Finding Understanding When God Lets Us Suffer
“Mom, can we talk?”
“Sure. How are you feeling?” my mom asked, sitting on the couch across from me.
“Frustrated. Angry. Hurt.”
It had been two years since I had come home from my mission on a medical release, heartbroken and afraid of the dark days of pain and healing that I knew were ahead of me. I didn’t understand; why would God take away something that meant so much to me? This was a question I knew I would struggle with in the days and weeks after returning home. However, I had no idea that those days and weeks of hurt would be but a prelude to months and years of pain and doubt.
“I feel like I can’t trust God. I don’t think He really cares whether or not I’m happy so long as He feels I’m growing.”
My mom continued to listen as I went on.
“He won’t leave me alone. As soon as I’ve healed from one pain, He gives me another that’s even worse. I’m sick of it.”
My mom waited a while to respond, and when she did, it threw me.
“Have you prayed about it?” she said.
Perhaps because my mom had always been able to help me mend after disappointment and pain thus far in my life, I was stunned when she told me that this was a heartache only God could mend. I knew she was right. I needed to talk to Him and tell Him how I felt. Nothing was going to change until I told God all the thoughts and feelings boiling up inside me.
It was hard, but I took my mother’s advice. I had a talk with Heavenly Father, and I didn’t hold back. I didn’t know if it was okay to tell God that I was angry with Him, but I did—and I told him all the reasons why. I expected that He would be upset with me for not understanding Him, for not seeing the eternal picture. But as I prayed, I felt His love for me—His happiness that I had come to Him, His sorrow from seeing me in pain, and His love for the person I had become from that pain.
In his BYU devotional address, Jonathan Sandberg, professor in the School of Family Life, asks:
How is it that a loving God would allow us to suffer? I have come to realize that my Savior cares more about my growth than He does about my comfort. One evidence of His love is that He does not spare me from the suffering I need for my development and progression, even when I get mad at Him. As a client once told me, “I used to feel guilty for getting mad at God. Then I realized He can handle it.” [“Healing = Courage + Action + Grace,” 21 January 2014]
Because God loves us, He won’t take away the pain that we need to grow. But as I have come to learn, this does not mean that He does not have compassion for our pain. Like a loving parent, He cares more about our growth than our momentary happiness. Understanding why God allows me to suffer doesn’t necessarily lessen the pain of disappointment and heartache, but it does make healing possible. If we can act in faith and forgive God when He lets us suffer, as Sandberg says, “we open the door to grace,” which is the true source of healing.