Why Do We Suffer?
Last week I checked my Facebook and I saw numerous status updates about the earthquake in Haiti. It is now reported that around 100,000 people died in this natural disaster! In the past ten years in America the greatest tragedies we have witnessed were Hurricane Katrina and the bombing of the Twin Towers on 9/11. Wikipedia reports that around 2,000 people lost their lives due to Katrina and 3,000 lost their lives on 9/11. Hours before I sat down to write this article I got a text from a friend whose step mom had just passed away. Yesterday I was notified that one of the athletes I train was going to miss her workout because her mom suffered a heart attack earlier that morning. A week ago I received a text from a friend saying his brother had just been shot. Why would God allow such tragic things to happen? This question undoubtedly has gone through many peoples’ minds after the earthquake in Haiti and after loved ones pass away. If God is a “good” God and is a sovereign God, why would He allow this to occur? Isaiah 46:10 tells us that God declares the end from the beginning and that He will accomplish His purpose. Other Scriptures tell us that nothing comes to pass unless God commands it and that no one can hold back his hand or control him ( Lament. 3:37, Daniel 4: 35) In fact, Isaiah 45:7 tells us that the Lord is the one who creates calamity. Amos 3:6 says, “When disaster comes to a city, has not the LORD caused it?” You may be asking, “Stephen, are you saying that God planned this terrible earthquake?” Yes, that IS what I am saying. I do not know the exact reason why it occurred but I do know that God is sovereign and allowed it to happen.
Pondering weighty things like this has caused me to wonder why God allowed sin to enter the universe in the first place. I mean, if God is sovereign couldn’t He have created an Adam who never would have disobeyed? That way, without the curse, everything would still be perfect and we wouldn’t have to suffer physical pain, emotional hurt or death. Yes, God COULD have created the earth to be like that but He DIDN’T. If everything was always perfect and we never had problems I highly doubt that we would be thankful to God for His goodness or want to worship Him for saving us.
God is concerned about His glory and I believe He created the world the way it is so He would get the most glory. I am convinced that the entire universe exists to display the greatness of the glory of the grace of God. The best example of this is seen at the cross of Christ. In fact, I would say that the death of Christ in supreme suffering is the clearest display of the glory of the grace of God. Here we see a lovely example of an event where men meant it for evil but God meant it for good. Jesus was totally perfect and never sinned once, yet experienced the most brutal form of death in crucifixion on a cross. He was innocent but suffered more than anyone in human history! He bore the wrath of the Father and experienced the torment of hell on the cross for sinners like me and you. Consider the achievements of Christ by his suffering on the cross. Through his suffering: he absorbed God’s wrath, bore our sins, purchased our forgiveness, provided a perfect righteousness, defeated death by suffering death, defeated Satan, and purchased a final healing for all of his people!
Ultimately suffering came about due to the fall of man. (Gen 3: 14-16) However, suffering is a necessary part of the created universe so the greatness of the glory of the grace of God can be most fully revealed. Suffering must exist so that we can appreciate the true value of grace. I would even say that the ultimate reason that suffering exists is so that Christ might display the greatness of the glory of the grace of God by suffering in himself to overcome our suffering! In other words, suffering exists so that Christ can overcome our sufferings for us and give God the most glory. The Father planned Christ’s suffering before the foundation of the world (Acts 2:23) The Father allowed the fall of man and the sufferings that accompany the curse yet already planned to send His perfect Son to die for us so that He could overcome these sufferings for us! The suffering of the innocent Son of God in place of wretched sinners to bring us to everlasting joy is the greatest display of the glory of God’s grace ever.
When natural disasters strike or people we know suffer painful deaths we often question God. We ask why a good God would allow such things to happen to “good” people. Our thinking is twisted because there is no one good but God and we all deserve death due to our sin. (Rom. 6:23) A better question would be to ask, “Why do good things happen to bad people?” In John 9, when the disciples saw a blind man they asked Jesus who had sinned to cause this man to be blind. Was it his parents or the blind man? Jesus answered and said, “Neither, but that the works of God might be displayed in Him.” This is a great example of how God allowed suffering in order to show the glory of the grace of God. It should be pointed out that God does not always cause us to suffer as a direct result of a specific sin. In the case of Haiti I do not know if the earthquake was God’s judgment for their sin or not. When a tower in Siloam fell and killed eighteen people Jesus had to remind those around him that the victims were not worse sinners than the ones who survived the fall of the tower. Jesus said, “Unless you repent you will all likewise perish.” (Luke 13:5) When terrible things like the earthquake in Haiti occur it should challenge people to consider if they truly have faith in Jesus. Tomorrow is not promised and we could die any day. This should be a wakeup call for all of us to repent and look to God for forgiveness before a disaster strikes us.
Suffering is bound to occur in our lives. When it comes about, let’s pray that we can embrace our suffering for the joy set before us like Jesus did. (Heb 12:2) Without trusting in the one who suffered for us all our suffering is in vain and we will suffer for eternity in hell! Let us trust in the God who cares about us and wants us to depend upon Him. May we trust the God who will wipe away every tear and take away our pain once for all when we enter in heaven for eternity with Him! (Rev: 21:4)