Suffering can lead to doubt or faith

“I can’t believe in God when there’s so much suffering in the world.”

If you talk to enough people about religion, you will inevitably hear this line. And it is understandable. Human anguish, brought to us in ever-increasing color by digital technologies, can be a major roadblock to faith.

“How can an all-powerful, supposedly compassionate God not intervene in the face of such misery? That’s not love; that’s hate.”

Yes, we’re in a mess. We’ve always been in a mess. The pages of history read like a CNN ticker. Tragedy runs throughout. But while suffering drives some to doubt, it drives me to faith.

Some people can’t believe in God because of the hurt they see in the world. I have to believe in God because of the hurt I see in the world. Belief in a suffering savior is the only way much of this makes sense.

But that doesn’t make suffering any easier to bear. We all dread pain. Even Christ.

“If it be your will, take this cup from me,” he prayed the night before his torturous death. A part of him wanted no part of it. Yet his willingness to endure suffering opened the tomb door to joy.

“To the extent a man can experience pain, that is the extent to which he can experience joy,” a sage once told me.

It is true. Easter Sunday came after Death Friday, not before. The path to resurrection always goes through the cross.

It’s hard to argue that our sufferings in 21st century America measure up to the travesties we hear about from around the world. And it’s hard to argue that my sufferings compare with those of the family with the sick child, the man with the deformity, the woman in the shelter.

They don’t, but they don’t have to. Suffering comes with the human condition and takes many forms. It’s life in a world where the Supreme Being refuses to dictate tranquility. Dictating tranquility would weaken our constitution.

So the question is not “Will I suffer?” The question is “How will suffering shape me?”

Will I harden in the belief that God could have stopped my suffering and didn’t?Will I assume he couldn’t care less for me?

Or will I consider that he didn’t stop my suffering for a similar reason he didn’t stop Christ’s? That he’s about something greater than a pain-free earthly existence. That he’s after resurrection joy and reconciliation.

I’ve come to believe that in the midst of pain, God strengthens the sufferer. He helps break harmful cycles. He comforts and consoles and suffers alongside.

“For we do not have a High Priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses…”

On the cross, Jesus questioned the faithfulness of God. “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”

At that moment he faced the same crossroads of faith and doubt that comes with any suffering, whether local and personal or distant and universal.

By Friday night, he fell to the side of faith. “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” And with that, Easter was just two days away.


Kevin Thompson writes weekly for The Boerne Star. Follow him at

2 Responses to “Suffering can lead to doubt or faith”

  1. 1 jessestroup April 18, 2014 at 10:09

    Kevin, Kevin, Kevin,  Thank you so much for that.  You put God in the middle of our suffering, and faith is the choice for resurrection life.  I can be sure my faith will be tested.  I am sure Christ is risen from the dead to die not more! Jesse

      Jesse R. Stroup Director of Spiritual Care Lifeline Chaplaincy 511 N. Akard suite 202 Dallas, TX 75201

  2. 2 mrdonnigeria April 18, 2014 at 15:23

    This was so beautiful!!!

    Mom and Dad

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