Chapter 2: How could a good God allow suffering?

I finished reading Chapter 2 a few days ago but have not had time to sit and type out my thoughts.  My head cold has definitely slowed me down.  I have had it for a full week now and I am ready to get rid of it and be healthy.

It has not helped that our girls are back to screaming for hours on end in the middle of the night again.  We have had 5 nights in a row with a girl screaming for 2 + hours.  Ted has found a way to calm Quinn down so she does not cry that long any more; however, she still wakes up quite a few times each night.  We have yet to find a way to comfort Jenna.  Once she gets started, it is just miserable.  I have started asking everyone we know to pray again for Jenna and Quinn’s sleep issues.  I wish I knew what was causing them.. is it an attachment issue, adoption issue, medical issue, developmental issue, temperament issue?  I don’t know but I am really frustrated with the situation.

Moving on to the book…how could a good God allow suffering?  I think it is a question that everyone asks at some point in their life.  The answer may determine if you become or perhaps stay religious.

I don’t know if I was just naive or not, but I never seemed to question God too much.  I remember questioning man’s interpretation of God’s word like infant baptism, gay marriage but I don’t ever remember questioning God’s existence and why He would allow suffering.  That is until Peace Corps.  I was really lonely partly because I was really bad at the language which made it hard for me in my village where I lived.  And the few Peace Corps Volunteers that lived in villages close by seemed to be leaving (going home to the US) or our lifestyles were just different.  I lived in a small village with no electricity or running water.  I had just help nurse a malnourished baby who was struggling with non-stop diarrhea back to life with clean water and electrolytes – something that we take for granted in the US but often wasn’t available to the poor in this community.  A few weeks earlier a neighbor girl of 7 who had a congenital heart issue (a small hole in her heart) had died after a medical missions team had operated on her to close off the heart because they didn’t have enough blood donated to transfuse into her little body.  To top it all off, everywhere I looked there seemed to be sick flee-infested dogs everywhere starving for lack of food and abused by the people around them who they themselves were starving too.  I remember standing there…looking up to the sky and saying there is no way a God would allow this.  No way.  I don’t believe any more.


I remember crying a lot, I had lost a part of me that day; a part of me that helped me cope with issues, a part of me that gave me hope to get through things.  Things did not get better.  A lot of things happened to finish out my time as a Peace Corps Volunteer complete with having a gun pointed and shot at me.  Needless to say I came home pretty broken. I think a few of my college friends sensed it because they began trying to rebuild my faith by sending me Bible verses over an emergency beeper I had as a volunteer and came to visit me and call me as soon as I returned state-side.  I continued to question God, I could not imagine any reason why he would allow suffering like this to happen.

I know this won’t help everyone because frankly some people have gone through hell on earth and managed to survive but Keller states that, “Just because you can’t see or imagine a good reason why God might allow something to happen doesn’t mean there can’t be one.  With time and perspective most of us can see good reasons for at least some of the tragedy and pain that occurs in life.”

They say hindsight is 20/20 and I guess they might be right because looking back, I can see how God had His hand in the events.  Like if I had not been shot at, I would not have been rushed out of the country leaving my stuff and friends behind without a fairwell and I would not have had my exit medical exam state-side.  I tested positive for TB, no biggy really.  If I would have had my exam in the Dominican Republic, they would have given me TB meds and sent me on my merry little way.  Because I had my exam state-side, I was the first positive result with active symptoms that my small town clinic had ever seen.  So they rushed me off to a bigger city where they took more tests.  They found out I had a different infection on top of TB, one that causes brain and lung tumors and will kill you in 1 year.  The treatment for it is readily available, but only because they caught it so early.  I do still have permanent lung damage from the second bacterial infection.  I may potentially have permanent brain damage from it too.  Although I don’t think so.  (My family might answer differently.)  I feel like I am alive today because I was shot at.  How many people can say that?   In addition, I returned home to MN where I met my future husband.  Without Ted and the events that lead me to him, I wouldn’t have Luke and Ryan nor our two girls Quinn and Jenna. And at the time I remember questioning God, asking Him, “What the hell are you doing?”


Keller says “Success in life came to them through their most difficult and painful experiences” which allowed people to have an “irreplaceable season of personal and spiritual growth.”

Yeah it might really suck at the time.  Christianity can not always give us the reason behind why we have to go through what we do, but I do think it can give you the courage to face what you have to face, to give you strength and hope.  Why?  Because Jesus went though the same sufferings that we do.  Jesus spent all eternity with God only to be separated from Him at his greatest time of pain and need…..I wonder how many people would look at this and say that God has abandon them in their time of need.  Yet with our hindsight being 20/20, we can see that God didn’t abandon Jesus forever.  He was there.  It had to happen this way so that Jesus could experience the pain, despair, loneliness, rejection, firsthand…..

Keller states “God takes our misery and suffering so seriously that he was willing to take it on himself. “   I think I forget this sometimes.   So I may not be able to answer the grand question, “Why does God let pain and suffering occur?”  But I do know this, whatever the circumstances, God can take them and mold them and turn them into something that is truly beautiful.

Ni Hao Yall


About tochinaandbackagain

I am a stay at home mom to two very active boys and soon we will bring home two Chinese twin girls with cleft lip and palate issues. I spend my day trying to be the best parent and wife I can be with God leading the way.
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5 Responses to Chapter 2: How could a good God allow suffering?

  1. Doris says:

    Poignant! ….. and with that in mind, it presents another perspective to the sleepless nights with your little girls. This moment is full of questions, but some day you will look back on this as well.

  2. Elaine Gerber says:

    Thanks for sharing, Michele. Very encouraging truth.

  3. Stefanie says:

    Really incredible story, Michele. Amazing how God used you being shot at to keep you alive – only God!

  4. dalo2013 says:

    You have a great attitude with this, and while I feel a bit awkward trying to provide any perspective, there is a small story that may help. A friend from high school adopted a boy who had a birth defect from China, and the initial period of “getting to know each other” was difficult to say the least…but it bloomed into something beautiful. There is a small story about his trials and life that you may be interested in to gain a perspective from the child’s eye at a small age, it can be found on . Keep strong knowing that you are doing something so good for these kids.

  5. Pingback: God Answers Prayer | To China and Back Again

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