Time and time again the question pops up in life, why do we suffer? This question enters our minds as soon as strife or grief arrives in our lives. In The Problem with Pain by C.S. Lewis, he says we regard God as an airman regards his parachute. – An airmen never hopes that he has to use his parachute. It is the last resort to an awful situation. How often do we resort to God when all other methods fail? Should He not be the first resort? There is so much in our lives fighting for our attention and God is usually the last person to get it. I will ask, where in our busy schedule does God fit in? Is it after we get out of bed? After breakfast? Do we say, “oops, no more room in my schedule, Lord? Then don’t be surprised when he says, “be gone from me, I never knew you.” I implore you, dear reader, to put God first. If the question, Why do we suffer?, refers to the loss of a loved one. Reflect on the following; a true christian never dies, we just relocate. I do not down-play your lose. Rather, you have my sympathies. I have lost people too; one to suicide, one in a fire, one killed in a hit and run, another blown up by a suicide bomber, and a grandfather to Alzheimer’s. I can only imagine what the future holds. If the question, why do we suffer?, is a reflection of the time we spend bed ridden before our death. I will say, have you not heard? There are no aeithiests in foxholes. Meaning, it is not until we are face to face with death that we begin to reflect on our mortality. This is usually when people reach out to God. I had a friend tell me that his father was on his death bed, so he thought. The pain was unbearable. He wanted it to end and his father, up to that point, never accepted Jesus. It was not until he was at the end of his rope, in pain and suffering, that his father reflected on his relationship with with the Lord. His father accepted Jesus Christ after being on the edge of pain and death. By the way, he made a full recovery after that.
What about those of faith that are themselves in a bed with pain? Peter Marshall was a Scottish American and US Senate Chaplin. His wife, Catherine Marshal (1914-1983), was a writer and author. She penned A Man Called Peter; the story of her husband. It would later become a film. In both film and book, Cathrine becomes sick and contemplates her suffering. Relenting, Cathrine cries out to the Lord saying He can have all of her and to do with her as He pleases. Soon there after, she recovers. Peter Marshal tells his wife that the Lord did not want a part of her. Rather, the Lord wanted her in totality. This reminds me, that pain and suffering is one way that we are tried and tested. The Lord grabs our attention and refines us this way, sometimes. I urge you to pray and give Him benefit of the doubt. Remember the story of Job? He lost everything; home, family, finances, health. Eventually, Job breaks down and demands that God explain Himself for the suffering he endures. The Lord answers Job from a whirlwind:
Who is this that darkens counsel without knowledge? Dress for action like a man; I will question you and you make it known to me. Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? (Job 38:1-3).
The Lord is telling Job that he speaks without any understanding. Our perspective is so limited compared to God. We could not comprehend all that the Lord takes into consideration before our suffering. The Lord gets Job to question his position in the grander scheme of things.
This world operates by the laws of physics. Who do you think came up with the foundations of physics? – Certainly not man. Man has only discovered physics, not created it. Man was nothing before the physical laws and properties of the world came about. Trying to explain the foundations of the world to Job would be like trying to explain calculus to a rock. The language and understanding was not there. Are we any better today? With advancements in languages and sciences, we may be better equipped. However, that does not mean we can understand all that the Father takes into consideration. Our minds and our strengths are vastly inferior to God.
Sometimes I find myself in a situation where my pain and suffering helps those going through similar experiences. Who is better equipped to minister to the suffering than those who have suffered? It is hard to relate to someone about pain, if you have no understanding of pain. Christians are not called to live a life of comfort. We are called to a life of servitude on the Lord’s behalf. Will you serve? are you willing to be burned, refined as a tool for God? Christians should strive to be givers and not takers, that does not mean you cannot accept something offered. If we do not learn to receive help, we could never accept what the Lord has done for us on the cross. You do not have to be a pastor or member of clergy to minister to others. You can minister to those in your workplace. Ministry can happen in our day to day interactions. But treat all hardships as discipline from the Father.
It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.Hebrews 12:7-11, ESV
Reflect on the manor in which you are living. Are you living for self? Or are you living for God? Are you reflecting on Him and His word? Or does your family, love interest, job or gadgets get the prime cuts of your attention. I say this so you may reflect on your daily habits and motives before you ask, “why do we suffer?” When you might mean to ask, “why am I suffering?” In life and in scripture, we see man often suffers in this world. The suffering of mankind is often brought upon by the choices men and women make and seldom because of God. In scripture, we see God removes his hand of protection because of wickedness. – This is all evil needs to succeed, for God to remove Himself. Darkness is the absence of light; wickedness is the absence of righteousness. Adam and Eve could have lived in paradise with God, free of worry, pain and suffering. However, God gave man an element of freedom. Seldom, do we use freedom for righteousness sake. In short, we are selfish creatures that need to learn the selflessness of Christ. He gave it all unto death. – Give all the glory to Jesus for that.