The first Bible character that comes to mind when we think of suffering is Job. You can look closely at that story and come to the conclusion that God not only allowed Job’s suffering, but also initiated it ( since He knew how Satan would respond to His questions). However, is it possible that God doesn’t see pain and suffering like we do? Certainly He understands our pain and suffering (Hebrews 4:15), but He also has a vantage view of the big picture which we don’t have.
Have you ever looked back on a situation that you had once prayed for and you were glad that prayer was never answered? Or wished something never happened , but you look back and say I’m so glad it happened? That’s how Joseph felt when he first revealed himself to his brothers who had sold him to slavery: Genesis 45:4b-5
“I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life.”
That was Joseph’s view in hindsight, ‘you may have thought you were simply selling me to slavery, but God actually planned for me to go through this for your sake.’ The question arises, are we able to truly perceive what is ‘good’ for us with no benefit of foresight?
There is another mindset which really clouds our view of suffering and pain. This is the assumption that as long as I stay faithful to God, then all will be good for me. If suffering or pain comes my way, then it must be because I have sinned or wronged God. First, I must state clearly that we do reap what we sow, that’s evident in all scripture (see Galatians 6:7-8). And our actions do have consequences. But we often wrongly assume that all ‘bad’ external circumstances equate to a consequence of sin. The primary damage of sin is internal – separation from God. So everything may seemingly be going well externally in life, but you are separated from God. And everything could be falling apart around you and you are right where God wants you. Jesus’ disciples’ wrestled with this mindset as well, see John 9: 1-3. They had asked Jesus if a certain man was blind because of sin. Jesus responded:
“It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him“
As you can see, it is really a shallow view to think that good things only happen to good people and bad things never do. A lot of Hollywood celebrities sure seem to have a lot of ‘good’ coming their way. See Matthew 5:45
“So that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”
In fact, it’s not a question of if we’ll experience pain and suffering it’s a question of when. See John 16:33
“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world “
There’s more to say on this topic, which will be addressed in a later post. But, here are some thoughts i would like to leave you with.
- God’s vantage point allows Him to see suffering and pain much different than we do
- God uses our pain and suffering to serve a much higher purpose than we can imagine
- Our human vantage point makes it hard to really discern what is truly good for us
- In this broken world, we can expect pain which has nothing to do with how much faith you have or how close you walk with God
- It is natural to ask ‘Why?’, ‘Why Me?’ in the midst of suffering, but it doesn’t help. The better question is: ‘God, what are you up to?’