Why Suffering??? Part III

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.

Finally, and maybe most importantly, the Christian must have a proper understanding of the Christian life in relation to suffering. My favorite verse is John 16:33 “33 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”[2] Jesus said these words to the disciples as he foretold his ascension into Heaven, and the troubles they would face after his departure.

The prosperity or health and wealth gospel has spread far and wide in America, and promises money, no sickness, joy, power, and pleasure in this life. This false gospel stands in stark contrast to the words of Christ and the Apostles who all warned of the suffering Christians will have endure in this life. Paul states in Colossians:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.”[3]

The Christian must understand that to live a life for Christ is to also endure suffering, but that suffering is only for a time, and can be faced through the empowering of the Holy Spirit. If a person believes that following Christ means living with constant health, wealth, and pleasure, then he or she will be rocked to the core when trials, troubles, and tribulations come upon them.

Ultimately the key to enduring suffering is a right understanding of and reliance on God. We must understand that God loves us unconditionally and completely, but that this means he will subject us to tests and trials in order to refine and strengthen our faith.[4] We must also recognize that God works according to his own timing, but that all things work together for the good of those who serve Christ.[5] Above all we must realize that to live for Christ means that we will suffer.[6]

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

[2] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), John 16:33.

[3] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Colossians 1:3-5.

[4] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Deuteronomy 8:2-3; Psalm 66:8-12; Romans 5:1-5; 1 Peter 1:6-7.

[5] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Romans 8:28.

[6] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), 2 Timothy 3:12-13.

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