With all my recent chatter about contentment, it seems wise to tiptoe up to that bloated, hateful beast called suffering.
Because I can hear you saying, “Oh yes following Jesus is all hearts and rainbows for you, but I have cancer, or the bank just repossessed my house or my country is beset by civil war. I mean, would a good God really allow all this suffering?”
First of all, I am so sorry. I am. Suffering sucks. However, the question of suffering has vexed religious scholars forever, so my answer to why God allows it is:
I DON’T KNOW.
But I’ve got a few hunches gleaned from The Bible and some bathroom mirror posts to help you through it. If you don’t happen to be suffering right now, read on anyway. It’s good to be prepared.
1. The Bible says the world’s rent is paid by the father of sin and death, and he roams like a lion seeking people to destroy. A lot of people are following that lion, by choice or default, therefore we ought to expect destruction. Why doesn’t God step in? He did. He sent Jesus who demonstrated how we are to live here – forgive your enemies, take care of the poor, love and obey God – then he died for our inability to do it.
2. There is an epic misunderstanding about the price of following Christ. Jesus told his disciples it would cost them everything, but it would be worth it. I don’t know who started the Christianity = hearts and rainbows rumor, maybe that’s just American zeitgeist, but take a note from the Apostle Paul.
I’ve worked much harder, been jailed more often, beaten up more times than I can count, and at death’s door time after time. I’ve been flogged five times with the Jews’ thirty-nine lashes, beaten by Roman rods three times, pummeled with rocks once…I’ve been at risk in the city, at risk in the country, endangered by the desert sun and sea storm, and betrayed by those I thought were my brothers…And that’s not the half of it. II Corinthians 11:23-27 MSG
Paul suffered mightily but he believed Jesus won, so he could handle it. I believe the same thing so, when the lion attacks me, I can appropriate this promise in Psalm 91.
He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall remain stable and fixed under the shadow of the Almighty (Whose power no foe can withstand). I will say of the Lord, He is my Refuge and my Fortress, my God; on Him I lean and rely on and in Him I (confidently) trust.
3. Sometimes God doesn’t remove our suffering because he’s using it to make us stronger and more compassionate. We know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, Paul said in Romans 5:3-5. So while we’re groaning under the weight of that process, here’s another for the mirror.
…be satisfied with your present; for He (God) Himself has said, he will not in any way fail you, nor give you up, nor leave you without support. I will not, I will not, I will not in any degree leave you helpless nor forsake nor let you down. Hebrews 13:5
I struggled hard with that scripture because for many people, like women and children sold into sexual slavery, it seems patently untrue. But faith only works if you know God’s word and trust it. So when I posted Hebrews 13:5 and read it every day, I began seeing evidence of it in places I had overlooked. That made me trust it more. The more I trusted it, the more active I became in fighting those ____fill in the blank____ who buy and sell helpless women. I only cared about that theoretically before. Now, it inflames me so much I financially support those on the front lines; and from time to time my unholy, potty mouth runs away with me – sorry.
Do you see? God works through people who trust Him with their own lives first – especially in the suffering.
We are assured and know that all things work together and are (fitting into a plan) for good to and for those who love God and are called according to His design and purpose. Romans 8:28.
You are not alone. Hang in there.
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