Sunday, January 17, 2010

Why Does God Allow #Suffering?

One reason God allows suffering, is to teach us that He is a God of comfort: "Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; who comforteth us in all our tribulation...For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ...knowing, that as ye are partakers of the sufferings, so shall ye be also of the consolation..."(2 Corinthians 1:3-4a, 5, 7b). If we did not suffer, we would not come to know that God is a God of comfort. Our suffering brings glory to God because it reveals His comforting nature to us. 

Another reason God allows suffering, is to teach us how to comfort others: "...that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God..." (4b). When you go through trouble, God will give you comfort. Then, when someone else goes through that same kind of experience, you will be able to share with them how God comforted you. Suffering teaches you how to comfort those who are suffering.

God also allows suffering so we will not trust in ourselves: "For we would not, brethren, have you ignorant of our trouble which came to us in Asia, that we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life: But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead..." (8-9). When you experience life threatening trouble, it shakes your confidence in yourself. You realize you are mortal, and that you cannot save yourself. Suffering reduces pride, and builds your faith in God.

This leads to another reason God allows suffering, which is to focus your hope on Christ. 1 Peter 1 says: "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations; That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried by fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ: Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: Receiving the end of your faith, even the sa lvation of your souls..." (3-9).

When you go through trials, you see your need to hope for things which are eternal. God offers this hope, since He raised Christ from the dead. This shows us He can raise us from the dead, and give us eternal rewards. When your hope is fixed in Christ, you can rejoice even when you suffer, because you know God will deliver you in the end, and give you everlasting glory.

Suffering also purifies your faith. 1 Peter 1:7 likens the trials of life to a fire which refines gold. Job 23:10 says, "But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold." When you feel the heat of life, it makes base elements float away, and leaves a more valuable and pure faith in God.

Godly character comes through suffering. Romans 5:3-5 says "tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope: and hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given to us." Hebrews 12 says God chastens and corrects those whom He receives as sons, so we will become more like him in holiness, and bear the peaceable fruit of righteousness (3-11). Suffering can make you more like God.

Sometimes, we suffer because we make poor choices in life.  In Genesis 2, God placed Adam in a paradise, and told him there would be severe consequences if he ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. When Adam chose to disobey God, the affect of his own sin caused great suffering. Now, instead of just work, Adam had to "labour" by the sweat of his brow for the food he ate. The ground began to produce thorns and thistles. Eve began to have great pain in child bearing. Their soul became spiritually dead towards God (cf. Ephesians 2). They became fearful of God and tried to hide. Their children inherited their sin nature, and one killed the other (Genesis 4; cf. Psalm 51:5). They and everyone would now have to die physically (Romans 5:12). Suffering often comes as the natural consequence of our poor choices in life.

God sometimes uses suffering to keep us from danger. In 1 Corinthians 5, Paul instructed the believers to hand a man over to Satan for "the destruction of his flesh", so that he would stop his sinful ways and come back to God. In the 2 epistle to the Corinthians, he had apparently changed his ways. If you couldn't feel the pain of heat, you might burn yourself severely without even knowing it. If you couldn't feel the poke of a needle, or the sharp edge of a knife, you could be impaled or seriously wounded. Lepers have been reported to loose fingers and toes because they can't feel rats biting them. God may use suffering to keep us from going into greater danger.

God allows suffering to demonstrate His grace in the lives of believers. Satan came and accused Job before God (Job 1). He said Job would surely curse God if he was allowed to bring enough suffering into his life. God permitted him to afflict Job. After taking his possessions, then the lives of Job's children, Job's response was to fall down and worship God. Even when he suffered great physical pain, Job did not curse God. His patience and obedience in the face of intense suffering, brought glory to God who works godly character the lives of his saints (cf. Eph. 2:10, Phil. 2:13).

God sometimes causes suffering to demonstrate His power. Romans 9 says one reason He afflicted Pharaoh and the Egyptians with the plagues, was to demonstrate His power to deliver His people. Pharaoh hardened his heart against God, so God beat him into submission. God sometimes uses suffering to demonstrate His sovereign power.

One of the greatest reasons God allows suffering, is to work a grand salvation. For example, God allowed Joseph's brothers to sell him as a slave. Then Joseph was falsely accused and sent to prison in Egypt. From the depths of prison, God then raised Joseph to power. He gave him wisdom and understanding to save food in the coming years of plenty, so there would be enough during a time of famine to follow. The whole world came to Egypt to buy grain during the famine. Though Joseph's brothers meant it for evil, God used the suffering of Joseph to work a grand plan of salvation for the whole world (Genesis 50:20). This is a type of Christ. Christ suffered unjustly, to pay the debt of our sins. By dying on a cross and rising from the dead, God can now offer salvation from the penalty, power, and presence of sin to the whole world (1 Peter 3:18; John 3:16).

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