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 Suffering: Some Reasons Why God Allows It

Over the last few years I have wrestled with the question, "Why does God allow suffering?"  I don't have a conclusive answer, though I have discovered some reasons why He allows suffering in general.  He alone knows why He allows specific trials to come our way.  Perhaps He will allow me to glimpse His purpose this side of eternity - perhaps I won't understand until eternity when all the pieces will fall into place and the puzzle of my life will be complete.  He doesn't have to tell me the whys - He's God.

We live in a fallen world and bad things happen to good people.  That's just the way it is.  Pain is universal and inevitable.  It comes to all of us at some point in time.  Perhaps it is so frightening because with it comes the knowing that we are vulnerable.  Gone is the childhood fancy that forever and always life will be grand.  It just ain't so.  When sorrow comes, we reach a defining moment when our vision shifts from what has happened, to what we will do with what has happened to us.  Florence Littauer on said, "Suffering is not a weapon, it's a tool in the hand of the master craftsman used to fashion and mold us into the image of His son, Jesus Christ." 

I am beginning to firm up my own credo as I journey through the difficult times.  Even though my emotions often say otherwise, I know in my heart-of-hearts this to be true:

  • I can trust God.  Period.  I may not understand His ways, I may not even like the path He chooses for me to walk, but I can trust Him to allow what is for my good.  I love the words to a popular song that says, "When you can't trace His plan, trust His heart."
  • Whatever comes into my life can be an opportunity for growth.  I've learned much through the losses I've experienced.  
  • God loves me.  Whether or not I feel that He does, does not change the truth that He does love me.  I have asked for forgiveness for my sin, and I have accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior.  I belong to God and He takes care of His own.  Again, I may not always like or understand what He allows to come into my life.  But, I know I can trust Him.  He loves me.  He is "growing me up."

"There's more to come: We continue to shout our praise even when we're hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we're never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary—we can't round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit!" Romans 5:3-5 The Message

"My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing." James 1:2-4

This list is a work in progress and will be added to as my learning increases. 

Suffering . . .

  • Increases Our Sensitivity to a Hurting World

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God." II Corinthians 1:3,4

  • Gives Courage to Others in Their Pain

Well, now is the right time to listen, the day to be helped. Don't put it off; don't frustrate God's work by showing up late, throwing a question mark over everything we're doing. Our work as God's servants gets validated--or not--in the details. People are watching us as we stay at our post, alertly, unswervingly . . . in hard times, tough times, bad times; when we're beaten up, jailed, and mobbed; working hard, working late, working without eating; with pure heart, clear head, steady hand; in gentleness, holiness, and honest love; when we're telling the truth, and when God's showing his power; when we're doing our best setting things right; when we're praised, and when we're blamed; slandered, and honored; true to our word, though distrusted; ignored by the world, but recognized by God; terrifically alive, though rumored to be dead; beaten within an inch of our lives, but refusing to die; immersed in tears, yet always filled with deep joy; living on handouts, yet enriching many; having nothing, having it all. II Corinthians 6: 3-10 (The Message)

"I want to report to you, friends, that my imprisonment here has had the opposite of its intended effect. Instead of being squelched, the Message has actually prospered. All the soldiers here, and everyone else too, found out that I'm in jail because of the Messiah. That piqued their curiosity, and now they've learned all about Him. Not only that, but most of the Christians here have become far more sure of themselves in the faith than ever than ever, speaking out fearlessly about God, about the Messiah . . . I can hardly wait to continue on my course. I don't expect to be embarrassed in the least. On the contrary, everything happening to me in jail only serves to make Christ more accurately known, regardless of whether I live or die. They didn't shut me up; they gave me a pulpit!" Philippians 1:12-14; 20 (The Message)

"This is the kind of life you've been invited into, the kind of life Christ lived. He suffered everything that came his way so you would know that it could be done, and also know how to do it, step-by-step. I Peter 2:21 (The Message)

T.D. Jakes says it well: “I need some people who have gone through the fire and have not been destroyed or burned up by it as a sign that God’s gonna get some glory out of it. Sometimes God has to let your troubles “get outside” so everyone sees it. The say, “He’s down and can’t get up.” And THEN COMES JESUS. When others see you go through something that should have destroyed you and you’re saying, “He stayed with me. I will trust Him!” What a testimony. I need some people who have gone through it and come out on the other side so they can say, “God was able, God was faithful. He’ll be with you as He was with me.”

