Suffering has many forms and affects us physically, psychologically and emotionally. If suffering continues long enough it can crush the body and spirit. All people suffer whether they are rich or poor, intelligent or dumb, regardless of the color of their skin, regardless of their race, and regardless of whether they are Christian or non Christian. Why is suffering indiscriminate? Why do the innocent suffer?
So, why is there suffering? We suffer because of our disobedience (sin). God created this world to be as He intended it to be. There is God's intended will, His permissive will, and His ultimate will. God intended that the world would be perfect when He created it. However, he gave men a choice and men sinned. As a result of this sin God has temporarily permitted pain and suffering. This is God's permissive will and He asked that we trust Him and one day He will make all things right. Ultimately God will restore all things to His original intent. The Bible tells us that we live in a fallen world. When the disobedience of Adam and Eve occurred there was a curse put not only on man, but on the earth itself. We suffer because we live in this fallen world, and sin reigns in the hearts of the people. Genesis chapter 3 tells us of how physical and spiritual death came about as a result of Adam and Eve's disobedience. Childbirth became painful, the ground was cursed, and Adam and Eve were forced out of the Garden of Eden.
Suffering is also brought about when God has to discipline us. Our Heavenly Father will chasten us to bring us back into obedience, just like a parent should discipline their child today when they disobey, Hebrews 12:6-8. There is, however, a way to avoid discipline and it is called self judgment. If we fail to judge ourselves and confess our sin, our disobedience, then God will chastise us. If we confess our sin, then God will forgive us our sin and cleanse us from all unrighteousness, 1 John 1:9.
We need to remember also that the suffering that we have here on earth is only for a while, 1 Peter 5:10, and Romans 8:18 says the sufferings we have today are not worthy to be compared to the glory which shall be revealed in us.
In addition, in the New Testament Mark explains, in Mark 7:21-23, that evil thoughts and deeds come from within, from the heart of man. God condemns the very thoughts and actions we refer to as evil, and it is from out of the heart of man that evil and suffering come.
We could also suffer so that we would have honor and praise at the appearing of Christ, 1 Peter 1:7. We may suffer persecution for taking a stand on our faith, 2 Timothy 3:12, and because of our testimony Christ, 1 Peter 3:13-17. Suffering is for many other causes, also, such as, to enable us to comfort others (2 Corinthians 1:3-4), as a training tool (James 1:2-4), to teach us patience (Romans 5:3), to learn obedience (Hebrews 5:8), to help us witness or expand our ministries (Philippians 1:12-14), We also suffer because of our own foolishness, Galatians 6:7-9, and the list goes on.
Since much of our suffering is caused by people who sin, couldn't God just do away with their ability to cause suffering? God created us in His image, and part of that image is the ability to choose. Part of that choice is whether to be obedient to God or disobedient (sin). Since sin is the cause of suffering in order to get rid of sin, it would be necessary to do away with ones ability to be disobedient (sin). To do away with that choice is to do away with all things that make life itself enjoyable. For example, we have a choice as to where to live, who to love, where to work, what to eat, and even whether to be obedient or disobedient (sinful). To do away with our ability to choose would also do away with part of the image of God. Then, too, God doesn't want forced worship, He wants people to worship Him because they choose to do so.
In all this suffering, one might say that God isn't fair. This misguided belief is probably the heart of the issue of why is there suffering. However, if we as individuals received our just and fair treatment from God, we would all be put to death. Fortunately, God has delayed this sentence, and has given each of us an opportunity to make peace with God, and thereby avoid this sentence of death. God loves us so much that He gave His only Son to pay the penalty for our sin. Christ has paid the penalty of our sin for us, but we must accept His payment and turn away from sin and to God. He is presently preparing a place for those who accept Him, a place which will have no suffering at all. A place that will not allow sin to enter and, therefore, no more suffering nor evil.
Suffering does have some benefits. It gives us a warning that something is wrong, and may keep us from a greater danger. It teaches us to turn to God for the strength to endure suffering, for deliverance from hell, and for deliverance from sin and evil. It produces character and allows God to refine us. Having endured suffering, we are better able to help others who are going through the same suffering.
Can God make a place without suffering and evil? Certainly! God is in the process of doing just that. Since God created mankind with a free will he is now giving mankind a choice, a choice of living forever with God with no suffering. Those that chose to live eternally with God will be separated from all sin, evil, and suffering. God is longsuffering, and is currently holding the door open so that as many as possible can choose to be with God eternally. God has held the door open for a long time and the door may soon close. It is our choice where we spend eternity - God has given us that choice. There is a place with eternal pain and torment called the lake of fire and a place where there is no pain, no tears, and no heartaches. The choice is up to each individual as to their final destiny. The Apostle Peter tells us of this in 2 Peter 3:13-14.
For the backslidden Christian there are sufferings that can be avoided. For those that are backslidden sufferings don't bring blessings and everything that they seek to do turns into misery. A backlidder wastes his time on earth in empty living. In Hebrews 12:1-15 we find that we can avoid divine discipline.
Looking at Psalms 38 we find that chastisement can be avoided if we stay in fellowship. We can do that by confessing sin, 1 John 1:9, and forsaking sin. For example, if someone were to commit an offense toward us and we don't forgive that offense as God would have us to we have committed a sin. This failure to forgive may well lead to anger, judging, and may lead to seeking revenge. All of this leads to committing sin by the tongue such as gossiping, false accusations etc..
Sin does the following:
When you confess your sins don't go around feeling guilty about them. If you have a guilt complex you are saying that Christ did not forgive all sin which would be unbelief. He bore our guilt for us, 2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 3:18; 2:24. We are told in Psalms 103:12 that our sins have been removed from us as far as the East is from the West.
There are many reasons a Christian might have to suffer. Here are a few:
There are many other reasons we suffer as Christians but but don't forget the promises of God.
The Apostle John gives us a glimpse of the new earth in Revelation 21:1. God is going to destroy this earth and create a new earth with no suffering, and no evil, where righteousness dwells, and it is created for those that have chosen to be with God eternally. One needs only to be born again, in order to live eternally with God and enjoy the kingdom of God.
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