One on hand life is full of joy. Pleasure. Adventure. Exhilaration. Enchantment. Excitement.
But there are some side effects! Like pain. Suffering. Heartbreak. Disappointment. Broken relationships. And death.
In fact, Jesus did warn the apostles about this. He said in John 16:33 “In this world you’re going to have trouble. You’re going to have tribulation. But he didn’t address the issue of why? In this short post, let me share a few thoughts about God’s role in our suffering.
1. God is not the creator of bad things. God is the giver of good gifts (Jas. 1:18). God made man upright. Sinless. Perfect. Genesis 1:31 says “God saw that all He made and it was very good.” The evil, pain, and suffering did not originate with God!
2. Evil is the result of man’s disobedience. God made man with free will. Choice. Volition. We can experience the greatest of divine emotions. Love. Joy. Peace. Faith. Hope. But we also have the ability to make choices that produces hate. Unhappiness. Discord. Doubt. Despair. Our daughter used to have a doll that when you pulled a string it said, “I love you.” But the doll had no choice. There is no real love. It is only a puppet on a string. God didn’t make us like that! Our behavior can be good. Or bad. We have a choice. And our choices have a great deal to do with our circumstances and the situations in which we live. Of course, sometimes we suffer the consequences of other’s poor choices.
2. Although suffering is bad, God can use it to accomplish good. I believe in the providence of God. It’s hard to explain. But we see it in the lives of Bible characters. Abraham. Joseph. Daniel. Paul. In each of those cases God was able to take something bad and turn it into good. In fact, Joseph told his brothers not to fret, because God used him to deliver his people.
3. Pain sometimes draws people closer to Christ. C. S. Lewis. “God whispers to us in our pleasure. Speaks to us in our conscience. But shouts to us in our pain. Pain is God’s megaphone to rouse a deaf world. I have seen people become more spiritual because of their pain. (2 Cor 7:10)
4. Adversity may sharpen our character. We often see this in the sports world. Or in business. Improvement in character, wisdom or virtues often comes through a process that involves hardship. Even Jesus learned obedience through suffering (Heb 5:8).
5. God uses suffering to discipline us for our own good. We often confuse discipline with punishment. Punishment is retribution for misbehavior. Discipline is training or correction to change future behavior. Our suffering may be God’s way to provide discipline (Heb 12:9-11)
There may be many other reasons why God allows suffering. But here’s the good news!
One day all suffering will cease. Evil will be judged. Wicked people will be punished. And our pain will pale in comparison to what God has in store for His followers. Heaven will be the home for those who are faithful and endure through the negative side effects of life.
In the meantime you can either allow your pain and problems to make you bitter or better. In either case, God cares. And Jesus says, “Come to me. You who labor and are burdened. And I will give you rest.”
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman