Over the years, I have come to the realisation that a lot of unbelievers and even believers including myself at some point do not agree that a God that claims to be good and loving can allow so much suffering to happen in the world. Especially when “innocent” or “good” people or children suffer, my question is what do we measure these things by ? what are we basing it on exactly ? what makes a person so good that they do not deserve to suffer and does that then mean that there are other people who especially deserve to suffer ? Earlier on i used the word claim as one can assume that there is an unbelief in the hearts of people about the goodness of God or that he is loving or even that he is powerful.
A lot of times I have heard people ask questions such as “why do bad things happen to good people” “why doesn’t God stop bad things from happening if He is so powerful ” and the list could really go on and on and I am hoping you catch my drift. Although I accepted that suffering was a part of life, I didn’t understand it and so I made a vow that I would never have any children so that they would avoid suffering.
Looking into the sovereignty of God, Job 36 :26 says “behold, God is great, and we know him not, the number of his years is unsearchable ” now although the Bible allows us to have some knowledge of who God is, we will simply never be able to know him completely. Another scripture that supports that is Ecclesiastes 3:11 – “He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end”. These verses help me to understand that God has limited our abilities to understand all of life in a way and he has every right in doing so. I believe everything that he does and requires us to do is for our own benefit and we should be grateful for this.
Ecclesiastes 7:14 – “in the day of prosperity be joyful, and in the day of adversity consider : God has made the one as well as the other, so that man ay not find out anything that will be after him”. The NIV version reads : “when times are good, be happy but when times are bad, consider this : God has made the one as well as the other. Therefore, no one can discover anything about their future”. To break it down further, the NLT version reads ” enjoy prosperity while you can, but when hard times strike, realise that both came from God. Remember that nothing is certain in this life”. We cannot only expect to have happy moments in life and not experience any kind of suffering, this isn’t what being a follower of Christ is about. The Bible tells us that God Almighty has produced both of these things and we must learn to accept and embrace them. As God speaks to us in many different ways, we must make sure that we are paying attention to what he is communicating with us as we go through different things during the course of our lives.
Mathew 16:21 – 28 – Jesus told his disciples about the suffering that he was going to experience at the hand of the elders, chief priests and scribes and that then he would be killed. Vs 22 : “Peter took Jesus aside and begun to rebuke him, saying “for be it from you, Lord ! This shall never happen to you” But he turned and said to Peter, Get behind me, satan ! you are a hindrance to me. For you, are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man” A few things that scream out to me from these verses 21;23 are that: 1) We must be in a constant place of remembering that as followers of Christ, we must be ready to go through suffering. Accepting it alone however isn’t enough, we also need check our attitudes towards it, are we going to moan and groan about it or are we going to prepare ourselves gladly thereby giving God the glory ? 2) We must be careful of people who try and persuade us that as Christians, we shouldn’t be go through hard times or that God wouldn’t want his children to suffer as we see Peter trying to do. When in fact, it is part of God’s plan that suffering must take place and lets just imagine for one second that Jesus didn’t suffer and die for our sins, imagine if he hid away or complained through the whole process … 3) When we seek to avoid suffering or fall to understand why we must go through it, then we are setting our minds on the things of man instead of the things of God, are children of God or children of the world ? Do we love and desire the things of the world more than we do the things of God ? NLT may help us to understand vs 23 better , it reads – “Jesus turned to Peter and said, “Get away from me, satan , you are a dangerous trap to me. You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from Gods “. We must pray that God will open our eyes so that we see things as he wants us to and not the way we would rather see and understand them.
John 9:1-41 tells the story of how Jesus heals a man who was blind from birth and his disciples asked him “Rabbi who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind. Jesus answered, “it was not that this man sinned, or his parents but the words of God might be displayed in him” We mustn’t always think that when people suffer that it is because of sin when in fact most times, our suffering is to bring glory to God. Whenever we find ourselves going through one thing or another, we must ask God for clarity and strength so that we can have a better outlook as to why certain things may be happening to us at that time.
1 Thessalonians 3:1-8 “Therefore when we could bear it no longer, we were willing to be left behind Athens alone, and we sent Timothy, our brother and God’s coworker in the gospel of Christ, to establish and exhort you in your faith, that no one be moved by these afflictions. For you yourselves know that we are destined for this” James 1:2-4 says “count it all joy, my brothers , when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness” Romans 5:3-5 ” Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance and endurance produces character, and character produces hope and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” I hope that these verses will encourage you and help you to understand a bit more as to why suffering must happen and the advantages of it.
Although suffering is a part of being followers of Christ and we are to expect it, we are not required to enjoy it and we see this in Luke. Luke 22:41-42 says “And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, saying, Father if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done”. This goes to show that Jesus did not enjoy the pain he was going through however he was willing to carry on in his pain as long as it was part of God’s will.
As brothers and sisters in Christ, I believe it is very important that we look for ways in which we can serve one another especially the people who are really going through a difficult time. The aim isn’t to solve all their problems or take away their pain but to pour our love into their hearts and lives, to show support, to encourage one another so that we are able to continue on this journey which can become difficult and even more so if we try to do it by ourselves. Galatians 6:2 – ” Bear one another’s burden, and so fulfil the law of Christ”
Next quote is from Uncle John Piper and I think it really helps puts things in perspective.
“This glory, which God will show us and give us, is beyond imagination. ‘What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, God has prepared for those who love him'(1 Corinthians 2:9). And more than that, there are special glories in the age to come brought about by your particular afflictions. Thats what 2 corinthians 4:17 says : afflictions are preparing(producing) for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.
That is what i mean by saying every moment of your affliction is meaningful. It has meaning. It is doing something. Causing something. Bringing about something glorious. You can’t see this. The world can’t see this. They think , and you are tempted to think, ‘This suffering is meaningless. It’s not doing anything good, I can’t see any good coming out of this, that’s what you feel if you focus on what is seen.
To which Paul responds, ‘look to the things that are unseen, the promise of God. Nothing in your pain is meaningless, it’s all preparing something, working something, producing something, a weight of glory, a special glory for you. Just for you because of that pain”
I pray that the Lord will continue to work on each and every single one of us, so that we are truly seeking him through it all, and that for anyone who might have a different idea of who God is, that they will have an encounter with the Almighty God. I pray for anyone who might be going through a difficult time at the moment, that you will surrender everything into the hands of God, that you will have peace and joy and you will look to God and God alone for the things only he can provide. I pray that we will be people who encourages one another and lifts each other up in prayer and in love through our words and actions. Thank you God because you have promised to keep us until the very end and for the faith we have in you. Revelations 21:4 – “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away”.