How Can God Be Good If People Suffer?

Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness   (c) 2018  Nancy Virden, Always The Fight Ministries

One of the keys to peace and mental health is to stop trying to control what is out of our control. Anxiety has been kicking my backside recently. When I remember to let go and let God, there is more calm. 

An ancient question stems from our human desire to control everything – even our image of God. The often anxious perception that we should not suffer if God is good, is based on knee-jerk reactions to human pain.  We demand that if we cannot stop evil and struggles, then God should! 

I’m coming from the premise that God is always good, no matter what. As a student of the Bible, the biblical statement* that God understands our troubles rings true to me. That does not mean I have all the answers. If that were possible, I would be equal to God, and he would cease to be sovereign.  

How we know Jesus understands when we hurt and cry.

Jesus endured the physical and emotional frustrations of celibacy and singleness. More than that, he understood what was in every person’s heart, so he entrusted himself to no one. He grieved over deaths of loved ones.  His heart stung when family members rejected his message and misunderstood his purpose.

Friends deserted him at the worst moment of his life. One in particular betrayed him to death! He suffered mental agony, knowing his enemies would torture and crucify him.  HIs greatest sorrow no doubt was on the cross, when he sensed that God, his father with whom he was one,  had turned his face away.   

Jesus could have envied others who did not suffer, but he did not. He focused on eternity.

Is God good when life seems unfair?

Asaph was a songwriter and musician. He was so talented that he answered directly to the King. His job was to lead the entire nation of Israel in worship of God at the ancient Temple in Israel.

One of his songs even made its way into the Bible. Psalm 73  is about his suffering and jealousy of those who did not struggle. Worse yet, these healthy and happy people lived with values Asaph could not respect.

He described them this way. “They wear pride like a jeweled necklace  and clothe themselves with cruelty.  These fat cats have everything  their hearts could ever wish for!.”**

Sound familiar? Dissatisfaction, frustration, and anger often come from expecting our version of fair.   

Sherry lost her childhood to abuse and neglect. As a Christian believer, she wondered why God had not protected her. Praying, she said, “God where were you when I cried?”  A gentle reassurance spoke to her heart. 

“I cried too.” 

Like many of us, Asaph and Sherry temporarily forgot God’s nature of Goodness.  He does not guarantee our joy but teaches us how to find it and live in it forever. 

  Focusing on permanence

Physical health, friendships, family, financial success, emotional well-being, and more seem to promise happiness in the present.  Some of us experience that, and many do not. No matter what we find, happiness (and pain) in this lifetime are temporary. 

One of Jesus’ followers 2000 years ago authored a book.  He encouraged his readers to place their priorities on eternity. He wrote, “Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal.” ***

Whenever disappointment and outright suffering come my way, it is this focus on eternity that keeps my eyes off self-pity and on hope. Difficulty teaches me how to get out of bed when life hurts. Strength gained through adversity is why purpose guides my choices despite even severe loss. 

Meet Paul

  • Unjustly imprisoned on several occasions
  • 5 times flogged with 39 lashes 
  • 3 times beaten with rods
  • pelted with rocks nearly to death
  • in 3 shipwrecks, one time spending about 24 hours in the open sea 
  • In constant danger
  • often went without sleep, food, or warmth

In my opinion, this qualifies him to speak on suffering and God! Paul was one of the first Christians in the first century A.D., and a traveling preacher. Remarkably, his focus was an eternal one. 

He wrote, “So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.” ****


We know God is good when our eyes are on the truth of who He is. 



NOTE:  I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness, abuse, and addiction. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental or behavioral health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help are yours.


*Hebrews 4:15 “For we do not have a high priest [Jesus] who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet he did not sin.”

**Psalm 73: 6-7

***Matthew 6:19-21

****2 Corinthians 4:18

-eye pic by KIMOLOS on;  glorious sky by MICROMOTH at


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