Many Questions About Suffering Answered

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Scripture asserts suffering is inevitable in a fallen world (Gen. 3:14–19; Pss. 10:1–18; 22:1–31; 38:1–22; 90:1–17; Mark 13:12–13; John 16:33; Acts 14:22). Indeed, Christians may suffer more than do unbelievers (Rom. 6:1–14; 8:35–39; 1 Cor. 12:26; 1 Thess. 2:14; 2 Tim. 3:10–12; 1 Pet. 4:1–14; Rev. 2:10). Experiences of suffering fall into three categories: suffering caused by physical limitations (disease, physical and psychological pain, depression, and mental illness), by natural disasters (storms, fire, flood, and earthquake), and by human actions (harming oneself or others, individually or corporately).

Is God Responsible for sin, old age, wickedness, suffering, and death entering humanity?

Confronted with suffering, biblical individuals raise important questions. One is, “Why does the one true God allow evil and suffering?” The Bible teaches much about causes of suffering and articulates some explanations. However, some instances are left unexplained, and Scripture gives no comprehensive explanation. God’s reasons and purposes transcend human finite knowledge, and we cannot always understand suffering. Some events remain a mystery. At times we must trust God without understanding (Job 42:2–3; Isa. 55:8–9; Hab. 2:2–4). We will not have complete answers until eternity (John 14:1–3; Rom. 8:18; 1 Cor. 2:9; 15:1–58; 2 Cor. 4:16–18; 1 Thess. 4:13–18; Rev. 21:4–5).

Dealing with Our Depression

One cause of suffering is sinfulness (Ps. 7:12–16; Hos. 8:7; Rom. 2:3–6; Gal. 6:7–8; James 1:13–15). Misuse of God’s gift of freedom, beginning with the fall of Adam and Eve and continuing in all persons, brings devastating consequences (Gen. 3:14–19; Rom. 3:23; 5:12–21; 6:23). Sin may result in suffering (Ps. 1:1–6; Jer. 31:29–30; Ezek. 18:2–4), whether by individuals or corporate groups (Josh. 7:1–12; 2 Kings 17:7–24; Amos 1:3–2:16). However, the assumption that suffering is always the direct result of sin is wrong (Job 4:1–5:27; 42:7–8; Luke 13:1–5; John 9:1–3). Some evil and suffering transcend human depravity and are caused by Satan and demonic forces (Job 1:9–12; 2:6; Luke 9:38–42; 13:16; Acts 10:38; 2 Cor. 12:7–9; Eph. 6:10–13). Though suffering intrudes into God’s good creation, twisting good into evil, nothing is ever beyond God’s sovereign control (2 Sam. 14:14; Amos 3:6; 4:10–13; Isa. 45:7; Rom. 8:28–39).

Why Does God Allow the Strong and the Powerful to Oppress the Weak and the Vulnerable?

A second reason is that God either sends or allows suffering to teach, discipline, and mature us. Suffering reminds us of our finitude and teaches us to trust patiently in God (Judg. 2:21–3:6; Job 1:9–12; Ps. 66:10; Mal. 3:3; Rom. 5:3–5; 8:28; 1 Pet. 5:10; 1 Cor. 9:24–27; 2 Cor. 12:7–10). God disciplines those He loves. His discipline is a sign of love rather than wrath (Ps. 94:12; Prov. 3:11–12; 1 Cor. 11:32; Heb. 12:3–13). Suffering should not be received with sadness or defeat, but with rejoicing because it leads to maturity and godly character (James 1:2–12; 1 Pet. 1:6–9).

HOPE AND HELP - How Can You Deal With Anxiety?

Suffering of Believers A goal of human existence is not to avoid suffering but become godly. Suffering can be redemptive or vicarious (Hos. 1:1–3:5; Isa. 53:1–12; 2 Cor. 1:3–12; 1 Pet. 3:18). Joseph realized his suffering led to blessing his people, so although suffering is not good in and of itself, it may lead to greater good (Gen. 50:15–21; Rom. 8:28). Christ exemplified vicarious suffering in the crucifixion (Matt. 16:21; Luke 24:44–48; 1 Cor. 15:1–4; Heb. 2:9–10; 9:24–28). Believers may participate in His suffering (Matt. 5:11–12; Mark 13:7–9; Luke 9:22–26; Acts 5:38–41; Rom. 8:17–18; 2 Cor. 1:5–11; 4:7–18; Phil. 1:19–29; 3:8–11; 1 Thess. 1:4–8; 1 Pet. 4:12–14).

Why has God Permitted Wickedness and Suffering?

Another question is, “Why does God allow the righteous to suffer?” The unrighteous do sometimes prosper, and the righteous sometimes suffer (Ps. 73:2–12; Jer. 12:1–4; Mal. 3:13–15). Job was a righteous man, but he suffered great disaster. Yet through all his suffering, Job continued to serve God (Job 1:21). At a national level Habakkuk asks why God allows an unrighteous nation to defeat a more righteous nation (Hab. 1:12–13). When David realized the eternal consequences of unrighteousness, he reaffirmed the goodness and justice of God (Ps. 73:1–28).

WHEN Bad Things Happen to Good People

Believers should not suffer with resignation but with hope (Pss. 39:7–13; 73:15–28; 1 Cor. 15:57–58; 2 Cor. 4:16–18; 1 Thess. 4:16–18; 1 Pet. 5:8–11). Through hope in the resurrection, Christians can endure victoriously, not in defeat or despair (John 16:33; Rom. 5:1–6; 8:17–39). The promises and presence of God turn the sufferer toward the future with confidence God will redeem even the worst suffering. The ultimate solution to suffering comes in heaven (Rev. 21:4–5). Even amid suffering, Christians experience God’s care. He hears and answers prayers for strength in suffering (Pss. 23:1–6; 66:13–20; 102:1–17; Mark 11:22–24; Heb. 4:14–16). However painful suffering is, it is a shadow compared to the glory yet to come (Rom. 8:17–18).

Steve W. Lemke

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