There are manifestations of God’s presence that you will only know by being tested. There are some things you learn about Him only in the fire. God wants to use your situation to teach others you don’t even know, about how to go through troubles. God knows He can trust you to go through this, and to come out on the other side with a testimony of triumph on your lips." Jakes

  • Clarifies and Prioritizes our Desires

"Think of your sufferings as a weaning from that old sinful habit of always expecting to get your own way. Then you'll be able to live out your days free to pursue what God wants instead of being tyrannized by what you want." I Peter 4: 1-2 (The Message)

  • Purifies

"Therefore humble yourselves [demote, lower yourselves in your own estimation] under the mighty hand of God, that in due time He may exalt you, Casting the whole of your care [all your anxieties, all your worries, all your concerns, once and for all] on Him, for He cares for you affectionately and cares about you watchfully. Be well balanced (temperate, sober of mind), be vigilant and cautious at all times; for that enemy of yours, the devil, roams around like a lion roaring [in fierce hunger], seeking someone to seize upon and devour. Withstand him; be firm in faith [against his onset--rooted, established, strong, immovable, and determined], knowing that the same (identical) sufferings are appointed to your brotherhood (the whole body of Christians) throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace [Who imparts all blessing and favor], Who has called you to His [own] eternal glory in Christ Jesus, will Himself complete and make you what you ought to be, establish and ground you securely, and strengthen, and settle you." I Peter 5 verses 6-11 Amplified

"Pure gold put in the fire comes out of it proved pure; genuine faith put through this suffering comes out proved genuine. When Jesus wraps this all up, it's your faith, not your gold, that God will have on display as evidence of his victory." I Peter 1:7

"Friends, when life gets really difficult, don't jump to the conclusion that God isn't on the job.  Instead, be glad that you are in the very thick of what Christ experienced.  This is a spiritual refining process, with glory just around the corner."  I Peter 4:12-13

  • We Learn True Worship in the Hard Times

"Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet, I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior." Habakkuk 3:17-18 NIV

" . . . give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." I Thessalonians 5:18 (NIV)

"Through Him, therefore, let us constantly and at all times offer up to God a sacrifice of praise, which is the fruit of lips that thankfully acknowledge and confess and glorify His name." Hebrews 13:15

Pastor George Morrison of Faith Bible Chapel  in Arvada, Colorado shared in a message entitled, The Making of a Worshipper, "Worshippers are not made during the good times. Worshippers are made in the fires of affliction- during the dark stormy nights when you don't have an answer for what you are going through. They are made during the lonely times- when you don't know for sure (except for God) how anything is going to work out. How you respond during these times, how you deal with the fiery storms of life will determine the kind of worshipper you become. . . The time to dance and praise God should have taken place while they were going through the tough time, not afterwards when they were through it. You learn to become worshippers when you worship Him while you are IN the storm, not after the storm."

  • Draws us Closer to the Heart of God

“There are situations engineered by God in which we have no control so we might learn He is all we need.”

"The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those who are crushed in spirit." Psalm 34:18

“. . . God used sorrow and loneliness and perplexities to stretch out spaces in my heart for deeper joy than I’d known before- especially the joy of loving and praising Him.” Ruth Meyers 31-Days of Praise

  • As With Christ, We Learn Obedience by the Things we Suffer.

"During the days of Jesus' life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered. . ." Hebrews 5:7-8 NIV

"All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful but sorrowful, Yet to those who have been trained by it..." Hebrews 12:11

"In t;his all-out match against sin, others have suffered far worse than you, to say nothing of what Jesus when through -- all that bloodshed!  So don't feel sorry for yourselves.  Or have you forgotten how good parents treat children, and that God regards you as His children?  My dear child, don't shrug off God's discipline, but don't be crushed by it either.  It's the child He loves that He disciplines; the child He embraces, He also corrects.  God is educating you; that's why you must never drop out.  He's treating you as dear children.  This trouble you're in isn't punishment; it's training, the no rmal experience of children.  Only irresponsible parents leave children to fend for themselves.  Would you prefer an irresposible God?  We respect our own parents for training and for not spoiling us, so why not embrace God's training so we can truly live?  While we were children, our parents did what seemed best to them.  But God is doing what is best for us, training us to live God's holy best.  At the time, discipline isn't much fun. It always feels like it's going against the grain.  Later, of course, it pays off handsomely, fot it's the well-trained who find themselves mature in their relationship with God."  Hebrews 12:4-11 Message

  • Brings the Disobedient Back to God

The Prodigal Son: Luke 15:11-31

Jonah:  But Jonah ran away from the LORD and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the LORD.  Then the LORD sent a great wind on the sea, and such a violent storm arose that the ship threatened to break up. (Jonah 1:3,4) 

Jonah acknowledged that the storm came from God, "You hurled me into the deep, into the very heart of the seas, and the currents swirled about me; all your waves and breakers swept over me. (Jonah 2:3) 

