One question many Christians have difficulty answering is why does God allow suffering. That is one of the favorite arrows that atheists love to shoot at us. And many times that arrow is rooted in personal suffering or tragedy. What is the answer? Why does God let good people suffer? The most obvious Biblical answer is found in the Book of Job.
“Then the Lord said to Satan, ‘Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil? And still he holds fast to his integrity, although you incited Me against him, to destroy him without cause.’ So Satan answered the Lord and said, ‘Skin for skin! Yes, all that a man has he will give for his life. But stretch out Your hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will surely curse You to Your face!’ And the Lord said to Satan, ‘Behold, he is in your hand, but spare his life.’ So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord, and struck Job with painful boils from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head.” (Job 2:3-7)
Of course Job had the benefit of a loving and caring wife to help him cope with his suffering…oh wait, that’s what should have happened. Read verse 9 for that response that got her into the Nag Hall of Fame. Job’s answer to his wife is a glimpse of his faith:
“But he said to her, ‘You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?’ In all this Job did not sin with his lips.” (Job 2:10)
Job summed up the large majority of the American Christian mindset. Too many Joy Boys are preaching their prosperity gospels about God’s grace and mercy and blessing and if you’re suffering then you’re not praying hard enough and oh by the way if you send us a prayer card with a small gift we can pray for you.
Too many people in the pews across America heartily accept “good from God” but hatefully reject adversity. And they end up sinning with their lips. Have you ever heard a preacher say, “It’s okay to be mad at God and to tell Him so.”
REALLY?! That may be in the NTFV (New Touchy-Feely Version) Bible, but no where do I see God allowing us to be mad at Him, much less have the audacity to tell Him so. If anyone had a right to be mad at God it was Job. Even more so was the only perfect man ever to live and His example of dealing with suffering is much different than that of the Joy Boys:
“He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, ‘O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.’” (Matthew 26:39)
Jesus turned to the Heavenly Father, not with anger or blasphemy, but took His cares to the One who loves Him most. Jesus’ earthly ancestral grandfather King David knew about suffering and also turned to the Father:
“Turn Yourself to me, and have mercy on me, for I am desolate and afflicted. The troubles of my heart have enlarged; bring me out of my distresses! Look on my affliction and my pain, and forgive all my sins. Consider my enemies, for they are many; and they hate me with cruel hatred. Keep my soul, and deliver me; let me not be ashamed, for I put my trust in You. Let integrity and uprightness preserve me, for I wait for You.” (Psalm 25:16-21)
David’s concern was not that he not suffer, although he did ask God to have mercy on him. He also shared his concerns with God, but he never was angry with God nor dared tell him such a blasphemous thing. His main concern was that his integrity and righteousness keep him as he waited on God. May it be so when we suffer.
There are times we will suffer and not understand the will of God, but nevertheless we are called to persevere:
“Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people’s matters. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter. For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God? Now ‘If the righteous one is scarcely saved, where will the ungodly and the sinner appear?’ Therefore let those who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls to Him in doing good, as to a faithful Creator.” (1 Peter 4:12-19)
Peter warns us not to inflict ourselves with suffering for our own sins, but he does acknowledge that Christians “suffer according to the will of God.” That may not seem fair but Peter teaches us how to deal with such suffering. We are to commit our “souls to Him in doing good, as to a faithful Creator.” Commenting on this, Oswald Chambers writes:
“To choose to suffer means that there is something wrong; to choose God’s Will even if it means suffering is a very different thing. No healthy saint ever chooses suffering; he chooses God’s will, as Jesus did, whether it means suffering or not. No saint dare interfere with the discipline of suffering in another saint. The saint who satisfies the heart of Jesus will make other saints strong and mature for God. The people who do us good are never those who sympathize with us, they always hinder, because sympathy enervates. No one understands a saint but the saint who is nearest to the Savior. If we accept the sympathy of a saint, the reflex feeling is – Well, God is dealing hardly with me. That is why Jesus said self-pity was of the devil (see Matt. 16:23). Be merciful to God’s reputation. It is easy to blacken God’s character because God never answers back, He never vindicates Himself.”
As though suffering for God’s will was not enough, we are to endure so as to protect His reputation.
For me suffering is indeed tough; as all families my family has had its share of grief and suffering. But it is far more painful for me to see someone I love go through suffering. How do I deal with that if I am not to hinder God’s will?
We’ll look at that next time…
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Copyright © 2012 David Jeffers