Why Does God Allow Some To Suffer More Than Others
Editors note: For a lot of us, COVID-19 has impacted many aspects of our daily lives. While some have been impacted more than others, none of us are in this alone. At YMI, we hope that our daily devotionals and biblical articles will provide you with hope, inspiration, and biblical guidance. If youre struggling to cope with the effects of COVID-19, this piece from YMI about suffering is a good read.
Joshua Woo is the special officer to a Member of Parliament in Malaysia. He was formerly a Presbyterian pastor in Singapore.
At a recent political conference, I had the opportunity to meet individuals from different countries, many of whom were currently living amid political uncertainty.
Listening to the struggles they faced in their own countries, I was intrigued. Some had been imprisoned before. Some were living in exile. Some were being prosecuted by their governments. Many didnt have the opportunity to study, work, or start a family.
The plight of other groups caught my attention as wellthe Syrian and Rohingya refugees, and the victims of human trafficking. The former were forced to leave their countries and cross borders illegally in order to survive, while the latter were kidnapped, prostituted, and traded. I was also gripped by the accounts of those forced to live in terrible conditions. Some were even murdered, as the recent discovery of mass graves at the borders between Malaysia and Thailand proved.
Suffering And Christian Ethics
In Jesus, Christians have the promise of a lover who will never leave them or forsake them, who sits with them in suffering to the bitter endand beyond. As Jesuss body on earth, therefore, Christians must throw themselves into fellowship with sufferers. This is not a fellowship devoid of practical help. Christians were the first to found hospitals andfor all their moral failurehave done more in global terms to alleviate suffering than any other movement. We see this historically and we see it today.
In 2018, ISIS victim and humanitarian Nadia Murad shared the Nobel Peace Prize with Congolese physician Denis Mukwege. Dr. Mukwege, nicknamed Doctor Miracle, is a pioneering surgeon who has treated thousands of victims of sexual violence for the medical aftereffects of gang rape and brutality. Recognizing Jesuss relentless call on Christians to serve the suffering, Mukwege urges fellow believers, As long as our faith is defined by theory and not connected with practical realities, we shall not be able to fulfil the mission entrusted to us by Christ. If we are Christs, Mukwege continues, we have no choice but to be alongside the weak, the wounded, the refugees and women suffering discrimination.
Living From The Outside In
Socrates famously said that The unexamined life is not worth living. If you spend no time in reflection, in the deeper conversation with your Self, you will never find your true purpose or acknowledge the wonderful being you are. Youll spend most of your life comparing yourself to others and always criticizing yourself for not being enough.
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How Suffering Points To Gods Existence
The question of suffering initially prevented the author and Oxford scholar C.S. Lewis from believing in God. But he eventually realized his desire for good and justice actually pointed to the existence of a good and just God.
In Mere Christianity, he explains, My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust?
Our desire to end suffering is a glimpse of the good God who created people to reflect His loving nature by caring for one another.
We feel that our world should be different. It should be free from suffering. That very impulse is a longing that God gave us so that we would look for something beyond this life.
Lewis concludes, If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.
Choosing Fear Over Love
You have two choices around how you lead your life. You can choose fear or love. Fear produces thoughts that cause a contraction in our hearts, minds and bodies. You restrict yourself, you protect yourself from life itself. There is no way to achieve fulfillment and potential when you live out of fear. You are constantly hiding. Only when you choose to live from a place of love can you generate optimism and courage and compassion.
When you live from love everything becomes possible. #aliciaisms
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Why Do Christians Suffer
May 27, 2016
We who have been called to this great purpose of conformity to the image of Christ will for that reason also be called to suffer with Christ. If we want to know him and the power of his resurrection, then we will need to share in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death . Not that our death in any way is redemptive. Only Christs death can save. But yet, if anyone is in Christ, then that person has glory and hardship in store . We are often caught off guard by our sufferings, as though we ought to be exempt. We reason that since we are not condemned, then why should we continue to pay any price?
