This post is only Part 1 of a five part series on suffering. This is written by our own Emily Moore.
If God is both sovereign and wholly good, how can He allow His children to suffer? Scripture asserts that God is in complete control of the universe, even suffering. Nothing happens that He does not notice (Matthew 10:29). Scripture even says that we may be called to suffer (1 Peter 2:21). However, even though God may allow evil to serve His purposes, He is completely righteous and always executes justice (Zephaniah 3:5). God delights in love, justice, and righteousness (Jeremiah 9:24). Scripture also describes God as loving and caring (1 Peter 5:7). How then can God choose to let His people suffer?
Ultimately, the answer lies in the hidden wisdom of God. I am not writing this essay because I have figured out “the” superior conclusion to this heart wrenching question. Because suffering is personal, not abstract, I can’t address or understand every situation. Even so, there are some definite reasons God has provided in His Word to guide all of His children through their inevitable suffering. This is an exploration of the reasons that have resonated with me, in both my heart and mind, while struggling with my own suffering. My hope and prayer is that God will use my writing to help you more fully understand the purpose for your suffering.
I’ve tried to supply each reason with at least some supporting Scripture; however, the references are not intended to be comprehensive. I strongly encourage you to dig into the Bible on your own to see what it has to say on suffering. I’d recommend starting with 1 Peter, Habakkuk, and Psalm 73.
So, why do Christians suffer?
1. We are sinners.
Ultimately, we are responsible for our own suffering, because in Adam all sinned (Rom 5:12) and brought the consequences of our rebellion upon our own heads. Suffering has an inherent, inescapable moral connotation. If there were no evil and no sin in the world, suffering also would not exist.
God hates evil and loves good. He judges justly, and therefore He must punish the wicked and vindicate the righteous. If He demanded anything less than perfection, His holiness and justice would be tainted. We know from our own experience that we are sinful. Not only do we commit specific acts of rebellion against our good and perfect Creator, our thoughts, words, and actions are continually bent toward gratifying our selfish desires. Therefore, even when suffering seems unjust and undeserved, we must remember that we have no entitlement to anything else. In fact, what we really deserve is eternal punishment in hell.
However, this miserable predicament also points us to the glorious truth of the gospel. Even though we are incapable of ever meeting God’s standard of holiness, He loved us so much that He sent His Son Jesus to earth, fully God and fully man, to meet the standard of perfection and to suffer the penalty for sin on our behalf. Jesus lived a perfect life, fulfilling the true righteousness of God, and God poured out His wrath on Jesus. All who trust in Him are united to Him through the Holy Spirit and stand before God justified on the basis of Christ’s righteousness.
This is the gospel, the good news, the focal point of the story of the universe. Since we deserve far worse than the suffering of this life, let’s approach God humbly, realizing we must rely on His grace alone.