Why Does God Allow Suffering?
Terry Carlson - March 22, 2017
Have you ever had times in your life when everything goes wrong? You want to take a right but a detour takes you left; you want to make a pumpkin pie but all you have are lemons. You go to the hospital to have your appendix removed but end up without your gall bladder instead. And when it's time to finally install the new windows you've wanted, the workers discover dry rot!
I went through a time between September 26, 2016 – December 23, 2016, when I spent more time in the hospital than in my whole combined lifetime before that. It wasn't one event either. It was a series of unrelated events which made me wonder what I had done which could have made God so upset with me. Job and I have a few things in common: We both understand how our fortunes can change in an instant. (Well my fortunes changed over the course of a few months, while Job's actually did change instantly). Let me show you a comparison...Me first.
On September 25th, I suffered a mini-stroke. I recovered quickly but could not get my CDL Health Card recertified for an entire year so I'm out of work for the next 12 months. Second, on October 2, I dropped a large kidney stone. It lodged in my ureter and I had surgery to remove it. Complications arose. See my article at: http://desiretoinspire.life/kidney-stone-men-stumble-pain/ Third, from tests taken because of the stroke, my doctors discovered a hole in my heart and a blocked artery. Fourth, on December 7, I had surgery to close up hole in my heart. See my article for details: http://desiretoinspire.life/heart-surgery-the-hole-truth/ Fifth, December 13 – I can't breathe and almost pass out. Karen calls the ambulance and I'm rushed to the emergency room. (Yipee!!!) Diagnosis: Dehydration. Sixth, December 15th – A wind storm rips off a big branch from our cedar tree and takes out part of our chain link fence and our grandkids' swing set. (Glad it missed our house). Seventh, on December 23rd another heart surgery to put a stent in one of my arteries. Ooops! Doctor punctures the back side of the artery during entry resulting in a hematoma. An emergency surgery was scheduled and three hours later I awake to a 12" by 2" open wound from the palm of my right hand down to my elbow.
Now for Mr. Job, "...a good man who feared God and stayed away from evil". Job 1:1 "Job's sons and daughters were dining at the oldest brother's house when tragedy struck." Job 1:13 : First,"A messenger rushed to Job's home with this news: Your oxen were plowing, with the donkeys feeding beside them, when the Sabeans raided us, drove away the animals and killed all the farmhands except me." Second, "While the messenger was still speaking, another arrived with more bad news: The fire of God has fallen from heaven and burned up your sheep and all the herdsmen, and I alone have escaped to tell you." Third, "As he was still speaking, another arrived to say, "Your sons and daughters were feasting in their oldest brother's home, when suddenly a mighty wind swept in from the desert, and engulfed the house so that the roof fell in on them and all are dead; and I alone escaped to tell you." Forth, A short time later Satan, who was behind all the mischief to begin with, asked God for permission to hurt him. God relented and gave Job a horrible case of boils from the tip of his head to the bottom of his feet.
So why does God allow suffering? That's a question Godly men have wrestled with throughout the centuries, including Job. Romans 8:28 says, "And we know that all that happens to us is working for our good if we love God and are fitting into his plans." How can suffering be "working for our good"? James, the brother of Jesus, answers this question in James 1:2-4: "Dear brothers, is your life full of difficulties and temptations? Then be happy, for when the way is rough, your patience has a chance to grow. So let it grow, and don't try to squirm out of your problems. For when your patience is finally in full bloom, then you will be ready for anything, strong in character, full and complete." God wants us to love him by having faith that He knows what He is doing in our lives. When life is good, we are happy with our circumstances and feel God loves us and is pleased with us. When life takes a U-turn for the worse, we often feel distant from God. God must be punishing us. He doesn't care and doesn't love us enough to rescue us from our negative circumstances. As for me, I believe suffering is an opportunity to test my trust in God. Do I enjoy suffering? Do I consider it pure joy? Are you crazy? Sorry James but I guess I'm not mature enough to "be happy when the way is rough." I am mature enough though to understand that God loves me no matter what. If I am going to give Him control of my life, I have to be ready to accept the fact that He will, at times, bring difficult situations into my life for training purposes.
Remember the greatest commandments? "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind," is first. "Love your neighbor as yourself," is second. A part of love is having empathy toward the suffering of others. If we have no personal experience with suffering how can we learn to love those who suffer? If we haven't experienced suffering, how can we hope to even come close to understanding the suffering Christ experienced for us on the cross? Yes, through suffering our faith is tested but also our capacity for empathy grows. We must first acquire the faith necessary to humbly allow God to do his good work in our lives. This good work (which at times involves suffering) then allows us to feel the pain and suffering of others, including Christ. It is then, through suffering, we can truly begin to love others as we love ourselves and to truly love the Lord with our hearts, souls, and minds.