Faith Refined by Fire
We hardly have all the answers for the mystery of suffering, especially the suffering of Christians. Ultimately, only God can have reasons for the evil in this world and the pain inflicted on its inhabitants. We do know that the immediate responsibility for evil is ours, not Gods. But we wonder why believers who are acquitted from the responsibility still must receive the consequences deserved by sinners. The Bible explains that suffering has a number of purposes connected with sanctification. One of them is the purification of our faith. As gold is refined by fire, Peter tells us, so our faith is perfected by hardship and trials, so that it will
The central reason for Christian suffering is fellowship with Christ.
Renewed Fellowship with Christ
Glory as the Ultimate End
How Sin Causes Suffering
Our rejection of God and all the things that result from it are what the Bible calls sin. Suffering can be the result of different types of sin. But we need to be clear that if you are suffering right now, this is not necessarily Gods way of punishing you for a particular thought or behavior.
Suffering goes back to Adam and Eves rebellion. This is often referred to as original sin. The Bible teaches that much of humanitys suffering is a result of this breaking of humankinds relationship with God and spoiling of His perfect world.
This brokenness is evident all around us, from natural disasters to the fact that we cannot trust other people. Death itself is a result of original sin. Before the first people disobeyed God and went their own way, there was no death. Adam and Eve lived in harmony with God, who is the source of life. Once humankind severed that relationship, death was the natural and inevitable consequence.
Suffering can be the result of someone else choosing to sin or harm you personally in some way.
If someone chooses to punch you in the eye, you suffer the consequences of their actions in the form of a black eye. If someone chooses to break into your home and steal your property and money, you suffer the loss of possessions and probably the loss of your sense of personal security.
We can also suffer as a result of our own poor choices.
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Clinging To Your Identity
When you choose an identity, whatever that is when you say I am., you immediately create a limitation and an expectation of who you are. Thats a mental process not necessarily a reality. You are more than a title or a word. You may call yourself names that diminish you or you may find your self-worth in the identity you choose and anything that challenges your sense of worth then becomes a threat or an insult or a conundrum. You suffer because someone may suggest that you are not who or what you believed yourself to be.
Suffering Has Many Faces
Christians can experience many troublesmental, physical, emotional or spiritual suffering . All Christians have or will suffer . The Apostle Paul experienced various faces of suffering .
Suffering can come because of foolish choices. We see this in Proverbs: fools suffer harm , lazy people become hungry , adulterers reap bad consequences , etc.
While suffering can be a result of sin, all creation, even the righteous, will groan under the weight of sin and suffering . Only in heaven is there no pain, death or grief .
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Suffering Keeps Your Eyes On Eternity
As followers of Jesus, we have this hope that this life does not last forever. We know the end of the story when Jesus shall come back and reign on the new earth for all of eternity.
If you understand who God is, and His purposes in using suffering for your good and His glory, you can keep your eyes fixed on Christ and the hope you have in Him.
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.
Romans 8:18 ESV
Everything you experience now is only temporary. The body you have now is only temporary.
One day Jesus will come back and your body will be made like His glorified body. You will no longer experience any pain or suffering. What a glorious day that will be!
How Did Suffering Enter Our World
Genesis, the first book of the Bible, tells of Gods original creation: a perfect world, free of suffering, in which people had a direct relationship with God. God made a good world, but He allowed people to make choices, and the choices they made ultimately ruined it.
Suffering began with people rebelling against God. The book of Genesis tells the story of this first rebellion. God made the first man and woman, Adam and Eve, and gave them the perfect, good world He made. He only gave them one rule:
You may freely eat the fruit of every tree in the garden except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If you eat its fruit, you are sure to die .
The devil, in the form of a serpent, convinced Eve to eat from the tree by persuading her that God was holding out on her. He said, God knows that your eyes will be opened as soon as you eat it, and you will be like God, knowing both good and evil .
The devil tempted her with the power to be like God, which would enable her to go her own way without trusting God. Adam also chose to eat the fruit, knowing that it was against Gods one command.
Revelation, the last book of the Bible, tells us about the new creation God will make in the future. One day, God will make everything new and once again perfect and free from suffering. He Himself will live among His people. Even better, this time we will be unable to spoil Gods perfect creation.
Find out more about how you can know God personally.
