Faith and Human Suffering
There are two things about human suffering that do not require divine revelation. (1) Human Pain is hard. Whether infection, or surgery, or chronic illness; none of it is easy. (2) Pain is hard even when it is not your own. To watch a loved one, to tend to him or her is often as challenging as having the condition yourself. Beyond those two things, what we really know about human suffering comes from what is revealed in God’s word. Yet still human pain often challenges our faith. Hence we study “Faith and Human Suffering,” looking at some truths on the subject from God’s word.
1. Suffering is common to man (Job 5:7; Rom 8:22)
It began as a consequence of Adam and Eve’s sin (Gen 3:16-19; Rom 5:12). Therefore, we Christians are not immune to it. In fact, sometime suffering results from being a Christian (2 Tim 3:12: Matt 16:24; Phil 1:29).
2. God cares when we suffer (Lam 3:31-21).
God cares about His own (1 Peter 5:6-7). So He is with us in our suffering (Ps 46:1-3). Nothing like pain can separate the child of God from God (Rom 8:35-39). So we are taught to put our faith and trust in the constancy of God (Heb 13:5-6).
3. God does not cause suffering; but he permits it. He allows it to happen even to the righteous
This is especially evident in the record of Job (Job 1:1, 12; 2:6). So then, why do the righteous suffer? There are several answers to that question: For example, (1) God permits suffering generally for the good of the sufferer. He sometimes uses suffering to bring us back when we are going astray (Ps 119:67, 71). (2) Sometimes He uses suffering to purify our lives (Isa 48:10). His purification can make my faith stronger and me more spiritual (Rom 5:3-4). Suffering then, if we use it correctly, can be used to perfect us and to strengthen us (1 Peter 5:10). (3) Maybe it is suffering that comes near the end of our lives that helps us to get mentally prepared for the coming of the Lord (1 Peter 4:13).
4. Sometimes we suffer because our suffering is for the good of others (2 Cor 4:7-11).
This text is about the great suffering of persecution; but still the ultimate result can be the giving of thanks abounding to the glory of God (2 Cor 4:15). Just consider the following. If God did not spare His Son, if God allowed his only begotten Son to suffer for our sakes.to accomplish good for men; are we, his servants, any greater than the Master? If it is needful, why then should we not suffer “as Christians?” Those who suffer as Christians “share in the sufferings of Christ” (1 Peter 4:12-16). So let us not feel ashamed, but in that name glorify God (1 Peter 4:16). This suggests that one reason the righteous are allow to suffer is that God might be glorified by such. What greater way could the old faithful Christian glorify God than to endure the suffering of this life, even up to the moment of his or her last breath, and still retain and maintain his faith in God and in hope of an eternal life to come.
5. God is glorified in the Christian suffering by the fact that Christians rejoice in the face of that suffering (Matt 5:10-12).
The idea is not just theological. The Apostles actually did suffer because they we Apostles (Acts 5:40-41; 16:23-25). Do we appreciate that the conversion of the Philippian jailor began with the suffering of Christians? So then, we ought to glorify God in our sufferings (Rom 5:1-3).
6. Finally, all our sufferings of this present life are in no way comparable to the future glory and joy that awaits the Christian in the life to come.
Our Lord insisted that we lose our lives for His sake (Luke 9:23-24). Let us all learn to conduct ourselves worthy of the gospel of Christ no matter what conflicts and difficulties we might have to endure (Phil 1:27-30; Rom 8:37). Surely the Lord is able to deliver the righteous man from all his afflictions (Ps 34:19). So then, we can do all things through Him who strengthens us (Phil 4:13). This includes even the possibility of dying for the cause of Christ (Rev 2:10). Remember that Rev 2:10 begins with “'Do not fear what you are about to suffer.” If we are children of God and heirs with Christ, we suffer with Him in order to be glorified with Him (Rom 8:17). And then we look to eternity in which God will wipe away every tear (rev 7:13-17).
In closing, the best example of human suffering is that of righteous Job. He suffers at every turn and seeks an answer for the reason he is made to suffer. It is sure that Job was a righteous man (Job 1:1). He cared for his family and led them in the ways of righteousness (Job 1:4-5). The calamities that befell him included the loss of all his wealth and possessions. His servants were killed, and then his children were all killed. Job believed “the Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away” (Job 1:21); but still Job did not sin nor did he blame God (Job 1:21-22). We know that Satan caused Job’s suffering (Job 1:6-12); but we have no record that Job knew it.
In Job 2, Job’s suffering increased when Satan causes him to have painful boils from head to toe upon his body; but he still does not respond in a sinful way with his lips (Job 2:10). Most of the rest of the book is about the three friends who also incorrectly assume that God caused Job’s sufferings, and that Job’s pain confirmed that Job had been evil before God.
At the end of the book, God tells job to have confidence in his omnipresence and omniscience. Job is told to remember his place as a finite man; and not to question the wisdom of the infinite God (Job 40:1). It is certain from the story that God blesses men and even the One who limits the sufferings of the righteous.
In conclusion, if the Bible told us nothing about pain and suffering, the pain would still be here. We might even falsely conclude that “pain exists; hence, there is no God.” Knowing from scripture that pain came as a consequence of sin; it ought to make us all hate evil. Secondly, it ought to make us long to go to heaven where pain and suffering will not exist (Rev 21:1-3-4).
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