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Jared Wilson, in Gospel Deeps, writes that “while we may not be satisfied with what God has revealed about his purposes in suffering, we cannot justifiably say he has not revealed anything about his purposes in suffering. We may not have the answer we are laboring for, but we do have a wealth of answers that lie in the same field.”

Here’s an outline of ten reasons he identifies in God’s Word:

  1. To remind us that the world is broken and groans for redemption [Rom. 8:20-23].
  2. To do justice in response to Adam’s (and our) sin.
  3. To remind us of the severity of the impact of Adam’s (and our) sin.
  4. To keep us dependent on God [Heb. 12:6-7].
  5. So that we will long more for heaven and less for the world.
  6. To make us more like Christ, the suffering servant [Rom. 8:29; 2 Cor. 1:5, 4:11].
  7. To awaken the lost to their need for God [Ps. 119:67, 71].
  8. To make the bliss of heaven more sweet [Rom. 8:18; 1 Pet. 4:13; Ps. 126:5; Isa. 61:3].
  9. So that Christ will get the glory in being our strength [John 9:3; 2 Cor. 4:7].
  10. And so that, thereby, others see that he is our treasure, and not ourselves [2 Cor. 4:8-9].

See Jared C. Wilson, Gospel Deeps: Reveling in the Excellencies of Jesus (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2012), pp. 114-120 for an elaboration of each point.

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35 thoughts on “10 Reasons Why God Allows Suffering”

  1. Christopher de Vidal says:

    11. That God may suffer and through it be glorified [Rev 5:12].

  2. Mike Hyatt says:

    Good point on Rev. 5:12 Christopher. I haven’t read the book but is there Scriptural proof given for #2, 3 and 5? Good stuff…helpful!

    1. Waldemar says:

      Hey Mike! I haven’t read the book, too.
      But here are my thoughts:
      #2 – Gen 6:13; Job 4:8
      #3 – Gen 3:16
      #5 – Acts 5:1-11

  3. Scott says:

    Is there some sort of rule that every book title has to use gospel as an adjective? Gospel Deeps?!? That makes absolutely no sense at all.

    1. John says:

      yup. these days if it’s is about the good news, it’s gonna be a good sell.

    2. Scott,

      “Is there some sort of rule that every book title has to use gospel as an adjective?”


      “Gospel Deeps?!? That makes absolutely no sense at all.”

      If you read the book, I think you’ll find it makes a lot of beautiful sense, actually.

      Blessings in Christ,

      1. Scott says:

        Sorry guys. I’m not trying to be critical, but I still think it’s gone way too far. I’m not against books being about the gospel, not by any means. God deals with suffering through our Lord Christ. But we’re making “the gospel” out to be some kind of thing unto itself. We’re using the adjective way, way too much and in absurdly corny contexts – it’s become kitsch, a marketing gimmick.

        1. Justin Taylor says:

          I’d read the book or at least Jared’s explanation before publicly accusing a minister and a Christian publisher of playing marketing gimmicks with the gospel.

          1. Scott says:

            Let’s be clear: I am NOT accusing Jared of playing marketing gimmicks. I AM bothered by the trend, particularly of the title. I am sure it ‘s an absolutely wonderful book – he’s a terrific writer and wonderful communicator. That’s my fear, that the saturation of “gospel” as an adjective starts to obscure the finer intricacies of the message.


            No need to overreact. But I do think this is an issue with publishers and conference organizers. And I do think they’re overusing the word, and as a result, it’s becoming kitsch.

            1. Justin Taylor says:

              Ok, you tell me that you’re “NOT accusing Jared of playing marketing gimmicks” and yet you write that “We’re using the adjective way, way too much and in absurdly corny contexts – it’s become kitsch, a marketing gimmick.”

              By the way, the title comes from the English Puritan Thomas Goodwin (1600-1680) who wrote that “the things of the gospel” are “the deep things of God.”

              1. Scott says:

                Well if the Puritans used it, then I guess that settles it…..

                Ok, let’s grant that Jared was trying to capture the essence of what the Puritans. I still think it’s silly. Call it “The Deep Things of God.” Maybe accentuate the essence of the book, ala “God in Suffering.” I don’t know. But the title as it is just doesn’t make sense.

            2. MarkO says:

              Scott, may be this will help:
              Ephesians 1:7-19
              18 ἵνα ἐξισχύσητε καταλαβέσθαι σὺν πᾶσιν τοῖς ἁγίοις τί τὸ πλάτος καὶ μῆκος καὶ ὕψος καὶ βάθος,

        2. dean says:

          I think I get what you are saying, I guess the idea of making a title brief, catchy, different or interesting is not going to appeal to all (which isnt necessarily marketing)

          The fact that the title may be obscure to some may be what ignites interest in the first place…either way, you know what the old saying is…you cant judge a book by it’s cover, which i guess means the title too…

          Deeps is not a usual description, I will give you that. The more we create & produce the more the challenge will be apart from adding 1, 2 or 3 like they do with movie titles at times.

  4. Dave Moore says:

    12. Like Job, we may not know this side of the grave. Perhaps some of us serve as God-ordained examples to the heavenly realm. I lean toward the possibility that Job is not unique in this.

