We have been asked the question or have wondered about it ourselves: Why is there suffering in the world? You might be surprised to know that this question is not necessarily new. In fact, it was raised in Jesus' day. In John 9, we find the story of a man who had been blind from birth. One day as Jesus was walking by him with His disciples, they thought it might be a good opportunity to ask Him why this man ended up in that state. Why was he blind? The disciples asked, "Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" (John 9:2 NKJV). In other words, Why is this man in the state that he is in? What caused this? What sin brought this about? What they were asking were the classic questions: Why does God allow evil? Why does God allow suffering?
Many will say they don't believe in God because of a tragedy that happened to them in life. Maybe something harsh happened to them. Maybe their parents divorced when they were young. Or maybe someone very close to them died. They have held that against God for their entire lives. They want to know how God could have allowed such a thing. Our human intellects and notions of fairness reject the apparent contradiction between a loving God and a world of pain. We either believe that God is all-loving, but not all-powerful, and therefore He can't stop evil, or He is all-powerful, but He is not all loving, therefore He won't stop evil. The general tendency is to put everything on God, to blame everything on the Creator.
But we have to understand that people played a very important role in the entrance of sin into the human race. In the Garden of Eden, sin came because of the disobedience of Adam and Eve. If they had not chosen to do the wrong thing, we would not have the aging process that we have today. If Adam and Eve had not sinned, I would have a full head of hair right now. But because of their sin, we face all these troubles in life. Because of their sin, life doesn't go on forever, because God said, "But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die" (Genesis 2:17 NKJV). But let's not be too hard on Adam and Eve, because if any one of us had been in the Garden, we would have done the same thing. That is confirmed by the fact that we have all sinned.
Sometimes we can see a connection between godless behavior and harsh repercussions. But then there are times when something bad happens to someone who is living a godly life. Good things happen to bad people, and bad things happen to good people. But here is what we need to remember: When a Christian suffers, God will always, in some way, use it or be glorified through it and sometimes even remove the suffering. That is a great hope and comfort to all believers.
There are reasons for suffering. Sometimes we even can see God's hand in it. Sometimes God will use pain to get our attention, because we don't listen to Him otherwise. It may be something unexpected such as a sickness, a tragedy, or the death of a loved one. So we reach out to God in desperation, and God graciously accepts us.
Sometimes God allows hardship so He can be glorified through it. Many times we see God answer our prayers and do amazing things in the lives of people. Sometimes God may be using hardship in our lives to prepare us for the future. Our life experiences can be used by the glory of God to help others. And God, in His amazing knowledge, can work all things together for good to those who love God and are the called according to His purpose. Sometimes we ask God to take something away, but He says, "No, I am going to work through it."
Would you be willing to take what you are going through right now and say, "Lord, I don't understand it, but I want you to be glorified through it"? God may remove the thing that got your attention. Or, He may allow it to remain for a time. But whatever happens, you will be in the right place — with God again.
What does Esther have in common with Rahab? Or Ruth with Tamar? They seem like diametrically opposed personalities. Shannon Bream gives insightful answers to those questions in her new book. We will mail you a copy when you make a donation of any amount to Harvest Ministries today!