Thread: God and Suffering
February 5th 2008, 11:59 AM #1
God and Suffering
Why Does God Allow Suffering in the World?
God allows suffering in the world for many reasons. We cannot understand all the reasons for these things, for a transcendent (extending or lying beyond the limits of ordinary experience) God is after all, knowable only in a limited sense by our finite minds. Nevertheless, we can determine from the Scriptures some of the reasons why God would allow suffering.
Before looking at these reasons we must understand a key concept about God and evil: God always eliminates evil, except when doing so would bring about a greater evil or eliminate a greater good according to His eternal plan for the realization of His glory.
Now on to the reasons found in the Scriptures for suffering in this world:
First suffering can be a test of faith such as described in
1Pe 1:7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith--more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire--may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
Second, suffering can be a sanctifying experience. Joseph saw how an apparent evil towards him was meant for a greater good by God:
Gen 50:20 As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.
Third, suffering could be a chastisement as the result of sin in a personís life. Chastisement does not mean complete and total rejection by God, only that our souls may be cleansed from the malady of sin. Paul spoke of this chastisement:
1Co 11:29 For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself.
1Co 11:30 That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.
1Co 11:31 But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged.
1Co 11:32 But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world.
Yet, not all illnesses or sickness is the result of sin. Christ clearly said as much:
John 9:1 As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth.
John 9:2 And his disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?"
John 9:3 Jesus answered, "It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.
We see here that Christ did not imply that the man or his parents had not sinned. He meant that the manís blindness was not a direct result of sin in their lives. God had allowed this man to be born blind in order that the man might become a means of displaying the mighty works of God. Before the man was born, the Lord Jesus knew He would give sight to those blind eyes.
Fourth, suffering can sometimes be considered a means by which we display the sympathy of Christ in a practical manner, thus proving our faith through works. The Apostle Paul notes:
Col 1:24 Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church,
The afflictions endured by Paul in his flesh were for the sake of Christ's body, namely, the church. The sufferings of non-believing people are, in one sense, purposeless. There is no high dignity attached to these sufferings. The sufferings of the non-believer are only a foretaste of the torment of hell to be endured forever. But the suffering of the believer is not the same. When believers suffer for Christ, Christ in a very real way suffers with them.
Fifth, suffering can be a means by which we are tempered (strengthened) for the eventualities to come. Christ, when speaking to Peter of his eventual death stated:
John 21:18 Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.
As in the old saying, ďwhat doesnít kill you, makes you strongerĒ, suffering can build us up so that we are better prepared for the future and its travails.
Sixth, suffering can be used as a witness to others of Godís unmerited grace. All watch how we bear our suffering. Our attitude (spoken and unspoken) towards an illness, accident, etc. and our reception of illness, accident, etc., speak volumes when our spoken testimony of faith is rejected.
Seventh, suffering is sometimes a means of weaning us from the things of this world to cause us to draw nearer to God. Suffering should be a means of educating us to the prospect of heaven. This earthly world is not the home of the believer. We are pilgrims and strangers whose citizenship is in another place. Our minds should be focused on things invisible and not in the temporal things of this life.
We must remember that with the fall of mankind in Eden sin entered the world, corrupting earth and all its inhabitants. Thus we have sin directly causing suffering when sinful people commit sinful acts. We have sin causing suffering indirectly by the deteriorating earth and all its natural disasters.
Christ told us that we would suffer in this world:
John 16:33 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.
But why doesnít God just stop evil actions that cause innocent people to suffer?
Jer 12:1 Righteous are you, O LORD, when I complain to you; yet I would plead my case before you. Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why do all who are treacherous thrive?
Jer 12:2 You plant them, and they take root; they grow and produce fruit; you are near in their mouth and far from their heart.
So in the end, some still like to ask questions like: Why doesnít God intervene to stop evil if He is all-loving and all-powerful? Why doesnít He stop the drunk driverís car that is going to crash into a bus? Why doesnít He deflect the murdererís bullets?
The person asking these questions doesnít really want God to stop all their evil actions. They donít want to be invisibly gagged every time theyíre about to say something hurtful; they donít want to stub their toe when they try to kick the dog. They just think it would be good if God stopped certain evil acts or just the evil acts of others. But that would make life impossible. There would be no freedoms, no regularity and no personal responsibility.
Having said this, we must never forget that God is not indifferent to our sufferings for we have the Helper to bear our travails with us. Moreover, God's grace restrains sin and sinners so that we can appreciate mercy and unmerited grace in light of sin. If God did not do so our streets would be running with the blood drawn by the reprobates.
May 10th 2008, 02:42 AM #2
Re: God and Suffering
Good use of scripture.
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