  5. Aaron says:

    Sometimes we need to be careful explaining “why” people suffer. We may not know for sure WHY a particular person is suffering at that exact moment. Yet, we can say 100% WHO suffered for us all. The one we turn to in suffering has suffered for us.

  6. Jay says:

    That list seems to make God come across as a diva. But that is my take and probably part of the reason I do not care for literalist Christianity.

    1. Dave H. says:

      Jay: So what’s your alternative, “non-literalist Christianity”? And if so, how would that view deal with God’s allowance of suffering?

    2. MarkO says:

      Jay, our tendency to think of God as “a diva” might be one reason why God introduces suffering into our accusatory mindsets. Funny how at certain moments in life we need God so we ask Him to come close and at other times when He does come close we accuse Him of “butting in” (or acting like a diva).

      btw – do you believe Jesus was a literal person?

  7. AStev says:

    Before I became a Calvinist, I had a difficult time with the so-called “problem of pain”. The best I had to go on was Norm Geisler’s (weak sauce) explanation.

    After I became a Calvinist, the “problem” of pain turned out to be a lot easier to understand. Turns out the “problem” was my mistaken notion of God and his motives.

  8. ljhooge says:

    Imo, we will have free will in heaven. Afterall, it’s what gives meaning to our actions (e.g., praise – i.e., ‘the praise comes from me’ rather than the robotic obeying of commands). Unfortunately, free will means at least the possibility of choosing wrong in heaven. The reason I think we will not choose wrong in heaven is two-fold. One, positive reinforcements: i.e., heaven will be a wonderful place (e.g., experiencing God directly; being with Christ, the Holy Spirit dwelling within us, ‘no more tears’, etc), and Two, we will have benefited from the experience of evil in our current , earthly lives. In other words we will have experienced what life is like without God – or at least without the nearness of God (heaven). This experience of life on earth will, I think, benefit us greatly. It’s not only the good, but the bad that will teach us. It’s not only the positive reinforcements, but the negative. History will teach us. Even evil. … It’s something that perhaps the angels in heaven didn’t have when they fell??? Hmmm. Evil in this life may play a crucial and perhaps NECESSARY (I would argue) role in securing an eternal life with free will in a future world. … Ironically, and hypothetically, the more evil – the more experience of it, the more rejection of it as an option. At least in a future, good world.

    I think this suggestion may also go a ways in explaining ‘God’s hiddenness’. We are learning.


  9. rc sproul jr says:

    Speaking of beefs with titles, what is this about God “allowing” suffering? Does suffering show up at my door, knock, and God determines to allow it to come in, or does God send it Himself? To speak of God “allowing” anything is to suggest that God is not the author of history, but its censor. The deep gospel (and gospel deep ;-)) truth is that God does not allow suffering, but ordains it, sends it, uses it, decrees it. For which we ought to give thanks. That said, given this fine piece with the not so fine title, I trust it is a fine book with a fine title.

    1. steve hays says:

      God can both allow and ordain suffering. To “allow” something assumes the ability to prevent it. You allow what’s within your power to prevent.

      Well, a predestinarian God is certainly in a position to prevent suffering. He prevents it by not decreeing it to occur in the first place. So there’s nothing inherently inconsistent about saying God “allows” suffering, even on predestinarian assumptions.

      1. rc sproul jr says:

        Fair enough Steve. But suffering does not come and knock on history’s door, and God determines whether or not to let it in. He ordains it from the end. Yes, one could certainly say God allows what He ordains, determines, decrees, but it’s rather a weaker way and adds nothing to the fuller terms.

        1. steve hays says:

          But isn’t that a straw man in reference to Jared’s book? Aren’t you attacking a position he never took?

          1. rc sproul jr says:

            Not attacking a position at all. Making an observation about a less than ideal title (the post, not the book) by a friend. I think “allowing” isn’t the best word choice. But I’m not attacking anything or anybody. Just nice, calm peaceful me.

            1. Justin Taylor says:

              R.C., I have been praying for you and your family. I am so, so sorry for your loss.

              It does seem to me that there is good precedence, from Edwards to Sproul [Sr] for using this language:


              1. rc sproul jr says:

                Thank you Justin for your prayers; they are appreciated. Yes indeed I have certainly heard my esteemed father use this kind of language, and likely read Edwards do that same. With the former, it has been my habit to ask him the same question I asked you. So please don’t take my question as an implicit suggestion that you are now outside the Reformed camp. I’m just puzzled over how my Reformed brothers can talk this way. Hope that helps.

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  11. Joshua says:

    And we must not forget the most obvious reason: without suffering how could we grow. Even God himself “learned obedience from the things that he suffered.”

    Suffering brings us back to God with the right heart. Experience is needed for this, and suffering and blessings, both joy and sadness, are all part of experience.

    Thanks for this post!

    Learn more at

  12. Waldemar says:

    Hey Folks! You will find a german translation of the 10 reasons here:
    Be blessed.

  13. Britt Treece says:


    Great posts. I always get so much out of so many of them, and I ought to write on those more. This one’s great, and maybe people have already commented on this, but I wonder why the title says “allows” instead of “ordains.” All of the points signal the second meaning.


    Britt Treece

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Justin Taylor, PhD

Justin Taylor is executive vice president of book publishing and book publisher for Crossway and blogs at Between Two Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter.

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