As Selwyn states: There is no easy answer to this question – ‘Why suffering?’
It’s my view that the full reason for suffering is hidden from us. We get some clues from Job, that sometimes the faith of righteous people is tested by Satan, and God allows this form of testing. In addition, we live in a fallen world where there has been a gradual decay of God’s good creation. Sin was bought into the garden of Eden, and since then Satan has been allowed to exercise some form of control over this world. Consequently, there is illness and suffering, which can happen to anyone; faulty DNA, illness or accidents are just part of the general environment in which we live.
We also know from Scripture that an individual may suffer, or have an accident, that is not related to a specific case of sin in that person’s life; but, in a general sense, we are all sinners – living in a sinful world. Listen carefully to Jesus’ words in Luke 13:1-5 (NIV): ‘Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Orthose eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.” ‘
Yet, we also know, that there are examples where suffering was the direct result of specific events, for example, David suffered because of his sins committed with Bathsheba, and the murder of her husband. 2 Samuel 12:8-15 (NIV): (God speaking to David through Nathan the prophet) “I gave your master’s house to you, and your master’s wives into your arms. I gave you the house of Israel and Judah. And if all this had been too little, I would have given you even more. Why did you despise the word of the LORD by doing what is evil in his eyes? You struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and took his wife to be your own. You killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. Now, therefore, the sword will never depart from your house, because you despised me and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your own.’
“This is what the LORD says: ‘Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity upon you. Before your very eyes I will take your wives and give them to one who is close to you, and he will lie with your wives in broad daylight. You did it in secret, but I will do this thing in broad daylight before all Israel.’ ”
Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the LORD.” Nathan replied, “The LORD has taken away your sin. You are not going to die. But because by doing this you have made the enemies of the LORD show utter contempt, the son born to you will die.”
After Nathan had gone home, the LORD struck the child that Uriah’s wife had borne to David, and he became ill.”
Notice that God makes it very clear to David, as to ‘why’ he will suffer. Consequently, it’s my view that where people suffer because of a particular sin, God, tells the person (by some means) – the reason for their ‘corrective’ punishment – there is no room for doubt. In summary, most cases of suffering fall into the earlier category – it’s part of our fallen world. The important aspect for God’s people, is how we respond to it. The second category, illustrated by what happened to David; is, I think, extremely rare.
My final comment on suffering links back to my introductory remarks – that, we don’t fully understand the reasons for it, and it’s related to the mystery of God’s suffering on the cross for us. What we can depend upon, is this: Jesus understands our suffering because He too has terribly suffered. The good news is that we can look forward to an eternity of joy and peace with Christ; where the 80 years, or so, of our flawed and suffering life on earth, will be less than a heartbeat, in comparison.
I liked this bit from today’s study, Selwyn writes: “We have already seen that the law of Christ is the law of caring. How does Jesus care (love)? He cared enough to hang on a cross and become, so to speak, the ‘dumping ground’ for our independence, anger, hatred and distrust. To a lesser degree, He calls upon you and me to do the same. Do you care enough about someone to sit with them and become the ‘dumping ground’ for their difficult feelings and concerns? Don’t worry if you have no theological explanation for the problem of human pain – just show the suffering person that you care.”
I have found that one of the best ways to show our love for a suffering person, is to pray – with and for, the suffering person; taking their pain to the One, who demonstrated to us all – what suffering really is …
What are your views on this issue of suffering?