A common argument I hear against Christianity (and a common complaint from Christians) is “if God really loves me, why would he let me hurt? Why would he have let my parents divorce? My grandma die?”

Or more generally: “If God loves us, why do we have cancer? War? Sickness? Death?”

Each of these is their own question and has their own answer. They can be condensed into one basic question, though: “If God loves us, why is there pain?”

The short answer: pain tells us that something is wrong.

The longer answer: When Jesus was asked why he “bothered” spending time with sinners and especially, ugh, tax collectors, “Jesus answered them, ‘Those who are well don’t need a physician, but those who are sick do’” (Luke 5:31 NET). But if a person is sick, how do they know unless there are symptoms? A person is dehydrated or has a lack of sleep and they get a headache. A person who has skipped meals gets a stomachache. A person who got bit by a spider gets a nasty itch on the spot where they were bitten.

Take, for instance, the brown recluse spider. They have a venom that can kill red blood cells and sometimes even general tissue, leading to gangrene when untreated. Now imagine a person with absolutely no feeling in their legs. Perhaps they are paralyzed from the waist down and are confined to a wheelchair. There is a pair of pants lying on their bedroom floor that haven’t been touched in a long time, but this person wants to wear them today. Unbeknownst to them, there is a brown recluse spider in the pants and, when our paraplegic receives assistance with putting these pants on, the spider gets trapped between the pants and the leg.

So the spider, feeling threatened, bites the leg. The paraplegic doesn’t even notice the bite. How could they? They feel no pain. They don’t even feel a slight prick from the bite.

Over the course of the day, a normal person would feel a mild burning sensation that would intensify over the following hours. The skin blisters and fills with fluid. There might be a rash and flu-like symptoms (now I know that they would notice the flu-like symptoms, but let us continue as though they do not see the bite on the leg or think they have more than a minor flu and that this is part of the subset of bites that gets worse). Our paraplegic is home for the weekend and is wearing sweats all weekend, not taking them off for the sake of laziness. So, the spider bite now has two days and four nights (Friday night to Monday morning) to get worse. It does, slowly rotting the tissue around the bite, leaving our paraplegic open to serious infection. Finally they begin to notice that something is wrong, but too late. The infection takes hold before they can get medical attention and they die. The end.

TL;DR: A person couldn’t feel pain and died.

Okay, so my example is a little far-fetched. It would have been sufficient to say that there was a bite and it got worse than it needed to because there was no pain. But hey, if I’m gonna make a story, might as well go all the way.

Anyhow, the point is this: symptoms point to an underlying problem. Too many doctors nowadays prescribe medication to deal with the symptoms without doing anything to address the underlying problem that’s causing them. If your roof is leaking, the bucket catching the leak is a temporary solution until you fix the underlying problem: the leak. A sickness does not get better until the bacteria is killed, regardless of how you treat the symptoms. So these things - sickness, war, pain - they point to an underlying problem. Why do people hurt each other? Sin. They care more for themselves than other people, ignoring the rule “love your neighbor as yourself”. Something is wrong with humanity, and it is that we have forgotten where we came from, why we are here. We forget how to love our neighbors and instead we go to war with them. Someone forgot how to love us and they hurt us somehow. Sickness comes from our sin literally polluting the world around us (though that is a discussion for another time).

So to answer the question again, God allows pain because pain tells us that something is wrong: Sin has entered the world and everyone has sinned (Romans 3:23). Sin is the essence of what is wrong and the bad things that happen are the symptoms from it. If we don’t know that something is wrong, how are we going to fix it?

(So why does God allow sin? See the next post)

There is hope. Just like we go to a doctor when we experience symptoms of illness, we have a Physician who is able to heal us. Though the process takes time, with a little patience and a little trust you will find the symptoms fading in your own life. They will not go away fully - not in this life. But in the next one they will be completely gone. Trust in Jesus, take the medication of his death on the cross. It’s no sugar pill - it’s the real deal.