Life. It’s beautiful, but also a mystery. Sometimes a profound mystery. But also a perplexing one. And one mystery you and I often ask is, “Why is there so much suffering in the world?” Or better yet, “Why does so much suffering happen to me?”
“Suffering is everywhere, unavoidable, and its scope often overwhelms,” says Tim Keller.
That means you and I, in this life, will suffer. And suffer a lot. For Paul says through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God (Acts 14:22).
I don’t know why your life is so hard. I’m not sure why God sends so many trials your way. I have no idea when it will end. But I know this: your hardships are not because God doesn’t love you.
Yes, remember the love of God in hard times. But don’t forget to also remember these three truths.
1) God brings you to the fire.
To say God allows suffering is one thing. To say God sends suffering is another. Both are biblical. But the later better reveals God’s sovereignty in your pain.
No doubt: some suffering is our fault:
- We’re lazy at work, and we get fired.
- We don’t exercise, and our bodies suffer.
- We cheat our taxes, and then face the penalty.
- We date an unbeliever, and that ends in disaster.
None of these, of course, are God’s fault. Then again, nothing is. We sometimes make stupid decisions and have to suffer the consequences.
But not all suffering is your fault. Just look at Job. In chapter one, God speaks of Job and says, “There is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man.” By chapter three, Job loses his children and property and much of his health.
Sometimes, holy people suffer tremendous amounts of pain for unexplainable reasons.
We need to be careful when we talk about pain. On one hand, God is not the author of evil and not everything is understandable. On the other hand, however, we know from texts like Hebrews 12:3-11 that God specifically sometimes sends pain for the sake of discipline, among other reasons. God is sovereign over all, and no hardship will befall you unless God says so.
2) God is with you in the fire.
The most comforting thing to know in seasons of suffering is that God is with you in your suffering. Literally. He’s with you.
Think back to the book of Daniel. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abendgo end up in the fiery furnace for refusal to worship the gods and golden images that King Nebuchadnezzar made. The furnace was heated seven times more than usual. The men who threw them in the fire died. But Shadrach, Meshach, and Abendo didn’t.
The King’s counselors said to him, “I see four men unbound, walking in the midst of the fire; and they are not hurt. The appearance of the fourth is like the son of the gods” (Dan. 3:25).
We know the fourth person is Jesus. Yes, he sometimes sends you into the fire. But the great promise of the Christian faith is that God will be with you once you’re there.
3) God will deliver you from the fire.
I’m not sure when your suffering will end, but it won’t last forever. Maybe in this life. But certainly in the next. During seasons of suffering, you and I tend to think more about heaven than we do when everything is fine. This is a blessing. And no matter how painful life is right now, you can look forward to the day when, “He will wipe away every tear, and death will be no more” (Revelation 21:4).
Are you in the fiery furnace right now? Take heart: God is with you and will one day deliver you. Trust God’s character even if your feelings want you to believe otherwise. As Charles Spurgeon says, “When you can’t trace his hand, you must learn to trust his heart.”
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