Life happens. Pain and Suffering is a life long companion. Oftentimes the question is: Why God? If you are so good and loving – why do you allow pain and suffering into our lives?
None of us are immune to pain and suffering. We all go through times of trials and tribulations. There is suffering, hurt and pain everywhere you look. The evening news is littered with places around the world that are hurting. There are natural causes of hurt: Hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis, tornadoes. There are human causes of hurt: father’s walking out on their families, terror attacks, gun violence, etc. People suffering from mental illness or memories of things they had no control over. There’s regret over things you’ve done – and things you’ve said. And there is also suffering in the form of persecution of Christians. Since the death of Christ, believers have suffered because of their faith. Beaten, tortured, murdered, and on and on.
Though we might not be able to figure it out enough to make perfect sense of it, we can be confident that God is at work in the midst of our suffering.
God’s not uninterested in our circumstances. God does not cause pain and suffering because he is evil or because he wants to hurt us. Like any good father, he desires good things for his children. God loves us and hates to see us suffering and hates the sin that causes it. He hurts when he sees his creation that he made in his image hurting.
Believe it or not, there’s an entire book of the Bible that addresses issues like these. In the Old Testament there is a book that Bible scholars say could be the oldest book in the Bible. It’s the book of Job. It’s a book about a man named Job who had a lot of things and lost them all in one day. Most people would not have been able to handle the pain. But Job teaches us some powerful lessons through his own personal pain and suffering.
We don’t know much information about Job other than he was living a blessed life. He had wealth, family, and physical health and he praised God for it all. But the enemy accuses Job of only worshipping God because he had all he could ever want. Satan claims that worshipping God was easy when life was easy and predicts that if Job lost his material possessions that he would no longer worship God but instead curse Him.
God responds in saying, “all that he has in in your hand. Only against him do not stretch out your hand.” God challenges that accusation by allowing Satan to remove all the material blessings from Job. Job lost everything: his children, his wealth, everything. Job did nothing to deserve losing all he had. He was an innocent and righteous man. He suffered even though he was not evil. If anyone had a reason to be angry at God for his suffering, some might say Job would.
But despite all he lost, he did not turn from God. Job responds to the news of his tragedy: “naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”
Job never asks, “Why me?” Instead we can almost hear him saying, “What now?”
Later in the story, we see that Job’s has three friends that come to him in his time of suffering, and they insist that his pain must be due to his own personal sin. While theologically all suffering is a result of original sin, Job’s “friends” came to him in his grief and suggested that there must be a relationship between his own personal sin and his present suffering.
Can you imagine?! Your friends coming to you in your grief and saying: there must be something in your life that you did to deserve this. Some friends they were! As you read the book of Job. He was human, he suffered, he had seasons of doubt and yet He kept his focus on God in the midst of enormous pain and great loss.
Job provides a biblical illustration for us as we examine why God allows Pain and suffering? Why do bad things happen to good people?
From the Scriptures we learn that God is Sovereign. That is, he knows all and controls all. He does allow it for a greater purpose. Not all suffering has a clear and visible purpose, but all things might be woven into the tapestry of God’s larger story. In this way, even suffering can reveal God’s larger purpose and God’s character.
We read the Scriptures and see the truth and principles to apply in our lives. Life is about God and His purpose and His glory. So what can we learn and apply related to Pain and Suffering?
- Suffering is not always the result of personal sin.
Pain and suffering exists because we live in a fallen world. When sin entered the world in Genesis 3, the world became fallen from God’s holiness and perfection and all the pain and suffering in the world are a consequences of living in a fallen world, where sin exists. When man sinned for the first time, creating separation between God and man, suffering and pain also entered the world. Today we experience pain and suffering because we live in a fallen world, where sin exists. We live in a world that is not the way God intended it to be because of sin and sinful man. There is some suffering we experience due to our own choices but there are many things in life which bring about suffering because of the sin of others or simply our presence in a fallen world. Pain and suffering exist because sin exists.
- We don’t always know the reasons that we suffer. We should not give out bad advice to those who are hurting. Sometime presence is more important that giving reasons that only choke the life from the soul. God is at work to grow us, to make us more like Jesus and sometimes that involves pain and suffering to get us to a place where we can listen to him and be open to what He is doing. Your pain will either make you run to God or run from Him and that depends on you. We may not be able to see, to understand or even agree with pain and suffering that comes into our lives but we do know that God can be trusted. That we are loved, valued and He has a bigger purpose in store.
- Suffering reveals the foundation of our life. In other words, suffering will reveal the true source of our identity. God is still and always good. Only the Lord Jesus can fully identify with our suffering and ultimately answer Satan’s accusations, which are ultimately against God, and defeat him.
Life happens, and the pain is real. The pertinent question is - How will we respond? Here are some practical things we can do::
- Refuse to be bitter.
- Accept what cannot be changed.
- Focus on what's left, not on what's lost.
The pain may never fully go away this side of eternity. Our hope is found in Jesus and his death on the cross in our place. God ultimately has conquered the pain and suffering of this world. We all have fallen short of the glory of God in what the Bible calls sin. But God sent Christ to take away our sin if we have faith in Him, and one day He will restore creation back to its perfect state and to a place of no more suffering or pain. As we suffer we should long for the day when suffering and sin will no longer exist and rest in God’s sovereignty and joy.
Jesus came and died in our place so that we no longer would receive the wrath of God but instead the righteousness of Christ. So for those who have faith in Christ, we are no longer seen as sinful in the eyes of God but as righteous. And when believers die they go to heaven where there is and never will be pain or suffering or hurting of any kind.