.
Michelle: And if you had the power to heal her today, would you?
Sophia: Of course.
Michelle: Think of what that means. The Bible teaches that God notices our suffering, he feels for us, and he has a vast amount of power. Can you imagine, then, how much self-control it must take for God not to step in and immediately end our suffering?
Sophia: I never thought of it that way before.
Michelle: Could it be that he has good reason for not yet intervening to end our problems? *
Sophia: Hmm, I suppose he might.
Michelle: I hear your telephone ringing, so let me come back another time, and we can discuss this topic further.
Sophia: Thank you. I would like that. *
Do you have a particular Bible subject that you have wondered about? Are you curious about any of the beliefs or religious practices of Jehovah’s Witnesses? If so, do not hesitate to ask one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. He or she will be pleased to discuss such matters with you.
^ par. 61 For more information, see chapter 11 of the book What Does the Bible Really Teach? published by Jehovah’s Witnesses.
^ par. 64 A future article in this series will consider why God allows suffering.