Even understanding that foundational health is vital to recovery, our hearts still cry:
Why does God allow pain at all?
Remember the Johnson & Johnson Human Performance Institute categories:
1. Normal stress: regular, expected, routine
2. Training stress: an intentional deviation from normal stress through moderate and planned challenges to fuel growth and build a higher capacity to handle more stress
3. Excessive stress: unintentional deviation from normal stress. Untreated, it can result in serious conditions like anxiety, insomnia, muscle pain, high blood pressure, and a weakened immune system.
Using these distinctions, the massive question of why God allows pain instead becomes a few distinct questions: Why does God allow normal stress? Why does God allow training stress? Why does God allow excessive stress? These are vastly different questions, requiring vastly different answers.
When thinking of excessive stress in scripture, Job immediately comes to mind. Throughout we see minds struggling to comprehend why God allowed tragedy to strike His servant – certainly, the magnitude of loss Job suffered in a single day counts as excessive stress.
The responses of his friends are no help. Repeatedly Eliphaz tells Job his predicament is his own fault; this horrendous, overwhelming pain is just training stress, God trying to make Job holy. (Job 4-5, 15) Repeatedly Bildad and Zophar tell Job he and his children deserved their fate; it is a punishment from God. (Job 8, 11, 18, 20) But when God shows up, what does He say?
God does not answer with an explanation of what enduring excessive stress will produce in Job’s life, or righteous reasons for using excessive stress as punishment. He would not, because they are not the reasons Job suffered excessive stress.
Instead, He takes Job on a tour of creation, of His almighty omnipotence. Even as Job cries out for an opportunity to speak directly to God, to plead his case, be forgiven, and restored to right relationship, God responds with the awesome reality of Himself. With the lens of the resurrection we see how this is a complete answer to Job’s cries – through Christ’s sacrifice our guilt is covered (Job 14:14-17). So excessive stress has nothing to do with producing character growth or punishment for sins – if it did, there would be no purpose to the resurrection.
So why then do we suffer excessive stress if it is not there to grow us?
God ordained humanity to be His caretakers on Earth, giving us authority over the natural world. And, as we are also residents of the natural world, we impact one another. Authority over the natural world, however, does not mean complete control over it. Our actions may impact the natural world, but no technology yet invented can make a hurricane less devastating. Excessive stress usually stems from one of those two sources – our vulnerability encountering the greed, selfishness, or callousness of another human being, or our vulnerability encountering natural forces we cannot change or control.
Ideally, you may develop wisdom, strength, persistence, or other admirable character traits as you recover from excessive stress – but those are a byproduct of the depth of your healing process, not of the suffering. Many survive trauma and emerge bitter or angry because while they endured the suffering, they did not heal from it – they are still hungry trees.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for (the Lord’s) righteousness, for they will be filled.”
(Matt. 5:6 NIV)
6701 Alongside Lane, Richland, MI 49083-0587