Saturday, October 18, 2014
Why Does God Allow Us to Suffer?
As we saw last week, Jesus is always there to hear and answer the prayers of His children, and He always does so in the best possible way, motivated by perfect love and enabled by infinite power and wisdom. This is often difficult to understand when we are praying earnestly and in His will, and yet He is allowing us to suffer, for one of several reasons, as part of His perfect plan.
If our suffering is a consequence of our sin, God may use this as part of the chastening process, as a loving Father disciplines His children to shape their character and behavior (Proverbs 13:24; Hebrews 12:6; Revelation 3:19).
Yet not all our suffering is the result of our personal sin (John 9:1-3) Physical or emotional pain unrelated to our own sin helps to make us more like Jesus Christ, as we can identify with His suffering for us on the cross even though He was blameless, pure and holy (Philippians 3:8-10).
Or, God may permit us to experience loss – of health, wealth, power, cherished dreams, and even of loved ones – to strengthen our faith in and dependence on Him (Job 1). If we ignore His still, small voice (1 Kings 19:12) and His more urgent calls, and if we quench and grieve His Spirit living in our heart (1 Thessalonians 5:19; Ephesians 4:30), it may take disaster to bring us to our knees and to call out to Him in distress (Psalm 34:18). He receives our broken spirit and heart as cherished sacrifices to Him, allowing Him to restore us (Psalm 51:17).
Even when we are submitting to His will, God may allow painful experiences to afflict us so that we gain wisdom and compassion to counsel others going through similar trials (2 Corinthians 1:7; Colossians 3:12). His light within us shines the brightest when we are in the darkest of circumstances. Job refused to renounce his God even when he had lost nearly everything he once held dear (Job 23:10-12).
Paul found the peace that passes all human understanding and perpetual joy in the Lord (Philippians 4:4,7) when he had undergone countless hardships and was imprisoned in a miserable jail cell (2 Corinthians 11:24-30). He was able to thrive in all circumstances because of His intimate relationship with Jesus Christ, Who provided for all his needs (Philippians 4:12-13;19). Paul teaches us to receive that peace by handing our anxieties over to Him in prayer with thanksgiving and praise (Philippians 4:6-7).
God’s grace is sufficient and His strength is made perfect in our weakness, so we have reason to rejoice in our shortcomings (2 Corinthians 12:9). We can even rejoice in our sufferings, as our perseverance through trials builds our character and gives us the sure hope of God’s love through His Spirit that lives within every believer (Romans 5:3-5). No matter how dark is the night of our sorrow, He promises that joy will come in the morning and that He will turn our mourning into joyful dancing (Psalm 30:5-12)
Once we begin to try to appreciate the limitless depths of God’s love, wisdom, and power, and to trust His grace and mercy (Psalm 119:76-77) to always work all circumstances together for our good and His glory (Romans 8:28), we can begin to find the emotional and physical healing we so desperately need (Psalm 147:3). His compassion and mercy are unfailing, faithful, and new every morning, always giving us new hope and a fresh start, no matter what our circumstances (Lamentations 3:19-26).
First, we should realize that He knows what we need before we even ask Him (Matthew 6:8,32; Luke 12:30), yet He wants us to pray because it changes us. His perfect love casts out all fear (1 John 4:18), and His presence strengthens and upholds us so that we have no need to be afraid (Isaiah 41:10). God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7). The Bible commands us to “Fear not!” 365 times – one for every day of the year!
He urges us to cast all our cares, or anxieties, on His broad, loving shoulders (1 Peter 5:7). We can find peace by keeping our mind, heart and priorities fixed on Him (Isaiah 26:3-4), through prayer, studying and mediating on His Word, and praising and worshipping Him in all circumstances, knowing that this is His perfect will (1 Thessalonians 5:18). God is not the author of confusion, but of peace (1 Corinthians 14:33).
We can try to carry our own burdens of sin, guilt, shame, regret, unforgiveness and bitterness ourselves, and grow weary to the point of exhaustion and despair. Or we can lay them down at the foot of His cross, where He paid the complete price for all of these, once and for all, freeing us to find His rest (Matthew 11:28) and to receive all the blessings He longs to give us (Luke 11:13).
He exchanges our burdens for His blessings, and He renews and transforms our mind if we turn from thoughts of evil and the darkness of this world (Romans 12:2) to meditating on His light of truth, beauty and excellence (Philippians 4:8).
The greatest blessing we could have in this life is to be in the center of His perfect will, for He created each of us for a purpose designed long before we were even conceived (Psalm 139:13,16). We are His workmanship (Ephesians 2:8-10), created for a specific plan destined for good and not for evil (Jeremiah 29:11-13).
When believers face Jesus Christ at the judgment seat, it will not be to pay for our sins (He has already paid for these in full) or to determine whether we can enter Heaven, for He has given us His perfect righteousness allowing us to spend eternity in the presence of Holy God (Romans 3:25).
Rather, at the judgment seat, believers will be rewarded for service done for Christ with the right motives, or we will suffer loss for not using opportunities He gave us to fulfill His perfect plan for our life (2 Corinthians 5:10). How sad it would be to miss out on these opportunities and rewards because we gave up too soon, losing hope in our own ability (with good reason) yet failing to trust in His unfailing power!
No matter what struggles we face in this life, we can have victory in Christ Who has overcome all the evil in this world (John 16:33). If we have repented of our sins and asked Him into our heart as Lord and Savior, we have the glorious hope – meaning the sure and joyful expectation – of eternal life with Him in Heaven, and the hope of victory in all our earthly woes (Romans 15:13).
Where there is life, there is hope! (Ecclesiastes 9:4) Jesus wants us to enjoy abundant life in Him (John 10:10) here and now, in the land of the living (Psalm 27:13), to choose life over death as commanded in His Word (Deuteronomy 30:19; Proverbs 13:14). His promises preserve our life (Psalm 119:50).
Realizing that our body is His holy temple (1 Corinthians 3:16-17; 6:19), which we should present to Him daily as a holy, living sacrifice (Romans 12:1-2), will help us make the right choices to honor our body as His dwelling place. Not only is this pleasing to Him, but healthful choices in how we nourish and rest our body and protect it from toxins and other harm will help to keep our vessel in optimal working order to serve Him. Time on this earth to serve Him is short (James 4:14; John 9:4), so may we utilize it to the greatest extent possible!
Praise God that He is always with us, faithful to hear and answer our prayers, to love, protect, guide and comfort us in our earthly journey until we meet Him face to face in glory!
© 2014 Laurie Collett