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The Christians Reaction To Suffering
First, it should be one of worship. We ought to say, O God, I believe You are the great and mighty God. I dont understand all the things that are happening in my life, but, O God, I trust in You.Second, we should ask God to teach us all He would have us learn about Him, about ourselves, about others and how we can minister to those who are suffering.
Third, our attitude in suffering should glorify God. People are going to watch us as Christians. They will ask, How is it that Christ is so in control of his or her life that he or she was able to help others?
Jesus suffered and died for us on the cross, but God raised Him from the dead. Jesus Christ now sits at the right hand of God the Father, and He sees our suffering. He sees our life every day and knows exactly where we stand.
The Bible teaches that we are to be patient in suffering. Thats the hardest thing of all, to be patient, to have songs in the night. Ask God to help you have a trusting, patient attitude, and flee from bitterness.
In suffering there is also, I believe, a message of warning. Are you prepared to meet God? What do you have to do to be ready? God took the initiative in giving His Son, Jesus Christ. God says, I love you. I want to forgive you. I want you to go to heaven. But you must respond to Him. Find hope, peace, and security today.
How Could A Loving God Allow So Much Suffering
Rebecca McLaughlin, who entertained with dramatic flair at our last conference and who has guest hosted a couple of our podcast episodes, recently released a new book, Confronting Christianity . She tackles a dozen of the hardest objections to the faith, including the claims that Christianity is anti-science, misogynistic, and homophobic. The excerpt below comes from Chapter 11: How could a loving God allow so much suffering?
Just as the presence of so much suffering in the world can be a stumbling block to people considering the Gospel, suffering and death are also a reason why many Christians struggle to accept an old earth and evolution. They wonder how Gods creation could be called good if death has always been a part of life on this planet and occurred long before humans were around to sin. Yet the Bible shows us a God who works powerfully in and through suffering to draw us to himself. That seems to be true both in the natural world and in our individual and corporate lives. We pick up Rebeccas chapter near the end of her commentary on the story of Mary, Martha, and the raising of Lazarus from the dead .
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Suffering Equips Us For Ministry
Firsthand experience in suffering is essential in equipping us for ministry. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 1:4 that God comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.
But how? And what is the link between experiencing suffering and equipping for ministry? David Powlison answers this way:
When youve passed through your own fiery trials, and found God to be true to what he says, you have real help to offer. You have firsthand experience of both his sustaining grace and his purposeful design. He has kept you through pain he has reshaped you more into his image. . . . What you are experiencing from God, you can give away in increasing measure to others. You are learning both the tenderness and the clarity necessary to help sanctify another persons deepest distress.
God Cares About Suffering: Big Or Small
When you read the accounts of Jesus life, its clear He cares about even relatively minor difficulties. We see this in the description of the first time Jesus performs a miracle in John 2:1-11.
Jesus was at a wedding, and the host ran out of wine. This is not a big deal in the grand scheme of things. But when Jesus mother made Him aware of this small hardship, He did not tell her about all the other people who were going through much worse things. Instead, Jesus used His divine power to change ordinary water into excellent wine for the guests.
Though God will not always take away problems and hardships, we see from this miracle that He cares about the details of our lives.
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You Can Turn To God In Your Suffering
Even when God brings good things out of bad, suffering is still painful. Whatever youre experiencing, you can turn to God for comfort.
Be honest with God about how youre feeling He already knows. God is not afraid of your questions, your sadness or your anger. He can handle your thoughts and feelings. God wants you to pour out your heart to Him. He is your loving Father, ready to embrace you right where you are.
If you do not yet have a relationship with God, He wants you to turn to Him. Jesus suffered so that you could have forgiveness, hope and an eternity free of pain and suffering.
Find out how you can begin a relationship with God.
Suffering Prepares Us For Greater Glory
We dont like suffering and try to avoid it. But Paul says the Christians light and momentary troubles achieve for them greater joy and eternal glory that outweighs anything they will suffer .
In a sense, suffering for Jesus proves the believers faith. The Christ-follower suffers for Jesus sake, is conformed to His image, places all hope in Himtrusting that all things work together for His purposes and enters into the freedom and glory of Sonship for all eternity . The justified, sanctified believer will be glorified in heaven.
This should cause Christians to rejoice. When suffering proves the genuineness of the Christians faith, this results in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed .
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