Suffering is a universal problem: sooner or later it grips the lives of all of us, in one way or another…
Welcome to an updated and improved series I first published six years ago…
Why do we suffer? Surely, if there’s a loving God, there should be no suffering, or it should be short-lived and quickly fixed…
The problem of suffering is used by atheists, agnostics and unbelievers as a reason (or excuse) to ignore God or to preach against his existence. If there really were a God, particularly a loving God, they reason, either there would be no suffering, or he would show up at the first sign of any trouble and put things right. We would all be free to live our lives just as we want, without hindrance, trouble or problems of any kind.
All religions and philosophies, including evolutionism, either have an explanation for suffering, or attempt to sidestep it in one way or another (we don’t really exist and any suffering is caused by our own minds: that kind of thing). I intend to tackle the subject from a Biblical viewpoint.
What does the Bible say about suffering? Each substantial cause of suffering is covered in successive parts of this series, as follows:
- The Curse. The choices and actions of man have brought a curse on a world which was once perfect. The curse affects our bodies, our minds, and all of nature. Nature is running down.
- God’s judgment. God is patient with us, but eventually sends judgment and trouble upon a rebellious nation, city or individual.
- Testing. We’re all tested to assess and reveal the condition of our hearts.
- The consequences of rejecting God. By consistently rejecting Him, we’re not protected by His providence. This applies to nations, cities and individuals. By going our own way persistently, we’re inviting trouble.
- We reject God’s guidelines for a healthy, successful life.
- Satan and the spirit beings who have sided with him are against us. We all have an enemy who hates God, his children, humanity in general, and His creation.
- Free will. God chose to give humans the capacity to choose between right and wrong, rather than create a race of robots who were incapable of true love. Free will necessitates wrong choices and consequential suffering.
- Discipline. God ‘disciplines those he loves’ in order to make us more like Him.
- Humbling. Sometimes only suffering breaks our pride.
- A wake up call. Sometimes only suffering gets our attention. Our refinement is more important than our comfort and ease.
- Suffering may be allowed to teach dependence on God
- We harm ourselves with bad choices. For example, we’re too eager to get romantically involved with a person we don’t really know, or we throw our money into a dishonest or suspect business deal;
- We harm others with our actions. We may be violent, selfish or greedy. If we drive while intoxicated we’re risking lives. When we steal, we’re taking what belongs to other people and what they may have worked hard for.
- We harm ourselves with bad attitudes. For example, we may wallow in destructive self pity rather than looking to God and being thankful.
- We harm others with our words. The old ‘sticks and stones’ rhyme is not valid: words can be very destructive.
- We harm others when we fail to love them. Children in particular are in great need of expressed love and kindness.
- We harm others when we keep them from the truth, and when we teach them the inventions of man, such as evolution.
- Suffering may be allowed to bring glory to God, in the long or short term. We are His servants-not the other way around.
- Murphy’s Law/ Sod’s Law/ Fate/ Determinism/ Bad luck. (See my post on Murphy’s Law).