It seems like the question of suffering has come up often in my life of late. We have a voracious desire to understand why horrendous events are so often intertwined with our lives. Why must we live in fear of earthquakes? Why do we feel the sting of life taken too early? Why are children robbed of their innocence? My list goes on and on as I am sure yours does as well.
When my heart is troubled with ponderings such as these, I ask and answer three questions.
- Why is there suffering in this world?
- What am I supposed to do with it?
- Will there always be suffering?
Why is the suffering in this world? Couldn’t God have made the world without all this pain? Without natural disasters? Without the repulsion of people being so wicked? You know the answer. He did. He did make it like that, and He loved every inch of it. If you need a refresher (and we all usually do!) I love the way Matt Papa explains this part of history in his poem, The Story of God:
Isn’t that beautiful? I just love it! So because of the fall, and therefore the current state of our world, there is bound to be pain, sorrow, remorse, regret, and troubles. Not because God wanted it that way, but because God allowed for us to choose to live that way for a time, knowing it would not last forever.
I must make a side point here to tell you one observation that is INCORRECT when it comes to reasons for suffering. God does not inflict suffering as a form of punishment. Again. God does NOT inflict suffering as a form of punishment. There are natural consequences for sin, of course. There are times when sin leads to suffering, simply because of it’s nature. If you are sleeping around and you get an STI, it is not God’s judgment or wrath upon your life, it is a natural consequence of your immoral choices. If you are driving (even the speed limit) and you get in an accident, it is NOT God punishing you for your sins, the sins of your children, or the sins of your parents. That is not how he works. You were in an accident because accidents happen. Cars are dangerous, and though God ALLOWED for the crash to occur, he did not make it happen to punish you. Teaching you something, yes? Punishing you, no.
How do I know this? Well, thankfully, we are slaves to a King who is NOT a punitive King. Absolutely all of God’s wrath, judgment, and punishment was taken by Christ on the cross. Do you think there are sins in your life that Christ did not pay for that YOU have to pay for? Was his death not enough to cover, forgive, and redeem parts of your life? Do not cheapen the work of Christ by entertaining that lie.
2.) So what are we supposed to do with this pain? First of all, don’t run from it. Don’t try and hide it, or ignore it, or cover it up with meaningless activity. Grieve. Cry. Be brokenhearted for a time. Be poor in spirit for a season. Even our Lord wept at the tomb of a close friend fully knowing that he would raise that very friend from the dead moments later. It is okay to morn. Scripture tells us time and time again that the Lord is near to the brokenhearted. Morn, but trust God. Do not miss possible intimacy with your creator and Savior because you don’t want to hurt. Also, know that in Christ, we have a great High Priest who understands and experienced suffering more than you and I ever have or ever will.
Second of all, learn from it. There are things in every circumstance and trial that God wants to teach us. He wants to reveal things to you. Journal. Pray. Take notes. Ask for wisdom-He is faithful to give it.
Thirdly, praise God in all things. Hard to say, even harder to do. But we need to. I can look back on some of my most difficult trials and hardships and say, “Oh wow. Thank you Lord. THAT is what you were doing. THERE is where you were working”. We don’t always get to see his fingerprints, his signature, or his motives this side of heaven and that is okay! His ways are not our ways, and His thoughts are not our thoughts. But often times He does allow us to see just a glimpse into why he is doing what he is doing. Take time today to try and find those times. Maybe sometime later I’ll post the examples from my life if you want to see what I mean!
3.) Will there always be suffering? For the believers in Christ, no! Take heart! Have hope! There is a time coming, my friends, and our LORD looks forward to it greatly, when He returns and redeems all things. He will make everything right, and just, and good once again. The strong desire you have to taste undisturbed joy and justice is not eternally insatiable, but accessible in time. When you feel angst because of the state of this present world-know those feelings are also felt by the Author of Time who longs to come and establish a world of perfect peace and harmony.