Why God Allows Children to Suffer

I don't know why God allows children to suffer, but his word shows me to how to respond to suffering when it comes.

A very brave mom asked the question many parents of kids with special needs are scared to ask. She wanted to know why God allows children to suffer. God didn’t answer that question, but what He said brought me and many others to tears.

For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things,
and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory,
to perfect the author of their salvation through sufferings….
For since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, 
He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted.
Hebrews 2: 10 & 18

“I don’t believe in God,” she said, “How can I believe in Someone who lets me and my son suffer so much?”

The audience attending a panel discussion about why God allows children to suffer gave a collective gasp. The other panel members tried to answer her question, but her body language said she wasn’t listening.

My friend and I found her afterwards. We hugged her and thanked her for her honestly. We told her we and wrestled with the same question. We gave her our room number and offered to talk to her any time.

We made the offer on Tuesday evening, and for the next four days of family camp in Pelchi, Latvia, she avoided us. She was polite in the cafeteria and friendly when she relayed our appointment times at the mom’s spa she had created. But she didn’t come to our support group meetings for moms. And she never stopped by our room for a chat.

My friend and I prayed for her all week. We asked our prayer partners in the states to pray for her. But by Saturday morning, the last full day of camp which included our last support group meeting, nothing had changed.

This hurting mom was on my mind as I opened to the chapters listed in my read-through-the-Bible plan. As I read Hebrews 1–4, verses 2:10 and 2:18 jumped off the page and into my heart. I copied them into my journal and quickly filled two pages with my thoughts and reflections.

Later that morning, she came to our final support group gathering. I opened my journal and, through our translator, shared the words God had spoken into my heart.
“If it was fitting for Jesus to suffer,” I said, “with my salvation in mind, then perhaps He is using my suffering as part of his salvation plan for others. Furthermore, even Jesus was tempted to sin by His suffering–to become bitter, to nurse anger and resentment and discontent. But, He resisted temptation and leaned into God. He trusted His Father to work good through His suffering and the evil that caused it.

“These verses don’t tell us why God allows children to suffer, or why he allows parents to suffer either. But the verses do tell us how to respond to suffering when it tempts us to sin. Like Jesus, we need to lean into God. We need to trust Him to work good through our pain and the pain of our children.

“The only way I can do that,” I said, blinking back tears, “is to remember that God is both Father and Son. He is a parent who watched His Son suffer so that I could become His child. He is also the Son who suffered on my behalf. He is the Father and Son who have experienced both my child’s suffering and my own. He is a God I can trust.”

She remained composed as I closed my notebook and the rest of us wiped our eyes and noses. But she came to stand beside me for our group picture, and her hugs for my friend and I were warm and long when we said good-bye.

“We will be praying for you and your son,” we said.

“Thank you,” she said and hugged us once more.

Would you pray with us, too?

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I don't know why God allows children to suffer, but his word shows me to how to respond to suffering when it comes.

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Meet Jolene

Jolene Philo is a published author, speaker, wife, and mother of a son with special needs.

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