Jonah repents of his sin, "But I, with a song of thanksgiving, will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed I will make good. Salvation comes from the LORD."  (Jonah 2:9)Jonah obey God, "Jonah obeyed the word of the LORD and went to Nineveh . . ."  (Jonah 3:3a)

  • Makes Christ Accurately Known

". . .everything happening to me in this jail only serves to make Christ more accurately known, regardless of whether I live or die. They didn't shut me up; they gave me a pulpit! Alive, I'm Christ's messenger; dead, I'm his bounty. Life versus even more life! I can't lose." Philippians 1:20-21 The Message

"I want to report to you, friends, that my imprisonment here has had the opposite of its intended effect. Instead of being squelched, the Message has actually prospered. All the soldiers here, and everyone else, too, found out that I'm in jail because of this Messiah. That piqued their curiosity, and now they've learned all about him. Not only that, but most of the followers of Jesus here have become far more sure of themselves in the faith than ever, speaking out fearlessly about God, about the Messiah." Philippians 1:12-14 The Message

  • Teaches Us to Trust

God never says "I didn't see THAT coming!" Roger Bennett

To live with suffering gracefully, we must commit our struggle to the Lord, and recognize that only He has the power to free us from pain, and the wisdom to know if that liberation is in our best interests.  Penelope Stokes “Grace Under Pressure”

“And thou shalt remember all the way which the Lord thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep his commandments or no. And, he humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did they fathers know; that he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord doth man live.” Deuteronomy 8:2,3

"Speaking of difficulty and loss- 'Such times season us. They temper us . . . mature us. Losses put steel into our otherwise fragile lives." Swindoll

NOT: If God is loving, He wouldn’t let this happen. BUT: God is loving, therefore He can bring good out of this situation.

"To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong." II Corinthians 12:7-10 

"Pure gold put in the fires comes out of it proved pure; genuine faith put throught this suffering comes out proved genuine.  When Jesus wraps this all up, it's your faith, not your gold, that God will have on display as evidence of His victory."  I Peter 1:7 Message

"You're not the only ones plunged into these hard times. It's the same with Christians all over the world. So keep a firm grip on the faith." I Peter 5:9 The Message

"We felt we were doomed to die and saw how powerless we were to help ourselves; but that was good, for then we put everything into the hands of God, who alone could save us." II Corinthians 1:9 (TLB)

  • Furthers the Plan of God           

"You were well aware that the reason I ended up preaching to you was that I was physicaly broken, and so, prevented from continuing my journey, I was forced to stop with you.  That is how I came to preach to you."  Galatians 4:13 The Message

  • Reveals What is in Our Heart

Sometimes God intentionally draws back, and we don't sense His closeness. 

"God withdrew from Hezekiah in order to test him and to see what was really in his heart." II Chronicles 32:31

  • Prepare Us For More Responsibility

Joseph - prepared him for leadership

Children of Israel - made them physically tough to fight the enemy

"I will walk by faith even when I cannot see because this broken road prepares Your will for me." Jeremy Camp

"So often only in weakness do we reach out to God, and only as we reach out to God do we find the strength He always intended for us, the strength for whatever comes next."  Karen Kingsbury, "Sunset"

  • Grows Us Up

"No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it." Hebrews 12:11 (NIC)

"Consider it a sheer gift, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don't try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way. . . Anyone who meets a testing challenge head-on and manages to stick it out is mighty fortunate. For such persons loyally in love with God, the reward is life and more life." James 1:2-8 The Message

"These troubles come to prove that your faith is pure. This purity of faith is worth more than gold." I Peter 1:7a

"Let the process go on until your endurance is fully developed, and you will find that you have become men of mature character . . . with no weak spots." James 1:3-4

  • Reshapes Us - Conforms us Into the Image of Christ

"I hope you're not on the anvil. (Unless you need to be, and if so, I hope you are.) Anvil time is not to be avoided; it's to be experienced. Although the tunnel is dark, it does go through the mountain. Anvil time reminds us of who we are and who God is. We shouldn't try to escape it. To escape it could be to escape God.

God sees our life from beginning to end. He may lead us through a storm at age thirty so we can endure a hurricane at age sixty. An instrument is useful only if it's in the right shape. A dull ax or a bent screwdriver needs attention, and so do we. A good blacksmith keeps his tools in shape. Should God place you on his anvil, be thankful. It means he thinks you're still worth reshaping."  Max Lucado

"In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers."  Romans 8:26-29 (NIV)

  • Eternal Glory

"Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him." James 1:12

"Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." II Corinthians 4:16-18 NIV

  • Shifts our Focus Heavenward
  • Helps us to Unlearn Fallacies We Have Accepted as Truth

"Our Father will refresh us with many inns on the journey, but He would not encourage us to mistake them for home."  C.S. Lewis

by Ronda Knuth 2009