Why Does God Allow Pain and Suffering?
--Pastor Jamey Nichols
I’m continuing a series of articles on the topic Is God All Powerful? This month addresses the existence of pain. I’d like to approach this topic with a story after which you will probably be able to answer the title question entirely on your own. The details of the story came a handful of years ago from an NBC affiliate in Minneapolis, MN. A current report on the status of the situation can be seen on this YouTube video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SdK3rPDHnE8
Gabby Gingras, like any child, has taken her share of slips and falls. The thing is, her reaction to every injury is predictably similar — at least for her and her family. No matter how hard Gabby hits the ground, she will never shed a single tear. Why? Gabby Gingras feels no pain.
"She fell down the stairs . . . in the garage," her dad says. "She just picked herself up and started climbing up the stairs again like nothing had happened."
Gabby was born with a genetic defect called "Hereditary Sensory and Autonomic Neuropathy Type-5.” The diagnosis is so rare her doctors know of only a few other cases in the world.
"Oh, she was the sweetest little baby," Trish recalls. But something didn't seem right when their little baby kept scratching her face. Things got worse when Gabby started teething. "She (was) severely gnawing on her hands, when the teeth come through even a little bit — biting, biting, biting, so they looked like raw hamburger." On top of that, Gabby chewed up her mouth and tongue so badly she had to be hospitalized. Eventually, an oral surgeon was called in to remove the remainder of her teeth.
Stephen Smith of Gillette Children's Specialty Healthcare made the diagnosis. "Little tiny nerve fibers, the smallest of the nerve fibers - that are supposed to record pain, send that signal to the brain, so you can interpret what it is. Those fibers are not working," Smith says. "Pain is the protective mechanism, and she doesn't have that."
Gabby didn't have pain to save her eyes either. She scratched them so severely that for a short time doctors sewed them shut to keep her fingers out. But, the damage was already done. Her left eye had to be removed and replaced with a prosthesis. Today, as a 10-year old, she attends public school despite being legally blind in her good eye.. "There are days where you look at pictures and you see those bright eyes ... and you wish you knew then what you know now.”
The Gingras family has had to learn to consider Gabby’s safety in every conceivable situation. For example, Gabby broke her jaw a few years ago, and no one knew it for more than a month. As a toddler, she snuck out of bed, stood in front of a hot steam humidifier and suffered second-degree burns. "She never felt the pain of the burn," Trish says.
Is there hope for Gabby? Not medically. There is no cure for her disease. For the rest of her life her parents and doctors must continuously analyze her condition since she lacks the benefit of pain.
So often the rest of us think of pain only in a negative way. We think of it as something that MUST be eliminated. Are you jealous of Gabby’s pain free life? Would you ever wish it for yourself or your loved ones? Now tie such sensibility to the Christian faith: Do you think the work of Jesus on the cross would have been “better” if it could have unfolded with a pain-free scourging or crucifixion? Dear Christian, God majors in suffering! And, there is no logic in concluding that because suffering exists a merciful God cannot. Perhaps He has good reasons for suffering. Perhaps Gabby’s story is part of the answer. Always remember, God has answered the problem of human suffering with pain of His own. Our healing is found in Christ’s wounds. Our life is found in His death. His death is a guarantee of our resurrection. These are the most precious paradoxes the world has ever known, and the power of God is their basis. Were it not for His grand and glorious displays of power, human suffering would, in fact, be utterly meaningless—just as it must be for those who cannot stomach God’s existence.