A few nights ago we experienced a rare Pacific Northwest house-shaking BOOM of thunder which led our daughters quickly out of their bedroom in search for comfort, and answers. Their mom and I reminisced about our developed fondness for thunderstorms growing up in Indiana and Florida, and comforted them with a satisfying scientific lesson and assurance of God’s sovereignty.
But, in the morning, our second oldest wanted MORE answers!
She said, “Dad, God makes the lightening that comes out of the sky and kills people. WHY WOULD HE DO THAT!?” I replied, “And, there, my lovely daughter, you have asked the number one question that keeps people away from God and struggling through life. Why do people suffer?”
Why do we suffer? My dad tells the story that one of his seminary professors in the 1960’s challenged his class to study the Scriptures to determine that very thing – why God allows suffering in the world. My dad, the young pastor, concluded from his study that Scripture identified five basic reasons why people suffer. He placed those five on a small piece of paper in his Bible as he visited people with some physical or emotional affliction. Over years of more study his small piece of paper grew into a detailed chart. He ultimately concluded that God’s Word gives 16 general reasons why people suffer in this world.
Dad’s journey was years. I want everyone to have this in their hands right now. So, I have put his chart below, and have attached a printable Word document here. It is not a simple question, but it is a vital question for us to answer; and, one which will lead to glories, faith, peace, assurance, and convictions of many kinds. Please consider these 16 reasons prayerfully, and research the Scriptures for yourselves.
Notice that there are some things God holds as more important than our comfortable circumstances – His glory, the fulfillment of His redemptive plan to eradicate evil, and our relationship with Him. By His grace He shares His glory with His children. In future glorification in heaven believers attain likeness to the glorified Christ and are freed from both physical and spiritual defect. We will never again experience bodily decay, death or illness, and will never again struggle with sin. We will see God as He is, face to face, and walk and reign and rule with Him forever.
What About Right Now?
Right now, in the face of your struggles today, the delight of knowing Him and being His brings joy, peace, satisfaction, and contentment in this life, in all circumstances. If you grasp these truths, you will experience routine praise. You will not be shocked at any bad thing. You will say to suffering, the lower you lay me the higher you raise me.
Or, you might waste it. In an article called “Don’t Waste Your Cancer,” John Piper and David Powlison identify several mistakes that can make us waste God’s plan in our suffering. I’m going to change the word “cancer” in these to “sufferings” because they apply to all. They write:
- You will waste your suffering if you do not believe it is designed for you by God.
- You will waste your suffering if you think that “beating” it means staying alive rather than cherishing Christ.
- You will waste your suffering if you grieve as those who have no hope.
- You will waste your suffering if you treat sin as casually as you did before.
- You will waste your suffering if you fail to use it as a means of witness to the truth and the glory of Christ.
Are You a Child of God?
But, it all starts with salvation from sin. Whether you are in a time of prosperity and comfort right now, or a time of suffering, pain, and disappointment, God says that we are all sinners and stand condemned without repentant trusting faith in Jesus Christ. But, Jesus suffered for our sins so that He may save us from our sins. So, don’t wait any longer. Repent of your sins and call on Him for salvation today. He will answer.
Considering the hardest parts of life, together, with patience and endurance, for God’s glory and our joy,
P.S. Volumes have been written and discussed on this subject, but in your searching for answers I would most recommend the resources on http://www.desiringgod.com under a search for “suffering.”