The Why Question: Finding Purpose for Pain

by | Apr 12, 2021 | what you can do

photo cred. Anh Nguyen on unsplash

Why did this happen to me? Why didn’t God protect my daughter from developing an addiction or mental health problems? Why weren’t my prayers answered? When will this end? What could be the purpose for my pain? Can any good come from my troubles? 

Parents of teens or adults who struggle understand. Their children struggle with issues like alcohol or drugs, mental illness, self-harm, same-sex desire or gender fluidity, pornography, and other heartbreaking problems. They’re asking hard questions. They want…no, they need answers.

I’m one of those parents who had an intense need for answers.

I asked troubling questions for years. Maybe you have too. People reassured me “purpose can come from pain and suffering”. I wanted to believe them, but there were days I was full of doubts because I couldn’t find any answers.

Are you taken aback by what appears to be a lack of God’s concern? Do you wonder if your suffering matters to Him? Doesn’t He care? Has He run out of power to help? I wondered too.

Our questions aren’t new. And as a result of wrestling with mine I finally found some answers and insights. I’d like to share them with you.

I believe our suffering is a direct result of what transpired in the beginning of human history when Adam and Eve chose to disobey God (Gen. 2:17). After that event, everything in the created world was broken, fallen. Later on, their firstborn son murdered their other son. Is there any wonder we’re surrounded by heartache? The world’s first parents invited sin and pain into the world, but God is not crippled by their mistake.

There is always purpose beyond the pain. Always.


photo cred. Zach Vessels on unsplash

In When God Doesn’t Make Sense, Dr. James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family and Family Talk, presented a profound and helpful response that I read when I grappled with these critical questions:

“God usually does not choose to answer those questions in this life…He will not parade His plans and purposes for our approval. We must never forget that He is God. As such He wants us to believe and trust in Him despite the things we don’t understand. It’s that straightforward.”

In another attempt to make sense of suffering Max Lucado wrote:

“Don’t blame suffering in the world on the anger of God. He’s not mad; he didn’t mess up. Follow our troubles to their headwaters and you won’t find an angry or befuddled God. But you will find a sovereign God…Your pain has a purpose. Your problems, struggles, heartaches, and hassles cooperate toward one end—the glory of God.” (It’s Not About Me)

And God Himself says,

“Trust me in your times of trouble, so I can rescue you

and you can give me glory” (Psalm 50:15 TLB).

Making sense out of our trials is challenging, especially when they involve our beloved children.

Sorry Jesus, but I’d rather make you look good some other way, one that doesn’t hurt so much. I’ll pass on the pain and take only the good, easy things, please. I’m not sure I want that kind of purpose. Can’t we make a deal? Work something else out? Come on!

Consider two examples from the Bible: A man born blind (John 9:1-3) and the death of Lazarus (John 11:1-44). Jesus said the sightless man’s disability was “so that the works of God might be displayed in him”. And Lazarus’ death was “so that the Son of God may be glorified” (v.4 NASB).

Lazarus got sick in order to shine a spotlight on God.

To shine. A spotlight. On. God.

Maybe your pain exists, at least in part, for His glory?


photo cred. pexels

Another possible reason for our heartache could be explained in this verse: “I will give you the treasures of darkness and hidden wealth of secret places” (Isaiah 45:3 NASB). God has hidden something special for us to find in our suffering: spiritual treasure. I’ve found many there, but Jesus is the greatest. Who or what is yours?

Please hold on to your faith and don’t walk away from God if you can’t find anything worthwhile in your dark times. Don’t give up because you can’t understand what’s happening or because the pain is too deep. Choose to keep trusting. Stay. He’s there and He cares even though you see no evidence of this truth.

When you can’t see Him or feel Him, persevere anyway. Persist in your faith and spiritual disciplines. Go to church, pray, don’t shut your bible in anger. Continue bringing yourself to this Living Text. He wants to meet your there. Keep putting yourself in situations and places where He can speak to you.

You can also find other nontraditional, creative ways to connect with your Maker. Being outside in nature is one way. Go to the beach or the mountains, a park, a lake, a river. Look at the clouds in the sky by day or the moon and stars by night. Take a walk. Ride a bike. Listen to beautiful, relaxing music while sitting in your backyard. Each of these can help you feel closer to the lover of your soul. We all have our unique preferences. I like to walk, especially on the beach, and look at the sky. Tom (my husband) likes the mountains and listening to smooth jazz.


photo cred. a life simplified

Dear perplexed parent, how have you seen God in your journey? Take a moment to reflect and remember. Can you recognize any treasures? Any gains or benefits for your soul? What has He taught you from your suffering? In time, as you heal and learn to surrender, something beautiful can transpire. Troubling why questions can turn into a different kind of question, including a what question: Why not me? and What do you want me to do with this?

In His wisdom and mercy God allows trials into our lives so that we can reflect Him in our struggles. Then others can be strengthened and encouraged through us.

In your pain you can:

  • Find new purpose.
  • Grow personally and gain a better understanding of yourself.
  • Grow closer to God.
  • Be strengthened in your faith and develop your character.
  • Learn to endure hardships.
  • Offer comfort to others.


Reflection: What purpose might God have in your pain? What treasures have you found?

Recommended books:

* You Are Not Alone by Dena Yohe (Today’s blog contains excerpts from chapter 12, The Why Question: Finding Purpose in the Pain.)

When God Doesn’t Make Sense, James Dobson

 It’s Not About Me by Max Lucado