Reconciling God and Sufferings

ONE HAS TO BEGIN somewhere.

If a person is seriously looking for a religion in which to join and thus plans to investigate various faiths, then he needs to make a choice about where to start his religious quest. Concerning this, we, Christians, believe that there are plenty of reasons a thoughtful seeker would sensibly consider Christianity as a starting point at least in his exploration.

Sensible as it is, Christianity sketches a picture of the world that matches reality—that is, it does not deny but confidently accepts what we encounter as real. For instance, whereas other religions such as Eastern traditions typically put sorrow, pain, and suffering in the category of illusion—that “evil and suffering are real only as long as the ego believes them to be real” and that “they will fade away as one gains enlightenment about the illusory nature of the phenomenal world” (Passionate Conviction, pp. 147-148), Christianity, on the other hand, bluntly confronts these profound issues from the very first pages of Genesis. Biblical writers affirm the presence of these things (Jer. 15:18; Rom. 8:22), such as the Psalmist who pronounced, “Evils have encompassed me without number” (Ps. 40:12, Revised Standard Version). The fact that one whole book in Christianity’s Scriptures, the Book of Job, was even dedicated to the questions concerning personal suffering proves without a doubt that Christianity does not dismiss misery, pain, and suffering as false impressions, but even offers a sound perspective for coming to terms with their undeniable existence. Indeed, for the fact that their presence confounds our mind and touches our hearts—that we are saddened by cruelty, calamities, and injustices, and can’t help but feel sorry for and even weep with those who are in pain, misery, and suffering—indicates that a sound religion must make sense of them, instead of brushing them aside as if they are not real.   

So how does the Bible depict pains and sufferings? While not considering them as illusory, how should we, Christians, view the unpleasant events which we, too, sometimes experience?

The Holy Scriptures informs us of various causes and reasons why awful things sometimes take place.For instance, as much of the sickness found in newly born babies are caused by their parents’ dependence on alcohol, ingestion of drugs, or crooked lifestyles, some sufferings, we might say, are man-made or caused by man’s rebellion against God’s warnings. The same is true, obviously, in cases of people doing crimes against other people. The statement in the Book of Ecclesiastes thus rings a bell, “God made man upright, But they have sought out many schemes” (7:29, New King James Version). Man, therefore, brought upon himself sufferings by selfishly choosing his own way apart from God’s way.

But it also takes a “tempter” for man, who was created in God’s image (Gen. 1:26-27), to disobey his Creator. The “serpent” tempted Adam and Eve to break God’s command, and their consequent violation caused them their right to reside in the Garden of Eden and their privilege to live a trouble-free life (Gen. 3). Without necessarily absolving man from liabilities, we might say, therefore, that most of the sufferings come about because of the undertakings of this “tempter” or “serpent” who delights in turning people away from God and in dragging them to miseries—Satan or the devil (Matt. 4:3; Gen. 3:1; Rev. 12:9).  

Nonetheless, we must recognize the difference between the suffering that is intentionally caused by evil and the pain that is involved whenever growth and maturity are coming about. There is a certain amount of pain, when a body builder, for instance, strives to lift a heavier weights. But there is also a tremendous delight that comes when one finally breaks through into a new level of performance and attains the ensuing progress. In more ways than one, the same is true in one’s struggle towards spiritual maturity and in achieving better outlook in life.  

Some sufferings could also be significant for people to be drawn closer to God. There are those who have to suffer before they realize the importance of returning to God. Not until they had their wealth or health or a loved one taken away from them, that they will have the desire to serve the Lord and be saved consequently. Proving that afflictions could be helpful for some to learn God’s statutes and keep His words, the Psalmist exclaimed:

It is good for me that I have been afflicted, That I may learn Your statutes.Before I was afflicted I went astray, But now I keep your word.”(Ps. 119:71, 67, NKJV)

Admittedly, we, Christians, too, are not spared from encountering troubles, sorrows, and pains as we take the journey on this imperfect world. But never is this fact incongruent with the Christian worldview that gives emphasis on God’s saving power. The Bible explains that even faithful servants of the Lord, at times, encounter tribulations, for “tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope” (Rom.5:3-4, Ibid.). On occasion, we are also in trials, for the result of which is “the ability to endure,” and our endurance “carries [us] all the way without failing,” so that we may be “perfect and complete, lacking nothing” (James 1:3-4, Today’s English Version). For our faith to be tested and purified, we, sometimes, find ourselves in grief and misery—so as to receive the “end of [our] faith—the salvation of [our] souls”(I Pet. 1:6-9, NKJV).

Hence, some of the sufferings we experience and the unpleasant things we endure could serve as tools that prepare us for divine functions and missions and mold us to be spiritually mature and holy before God. By making us learn from our mistakes, suffering trains us (Heb. 12:11). Sometimes, it is there to manifest God’s grace in our lives (I Pet. 5:10).

The good news is that one day soon, all forms of miseries will be brought to an end! The Holy Scriptures reports that in His just and benevolent will to abolish evil completely, the Almighty God“has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness” (Acts 17:31, NKJV). This event includes not only “the perdition of ungodly men” (II Pet. 3:7, 10, Ibid.) ultimately “into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels”(Matt. 25:41, Ibid.), but also the giving of ultimate reward—to dwell in the blissful Holy City where there shall be no more death, sorrow, crying, and pain—to those who, amidst pains and miseries, patiently endured, obeyed God’s commandments, and remained faithful (Rev. 21:1-4; 14:12-13).

Therefore, in the worldview that Christianity submits, even pain has meaning and purpose. Advocating God’s omnipotence, the true Church believes that God is able to employ even the most sorrowful parts of our life for our good. Faith in Him gives meaning even to our most hurting suffering, as it provides us sense of hope and purpose. It reminds us that although life could be full of pains, but definitely, there is more to life than just the hurt!

On our part as true Christians, worthy of emulation, therefore, are Apostle Paul and his co-workers, who, in spite of extreme sufferings they went through, perceived the distressing experiences as teaching them a lesson coming from the Lord:

“For we do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, of our trouble which came to us in Asia: that we were burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired even of life. Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead, who delivered us from so great a death, and does deliver us; in whom we trust that He will still deliver us”(II Cor. 1:8-10, NKJV).

So, when the misery we endure is dreadfully heartbreaking that the pain has seeped through the fabric of our faith, may we be able to imitate the suffering Job, who, instead of doubting and distrusting God, emphatically declared with conviction, “I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth.  And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God” (Job 19:25-26, NIV).



It is morally significant because, truthfully, more often than not, we Christians tend to believe that God doesn't love us. Our Lord God has plans for us, and I believe that His plans are all for our own good and for the better, He's just reminding us that He's there and that we could and should count on Him.

While we are taking our journey, many obstacles can go on our way and I believe that God has a purpose why we are suffering pains in this world and this is to make us stronger, not for us to be weakened. He let us to experience these pains for us to rely on Him.

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