The Challenge of Suffering
Why is my pain unending and my wound grievous and incurable? (Jeremiah 15:18)
Let’s face it, there is a lot of suffering in life; and people (generally those who spend most of their lives saying they don’t believe in God) are quick to blame God for it. But actually, the main reason for suffering is – us! So often, it is the direct result of our own actions (like smoking leading to lung cancer), emotions (like anger leading to violence), selfish passions (like lust leading to adultery), stupidity (like drinking and driving), or lifestyle (like using fossil fuels which affect global weather patterns). And then we turn around and blame God for the things that we have done! But having said all that, some suffering seems quite inexplicable and unfair: earthquakes, disease, freak accidents. And these often cause people to ask God, “Why?”
The Bible tells us that, while all suffering is rooted, ultimately, in human sin that has invaded both the very fabric of our life and creation itself, God does not stand indifferent to it: He comes and strengthens us in it, identifies with us in it through His own Son’s suffering on the cross, and promises to rid the world of it when Jesus returns at the end of human history.
Through all our sufferings, the Bible encourages us to keep focused on Him and to be open to receive the grace and strength that He has promised to those who call on Him. As the psalmist writes, “Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you” (Psalm 55:22); “My comfort in my suffering is this: Your promise preserves my life” (Psalm 119:50). And with hindsight, we can often look back and see that suffering actually brought some good. King Hezekiah suffered greatly with his illness; but at the end of it all he could look back and say, “Surely it was for my benefit that I suffered such anguish” (Isaiah 38:17).
When we have asked all our questions and expressed all our frustration and anger, what better can we do but say, “God I will continue to trust you; for life is better with you than without you.”
Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. (Psalm 42:11)
© Copyright 2017 Martin Manser and Mike Beaumont
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