Why is there often so much suffering in death? Why do so many experience such suffering before death?
Many people suffer greatly before death. Why would God allow this to take place? In John 9:1-3, Jesus offered a response to partly address this issue: "As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, 'Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?' Jesus answered, 'It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.'" This man's suffering was not due to something he had done, but as part of God's ultimate plan for his life.
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But why does God's sovereign plan for a person's life include suffering? Several possibilities exist. First, pain is part of the curse of sin in a fallen world. Following the sin of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, sin and death entered humanity (Genesis 3:16-19).
Second, suffering sometimes comes as a result of the natural processes of human decay. While this does not explain why one person has more pain than another, it is clear that in the process of the human lifespan pain can occur when a person's life nears its end.
Third, suffering sometimes takes place as a consequence of the actions by the person or those around them. For example, the long-term impact of smoking can cause painful health problems years later. Even second-hand smoke can cause physical problems for non-smokers who live or spend significant time with those who smoke. In other cases, suffering due to one's actions is the result of sinful actions such as drunken driving or violence.
Fourth, God sometimes allows suffering as part of Christian maturity and witness. For example, the apostle Paul endured much suffering during his ministry (2 Corinthians 11:23-28). This was often not due to any fault of his own, but rather for living for Christ. In 2 Timothy 4:8 he shared, "Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing." On some occasions a person's suffering is used to bring others to faith in Christ or to strengthen one's own faith in a way only God understands.
The good news is that for the believer in Christ, suffering is only temporary. In eternity with the Lord, "He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away" (Revelation 21:4). Regardless of why suffering takes place in one's life, the believer can anticipate a future time when all pain is removed and perfect health is restored in the presence of the Lord.
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