Why Does God Allow Suffering?

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Friday, December 5, 2014 0 comments

by Charlie Wolcott

A question very frequently asked of Christians is why does God allow suffering? Some even say, “It is no wonder God has so few friends considering how he treats the ones he has.” Is this a legitimate claim? This week, we have been discussing this question, but allow me to take a very different approach.

God does things in ways that are totally opposite to what we normally think. He uses the weak to shame the strong. He uses the poor, not the rich. He uses the humble to shame those who proclaim themselves to be wise. He uses the small and the weak to defeat the mighty. This is seen throughout all of Scripture. God does not take the pleasures and luxuries of this world with any real seriousness. He tells us not to store treasures on earth where they can be stolen or where they can decay and rust. He tells us to store treasures in heaven. As Christians, we look for something bigger and better than what this life has to offer.

Our life here on earth is short and temporary. In Hebrews 12, we learn that Jesus endured suffering, seeing the goal set out before him. If Jesus suffered, we should also expect to suffer. Why? It is not that God does not care about us. One thing we have to remember that God is not the only player in the field of things. We also have an enemy. And the truth is, this earth is not our home. We, as Christians, actually live in enemy territory.

One thing I learned in the last couple weeks is what the role of a Roman Ambassador was. We think of an ambassador as someone who represents our nation before other nations. The Roman Ambassador was similar but more specific. A Roman Ambassador was an emissary to a nation that was under Roman rule but continued to rebel against them. Their job was to negotiate with these rebelling nations, pleading with them to live peacefully with the ruling government. And this is the picture Paul used to describe out job: as representatives of God, pleading with those in rebellion against God to make peace with him. We live in enemy territory and Satan does not like his territory being conquered. He will fight us.

But there is more. God knows that Satan will come after us, and God could very easily push him out of the way. God can very easily tweak our circumstances to make our lives comfortable, without conflict, and without challenges. But if he did that, what would we learn? And let us be honest, what would we do? Look at those around you who live very comfortable lives. Do they do much? Usually not. They are rarely active in helping the desolate around them. They may send money but that’s about it.

Why does God allow suffering? One reason is to keep us from getting comfortable, to keep us from depending too much on ourselves, on our comforts and resources. To help us keep trusting him to get us through day by day. Does that seem fair? Not really. Look at Job. He suffered greatly and he did nothing to deserve it. But God used him to prove a point. Job was righteous; he was as good of an example of an Old Testament saint as you can get. He had a comfortable life, and Satan said it was because of his blessings that Job followed God. God said, “Watch him. He’s my guy. He’ll show you wrong.” Yes, that was my rephrasing of what he actually said, but hear my point. God used Job in his weakest point to shove Satan’s accusations right back into his face. God allowed that to happen because God was proud of Job.

A very interesting picture is in Acts 7:54-56, when Stephen was stoned. In all of Scripture, we have the image of God the Father sitting on the throne. Yet in Acts 7, we see that Stephen looked up and saw God standing at his throne. I can picture God there giving Stephen a standing ovation for standing for the King of Kings to the point of death. Stephen could not have done that without God’s help, but Stephen faced the Pharisees and the rulers as a mere sheep, a helpless little lamb, but with the face of the Lion. He saw the suffering he could endure and he said: “Bring it on. Give me your worst. My God will show himself mighty, even in my death.”

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego suffered greatly. They were kidnapped from their home nation, forced to change their names from their Hebrew name to Babylonian names, they were castrated (remember that one of the greatest humiliating moments a Jewish boy would endure is public nakedness, and what would take place to get castrated), and lived under the ruler who conquered them. You think you are suffering? Try dealing with that. They knew their king was a wild man. They owed their lives to Daniel because Nebuchadnezzar was going to execute all the wise men and advisors for not being able to interpret his dream of the statue. And then in spite of all this, when the king demanded they bow before his idol, they refused and said this: “Our God is able to deliver us from the fiery furnace, but even if he does not, we will still not bow before your idol.” All the suffering they endured did not faze them and they got to be part of a miracle where God showed up in style.

God works backwards to how we think. He uses suffering to glorify. If you are suffering for making a stand for his name, you will receive a reward in heaven. Not all suffering is God showing us off, however. Many times, it is because we bring it upon ourselves. God will let the consequences of our actions take their course. And another reason God lets us suffer is simply to teach us not to sin. The process of suffering is also a means of working our sin out of us. It is described like a refiner’s fire.

A metallurgist will take the gold ore and heat it up until it melts. From there, they scrape off the impurities that rise to the top (remember that gold is a very heavy element). But it doesn’t stop there. Then he will turn up the heat even more. And repeat the process. Then the heat is raised even more. This will continue until all that is left is pure gold. Jesus said he is coming for a spotless Bride.

Our trials, our sufferings, are the best means to prove our faith and to get rid of the impurities that ever so hinder us. The suffering we are enduring today is going to end. One day, there will be no weeping, no pain, no tears, no suffering. But for as long as sin is part of the picture, so will suffering be. Endure it for now. It will prove your identity with Christ. Count it all as joy because what is to come makes the worst this world could do to us a mere trifle. Keep on running the race. The suffering is like what an athlete endures in training. It’s tough and at times the coach will scream in your face when you mess up. But this happens so that when game time arrives, you can do it and prove that the God we serve is Mighty, even if we die. It is uncomfortable, but look at the long-term goal. See the finish line. See the trophy, the rewards for finishing. The suffering we must endure in the nasty now, and now is worth it.