You can find sickness, sorrow, and suffering in all walks of life. It s everywhere you look. This very moment you can probably think of someone very close to you who is suffering greatly, and it just doesn t seem fair. Why does God who by the scriptures, both the old and the new testament is omnipotent, omniscient and perfect, allows it to happen?
Does God even care? Has he lost control? If he is so good and powerful, then why doesn t He put an end to all suffering and pain? Life can be hard to understand. We may even wonder if we will ever fully comprehend why bad things happen to good people and good things happen to bad people. The answer often seem to be elusive, hidden, out of reach. But God has given us some clues. In the following pages, although we may not be able to know why one person get singled out for a disease, we will show you some of the reasons God who is all good and Powerful allows suffering.
Imagine a world without pain. What would it be like? At first the idea may sound appealing. No more Headaches, no more upset stomachs, no more throbbing sensations when the hammer misses the mark and lands on your thumb, no more sore throats, but there would also be no more sensation to alert you of a broken bone, the sick wouldn t go to a doctor, worn out bodies would get no rest, criminals wouldn t fear the law, no alarm to let you know that an ulcer is eating a hole in your stomach.
Athletic coaches like to use the phrase No pain no Gain . As a High school soccer star, I heard coaches remind us again and again that the tough practice sessions would pay off when we began to compete. They were right. We didn t always win, but our hard work did produce obvious benefits. Like a Baha I writings says :
Those who suffer most, attain to the greatest perfection.
Men who suffer not, attain no perfection. The plant most pruned by the gardeners is that one which, when the summer comes, will have the most beautiful blossoms and the most abundant fruit (2)
The apostle James wrote about how we should rejoice in the end result of our troubles. He said, My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have it s perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing (1:2-4).
We can see from this passage how the good and praiseworthy products of suffering are patient perseverance, maturity of character, and hope. God can use the hardships of life to shape us to be more mature in the faith.
The greatest sermons I have ever heard were not preached from pulpits but from sickbeds. The greatest, deepest truths of god s word have often been revealed not by those who preached as a result of their seminary preparation and education, but by those humble souls who have gone through the seminary of affliction and have learned experientially the deep things of the ways of God.
The most cheerful people I have met, with few exceptions, have been those who had the least sunshine and the most pain and suffering in their lives. The most grateful people I have met were not those who traveled a pathway of roses all their lives through, but those who were confined, because of circumstances, to their homes, often to their beds, and had learned to depend upon God as only such Christians know how to do. The gripers are usually, I have observed, those who enjoy excellent health. The complainers are those who have the least to complain about, and those dear saints of God who have refreshed my heart again and again as they preached from sickbed-pulpits have been the men and women who have been the most cheerful and the most grateful for the blessings of almighty God. (3)
How have you responded to the difficulties of life? Have you become bitter or better? Have you grown in your faith or turned away from God? Have you become more Christlike in your character? Have you let it shape you and conform you to the image of God’s Son? As the sovereign Lord of the universe, God is using all of life to develop our maturity and Christlikeness, and to further His eternal plan. In order to accomplish those purposes, however, God wants to use us to help others, and He wants other people to help us.
Pain and suffering seem to have a special ability to show us how much we need each other. Our struggles remind us how fragile we really are. Even the weakness of others can bolster us when our own strength is sapped.
This truth becomes very real to me each time I meet with a small group friends. During those regular times together, we have shared one another’s burdens for a sick friend, School tension, depression, bad grades, crimes. Tough decisions, love and money needs, everyday stresses, and much more. Many times at the end of those meetings I have praised the Lord for the encouragement that we have given to one another. We have been drawn closer and we have been strengthened as we have faced the struggles of life together. It’s clear that God made us to be dependent on one another. We have much to offer those in pain, and others have much to offer us as we endure troubles. As we develop that unity, we will experience greater comfort when we recognize that God uses suffering to alert us to the problems of sin, He uses problems to make us more like Christ, and He can even use difficulty to direct us to him. When a person turns away from God, suffering often gets the blame. But strangely, suffering also gets the credit when people describe what redirected their lives, helped them to see life more clearly, and caused their relationship with God to grow closer. How can similar circumstances have such radically different effects on people? The reasons lie deep within the people, not the events.
The most famous sufferer of all time was a man named Job. Job lost his family to a mighty wind , his wealth to war and fire, and his health to painful boils. Through it all, God never told Job why it was happening. As Job endured the accusations of his friends, heaven remained silent. When God finally did speak, he did not reveal that his archenemy Satan had challenged Job s motives for serving God. Neither did the Lord apologize for allowing Satan to test Job s devotion to God. Instead, God talked about mountain goats giving birth, young lions on the hunt, and ravens in the nest. He cited the behavior of the ostrich, the strength of the ox, and the stride of the horse. He cited the wonders of the heavens, the marvels of the sea, and the cycle of the seasons. Job was left to conclude that if God had the power and wisdom to create this physical universe, there was reason to trust that same God in times of suffering.
His Faith was so big that at the end, Job learned that even though he didn t understand what God was up to, he had plenty of reason to believe that God was not being unjust, cruel, sadistic, or unfair by allowing his life to be ripped apart.(Job 42)
Whatever crosses God may send her he will always send her the graces to cope with them (5).
Suffering has a way of showing how weak our own resources really are. It forces us to rethink priorities, values, goals, dreams, pleasures, the source of real strength, and our relationships with people and with God. It has a way of directing our attention to spiritual realities if we don t turn from God instead.
Suffering forces us to evaluate the direction of our lives. We can choose to despair by focusing on our present problems, or we can choose to hope by recognizing God s long-range plan for us. We need to take time to look at one more example, perhaps the most significant illustration we could consider. The day that Christ hung on the cross is now referred to as Good Friday. At the time, it was anything but a good day. It was a day of intense suffering, darkness, and gloom. It was a day when Jesus felt all alone. It was a day when God seemed absent and silent, when evil seemed to triumph, and hopes were dashed. But then came Sunday. Jesus rose from the grave. That awesome event put Friday in a different light. The resurrection gave a whole new meaning to what happened on the cross. Instead of being a time of defeat, it became a day of triumph.
We too can look ahead. We can endure our dark Fridays and be able to look on them as good because we serve the God of Sunday.
So when troubles strike, and they will, remember this: God uses such situations to direct us to Him and to the long-range view of life. He calls for us to trust, to hope, to wait.
As we said before, God has given us some clues. And from the brief analysis that we made, we can conclude that our good and powerful God allows pain and suffering in our world to Alert us to the problem of sin, to direct us to respond to him in faith and hope, to shape us to be more like him and to unite us so that we will help each other.
Style Sheet- DPL
(1) Integrityonline, Smith R., God Wouldn t allow suffering
(2) Leaflets W, The meaning of Suffering
(3) DeHaan Martin R., Broken Things
(Discovery House Publishers, Sep 1988)
(4) Father Testa J.A., The Meaning of Suffering
(5) Father Testa J.A., The Meaning of Suffering