Friday, March 07, 2008

Understanding Why God Allows Suffering

UNDERSTANDING WHY GOD ALLOWS SUFFERING

 

A philosopher from Paris once commented, “God is dead. Marx is dead.

And I don’t feel so good myself.” His attitude illustrates the

pessimism rampant in our culture today.

 

If there really is a God, people wonder, why has He allowed so much

suffering in the world?

 

Many Christians honestly struggle with that same question. Only

by turning to the Bible can we begin to understand the problem of

suffering in this life.

 

Basically, there are four types of suffering. The first type is that

which comes as the result of natural disasters, such as an earthquake

or a hurricane. The suffering that results from these disasters happens

to both the righteous and unrighteous (Matthew 5:45).

 

A second type of suffering can be called man’s inhumanity to man. War

would be classified under this type of suffering, as well as the tragedy

that occurred on September 11, 2001. Because of humanity’s greed and

pride, people try to hurt other people (James 4:1-2).

 

A third type of suffering is best seen in the life of Job in the

Old Testament; it came as a result of Satan’s attack on him. After

receiving permission from God, Satan moved in and caused incredible

suffering to Job and his family.

 

A fourth type of suffering is that which comes as a result of our

own erroneous actions. For example, if I walk off the roof of my office

and fall to the ground, breaking my leg, I am suffering because I broke

God’s law of gravity. We also suffer when we break God’s moral laws.

 

Much suffering can be traced to the evil choices we make. Some, but

not all, suffering is allowed by God as a punishment for sin. Often

God simply forces us to live with the consequences of our actions

(Galatians 6:7-8).

 

Whenever people break God’s laws, others are bound to suffer as

well. I refer you to the story of Achan in Joshua 7. When he coveted

and took some of the spoil from the battle of Jericho, Achan cost the

lives of thirty-six men in battle against Ai. It is inevitable that

others will suffer in the wake of an individual’s disobedience.

 

How we respond to suffering--whether or not we brought it on

ourselves--is going to make us or break us as Christian pilgrims.

Circumstances often do more to reveal our character than to shape it.

But by properly responding to trials, we can develop patience and

proven character (Romans 5:3-4).

 

Problems, stress, calamity, or the death of a loved one often cause

us to search ourselves for any sin in our lives (see 1 Kings 17:18).

Pain plants the flag of truth in a heavy heart. But we must be

cautious not to let Satan overwhelm us with excessive and false guilt

or grief (2 Corinthians 2:7). Job’s wife told him to curse God and die.

He refused to give up and remained faithful to the Lord. Notice that

in the end God gave him all he had before and even more (Job 42:10-17).

 

Instead of looking at our circumstances, we need to keep our eyes on

Jesus Christ, the source of life. He will bring us through whatever

situation we face, and as a result we will be stronger Christians,

better able to serve Him because of our trials.

 

In a day of pessimism and suffering we can say with the psalmist,

“The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?”

(Psalm 118:6). The Lord Himself, as the great Sufferer, is our

comfort and hope in troubled times.

To Ponder

 

To what degree have you experienced the first kind of suffering

described above? The second? The third? The fourth?

 

Are you currently going through a trial? What kind of trial is it?

What has been your response so far?

To Pursue

 

This week memorize and meditate on Psalm 118:6 and Hebrews 13:5-6,

verses which have been an encouragement to me and to many others

during times of trial.

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