Why Suffering??? Part II

Written by Victor Stanley Jr.

One of the most common criticism of Christianity is the question “If God exists, then why is there suffering in the world?” Scripture teaches that God is loving and benevolent, such as Psalm 86:15, which says: “But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.”[1] Yet there is still an abundance of suffering and hardship in the world, and to many people there is no way to reconcile a loving God with a world full of pain and despair. Many times, for the Christian at least, the difficulty in understanding God in light of suffering is due to a lack of comprehension when it comes to what it really means that God is love. I see three factors that contribute to this, a misunderstanding of God’s love, a misunderstanding of timing, and a misunderstanding of the Christian life.

The second issue is a misunderstanding of timing, and a failure to recognize that God does not operate according to man’s schedule. In people’s impatience they subject themselves to more suffering than necessary, or as a result of only living in their present circumstances they lose hope in God’s promise of peace and rest. John Piper puts it like this:

“Impatient people are weak, and therefore dependent on external supports — like schedules that go just right and circumstances that support their fragile hearts. Their outbursts of oaths and threats and harsh criticisms of the culprits who crossed their plans do not sound weak. But that noise is all a camouflage of weakness. Patience demands tremendous inner strength.”[2]

If people only look at the trouble and pain of their current situation, and never takes the time to reflect on how God has previously seen them through trials in their life, as well as looking ahead to God’s promise of a peace that surpasses all understanding[3], then they will either lose hope, become frustrated, or both. The loss of hope results from believing that God will never, with regard to time, come to the rescue and alleviate their suffering; whereas frustration arises out of feeling that God is not working fast enough to pull them out of their troubles. Both of these stem from impatience, and not being willing to submit to God’s timetable.

Noted Puritan preacher John Bunyan was arrested and thrown in prison for twelve years for preaching the gospel without a license from the Church of England; he had this to say regarding patience in light of his imprisonment:

“Before I came to prison, I saw what was a–coming, and had especially two considerations warm upon my heart; the first was how to be able to endure, should my imprisonment be long and tedious; the second was how to be able to encounter death, should that be here my portion; for the first of these, that scripture, Col. 1:11, was great information to me, namely, to pray to God to be ‘strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and long–suffering with joyfulness.’ I could seldom go to prayer before I was imprisoned, but not for so little as a year together, this sentence, or sweet petition, would, as it were, thrust itself into my mind, and persuade me, that if ever I would go through long–suffering, I must have all patience, especially if I would endure it joyfully.”[4]

It is with patience and reliance on God to act according to his timing that the Christian must endure suffering in this life while keeping his heart and mind set on the end of all suffering in the next life.

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Psalm 86:15.

[2] Piper, John, Future Grace: The Purifying Power of the Promises of God (Colorado Springs: Multnomah Books, 2012).

[3] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Philippians 4:4-7.

[4] Bunyan, John, Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners, (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, 1995).

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