All Christians eventually suffer, but not all Christians respond to their suffering in the same way. One reason is Christians from different backgrounds disagree on why people suffer. They disagree on:
- The source of suffering
- The extent of God's control over suffering
- The relationship of suffering to faith
- The relationship of suffering to free will
- The relationship of suffering to the sovereignty of God
The source of suffering
Some Christians believe that God brings only pleasant things, while all difficulties come from the evil one. They would answer the why me question by saying that Christians suffer because of the works of Satan, his demons, and his allies.
There is no doubt that Satan directly brings much suffering. Nevertheless, I would ask: Is Satan the ultimate source of suffering? This certainly was not the case with Job. In the book of Job it seems that God has Satan on a leash; see Job 1:10 and Job 42:11.
The extent of God's control over suffering
Then there are some Christians who believe that suffering comes because of the limited sphere in which God exercises His control. They would say that God only governs the big things, setting a general course for mankind by ruling and overruling in the context of major events, while leaving lesser events to chance. They would answer the why me question by saying that people suffer because of bad luck in a fallen world--God didn't cause this: it was just an accident.
Yet, far from being the result of chance, scripture proclaims that even when lots are cast (certainly a minor thing), God controls the outcome; see Proverbs 16:33.
The relationship of suffering to faith
Some Christians believe that suffering lays hold of believers when they do not have enough faith to protect themselves against Satan and his demons. Thinking that God has promised continuous health and prosperity to all believers, they answer the why me question by saying that suffering comes and remains due to failure to claim and stand firm in these promises.
Yet, if one looks at Philippians 1:29, not only do Christians suffer, but they are promised suffering, suffering for the sake of Christ.
The relationship of suffering to free will
Many Christians believe that God has given people free will, and that in order to give them free will, He has had to forego his control over them. They deny that God can exercise control at the same time that people are freely making decisions. Thus, they answer the why me question by saying that suffering often comes when people misuse their God-given freedom through doing evil.
When Joseph's brothers sold him into slavery, this was certainly an example of people using their free will to inflict suffering on others. Yet, even in this, God was working behind the scenes, planning the very details of this event; see Genesis 50:20.
The relationship of suffering to the sovereignty of God
Then there are Christians like me--people who believe that:
- God ordains all that happens.
- God either causes or permits everything that happens, including suffering.
We still ask the why me questions, but, hopefully, we ask them reverently. When we ask these questions, it is not a call for God to defend Himself. Rather, it is a request for God to let us in on His plans, plans we know are there, plans that were made and executed through the love, power, and wisdom of God, Himself. We have confidence to ask these questions because we know that suffering never enters our lives outside of God's control.
In his book, When Forgiveness Doesn't Make Sense, Robert Jeffress writes, "God takes full responsibility for all human suffering, including the wrongs others commit against us." (page 189)
If that statement is hard to receive, consider God's own words to Moses: "Who has made man's mouth? Or who makes him dumb or deaf, or seeing or blind? Is it not I, the LORD?" (Exodus 4:11)
Consider also Job's question: "Should we accept only good from God and not adversity?" (Job 2:10)
But what if we don't get answers? Even as we reverently ask the why me questions, let us reassure ourselves that God is good. Not only does God know and understand what He is bringing about, but one day we will all praise Him for every event He has brought into our lives. Why not do it now? Do it now through the eyes of faith.
This month's theme is Why did this happen to me. The articles below were selected to help all of us to address the why me question from a biblical perspective. May you be encouraged.
- A Loving Purpose: The Dark Side of Prosperity
By John MacDuff
- Why Me?
Enduring the Severity of God in the Context of His Grace
By Greg Wright
- Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People?
Thinking Biblically About the Problem of Sin in Our World
By Robert G Spinney
- Guestbook and Comments
Comments and suggestions are welcome.
- All Issues of The Monthly Encourager.
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