I’ve been asking myself this question for the past several days. Actually if I’m honest, it’s a question I’ve wrestled with for much of my life. For years, I lived without any kind of answer that seemed sufficient. So, I kept asking the same question. Again and again. Certain seasons in life begged the question to be asked more frequently. Other seasons seemed to allow me to put the question back on the shelf.
But, the question remains.
“Why does God allow suffering?”
Whether you’ve worded it identically to my question above or not, my guess is that you’ve asked that question yourself more times than you can count. Perhaps, your version is a bit more personalized: “God, why are you allowing me to suffer like this?” Or maybe you’ve pleaded with God on behalf of someone you love: “God, how could you continue to allow him/her to go through this? When is enough enough?”
I know I’m striking a chord with many, if not all of you. Because the problem of suffering remains. We all suffer. If we’re breathing, we have, are, or will face suffering of some kind. It’s part of life, and for some, it’s a huge part.
So, back to the question. I’ve had my own ups and downs with navigating the answer to this question, but something seemingly “new” struck me today. You see, I’ve heard more times than I can count (and I’ve said it more times than I can count) that there is purpose in your pain, and I believe it to be true down to the very fibers of my being. Why? Because the Bible says it’s true. Take James 1:2-4 for example. This text tells us that trials develop perseverance in us which ultimately leads to perfected and matured character. PURPOSE. Call me crazy, but I believe God’s Word. I take God at His Word. I do my best to live by His Word.
Still, what struck me today didn’t come from that famous passage in James. Instead, I found some fresh truth on this question of suffering over in John 9. Grab your Bible (and if you’re anything like me, a highlighter), and turn to John 9:1-3.
We find Jesus encountering a man who was born blind. His never disappointing disciples (insert sarcasm), falling back on what they think they know (religion), ask Jesus a seemingly obscure question:
“Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
As much as I can laugh at the silly things the disciples so often said and did, the truth of the matter is that I probably would have been no different from them were I in their shoes: painfully human, constantly coming up short. Still, despite their glaring flaws, Jesus is so patient and kind with them, and I absolutely LOVE His answer here:
“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.”
Translation: God was, is, and always will be after His own glory. He wants His glory on display. He wants His glory revealed. He wants His glory acknowledged. And He is willing to go to great lengths to accomplish this. Why? Because then the world will see and know and believe.
This is a tender moment, but a profoundly powerful one. God loves us so much that He would entrust us with trial, knowing that if we persevere under its weight, not only will we “receive the crown of life” (James 1:12), but God’s glory will be displayed through our lives.
My encouragement to you today is this:
Are you on the long road to healing? Don’t stop walking now. Are you weary under the weight of your trial? Don’t give up now. Jesus beckons you to come, draw near to Him, and find all that you need to continue on in Him today, friends. And know this: your choice to abide in Christ through the fiery trial puts God’s glory on display for all to see.