Listen: Chris Witts presents Morning Devotions
One of the most difficult questions we can ask is Why is there so much suffering? There’s no doubt that we have each asked this question many times, because in life we notice that pain and sorrow are everywhere.
All of a sudden, bad news comes. A man goes to his doctor for a check-up only to be told he has cancer, or an employee is told her job has been made redundant, and she’s out of work.
This can cause immense confusion and emotional stress, and people feel they are helpless to do anything. Every day our media brings us scenes of disaster and tragedy. On a larger scale, there is suffering in poor nations due to the lack of food and medicine.
Why do innocent people starve and go without shelter? I have a sense that the question of suffering challenges every thinking person. First World War chaplain Studdert Kennedy used to say that if a person was not disturbed by the problem of pain, they were suffering either from a hardening of the heart, or a softening of the brain.
We May Never Know Why Bad Things Happen
In the Old Testament we meet a good man named Job who suffered great loss. The book of Job is about his suffering. He was a righteous man who lost his sons and daughter and all his livestock.
Today it would be like losing all your savings and investments. A short time later, God allowed Job to suffer a horrible skin disease. It was so bad that he was disfigured and his friends didn’t recognise him. Yet, through it all, Job remained committed to God but he was asking, Why is this happening to me?
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He couldn’t understand it. His friends believed he had committed sin and was being punished. They were convinced that he’d done something to deserve the punishment and tragedy that had befallen him. In the end, God interrupts and tells Job’s friends they were wrong. Job had not sinned.
It’s a remarkable story of faith in spite of extreme suffering and in the end listen to what Job says to the Lord: “I know that you can do anything, and no one can stop you…I was talking about things I…did not understand, things far too wonderful for me” (Job 42:1-3 – TLB).
Here is the point. We may never know why bad things happen to us. There may be no logical reason, at least in this life. Sometimes the church has not helped by giving pat answers to people going through awful suffering like, You must have more faith to believe God will heal you, or You must give thanks to God for this experience.
I heard of one minister who said, You’ve been appointed to suffer for him because of your integrity. I don’t believe any of those answers are helpful. In fact, they only bring more guilt on the person who is already suffering. I feel there are some instances of suffering that we will never understand. Don’t give glib and unwise statements to your friend who is suffering. Best to say nothing and give your love and support in a practical and caring way.
Cling to Hope in Difficult Times
If you’ve ever had to face up to suffering, how did you deal with it? Did you ask for God’s help? Were you able to talk with friends and find help? Sometimes the feeling of helplessness can be overpowering, which drives people to contemplate suicide. They feel there is no way out, and that is very sad.
The key here is the little word ‘hope’. When we have hope, we can hang on during the difficult days. The Bible can help here and I’m looking at 2 Corinthians 4:17-18 which says this: “Our present troubles are quite small and won’t last very long…So we don’t look at the troubles we can see right now; rather, we look forward to what we have not yet seen. For the troubles we see will soon be over, but the joys to come will last forever”.
Paul had his share of suffering, yet he lived in hope of sharing the glory of eternity and seeing the risen Lord Jesus. This kept him going, as it does for every committed Christian. If you’re not a committed Christian, I can suggest turning your life over to Jesus is the best thing ever. He won’t take away all the suffering or hardship, but he will give you a reason to keep going. Your faith in God will grow as you remember that he has a higher purpose for your life. He hasn’t abandoned you, and he’s sharing every hard moment with you.
That’s why so many people are helped by the words of Psalm 23:1-4 that says:
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside still waters,
he restores my soul.
Even though I walk
through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;