"Why do Christians suffer?" This question has puzzled believers and skeptics alike throughout history. It's a profound inquiry that delves into the heart of human existence and our understanding of a loving God. While we may seek concrete answers, the intricacies of suffering are complex and multifaceted.
The Nature of Suffering:
Suffering is a universal human experience, transcending cultural, religious, and social boundaries. It does not discriminate between the righteous and the wicked. Christians are not exempt from the trials and tribulations of life, despite their faith in a benevolent God. So why does suffering persist in a world created and governed by a loving deity?
The Role of Free Will:
To comprehend the paradox of Christian suffering, we must recognize the role of free will in the human experience. God granted us the freedom to make choices, both good and bad. Consequently, the consequences of our choices, as well as the choices of others, can lead to suffering. The moral implications of free will necessitate a world in which humans have the capacity to bring harm upon themselves and others.
The existence of suffering in the world poses a profound question regarding the role of God's love and human free will. While God desires to protect and guide His children, the consequences of free will extend beyond individual choices, often resulting in innocent victims. A tragic example is a drunk driver causing harm to an unsuspecting family. However, this does not indicate a lack of God's love for the victims. Rather, it underscores the reality of human choices and their impact on others. Understanding suffering in this context helps us recognize that God's love persists amidst the randomness and injustice of the world, and that He offers solace and guidance to those affected by such tragedies.
The Influence of Spiritual Warfare:
Another factor contributing to Christian suffering is spiritual warfare. Christianity teaches the existence of an adversary, Satan, who seeks to undermine faith and inflict harm upon believers. Satan's ultimate goal is to turn people away from God, and he employs various tactics to achieve this end. Sometimes, the suffering Christians endure is a result of spiritual attacks designed to weaken their faith. Understanding this spiritual battle provides insight into the challenges faced by believers.
The Story of Job:
The biblical account of Job offers profound insights into the nature of suffering and its relationship with faith. Job, a righteous man, experienced unimaginable loss and affliction. Satan argued that Job's faith was merely a product of his privileged life, and that he would abandon God if his circumstances changed. However, Job remained steadfast in his devotion, questioning why he had to endure such trials. Through his story, we learn that suffering does not necessarily indicate God's abandonment, but rather serves as a test of faith and an opportunity for spiritual growth.
Divine Protection and Intervention:
While God does not cause suffering, He can intervene to protect His children. His love for humanity is immeasurable, and He desires to spare us from harm. However, this does not mean that God will shield us from all consequences of our actions or the actions of others. The consequences of free will are part of the human experience, and God respects our autonomy. Nevertheless, He provides guidance, often through instincts and intuition, to lead us away from danger and toward a path of righteousness. We just need to listen to that soft voice inside us.
The Mystery of God's Plan:
The question remains: Why does God allow certain forms of suffering, including death, to occur? The complexity of God's plan surpasses our limited understanding. Sometimes, God permits suffering to prevent us from experiencing even greater pain or to protect us from unforeseen horrors. Our finite perspective hinders us from comprehending the grand tapestry of existence, but we can find solace in the assurance that God's wisdom surpasses our own.
Expanding the Perspective: The Purpose of Suffering in the Eternal Scheme
In addition to the reasons previously discussed, there is another profound aspect to consider regarding the purpose of suffering in the Christian faith. God's perspective encompasses not only our earthly existence but also the eternal destiny of our souls. From this broader viewpoint, suffering takes on a deeper significance as a means of shaping and refining our character, as well as preparing us for the glory of eternal life.
Learning through Knowledge:
God, in His infinite wisdom, has provided us with scripture as a guidebook for navigating the trials and tribulations of life. Within its pages, we find stories of individuals who experienced pain, loss, and despair but found solace, healing, and restoration through their faith in God. By immersing ourselves in these narratives, we gain knowledge and insights into how to cope with our own suffering, finding comfort and guidance in God's promises and teachings.
Observing the World:
The world around us serves as a classroom for learning and growth. Through our observations, we witness both the consequences of sin and the blessings of righteousness. We see the effects of false teachings, the brokenness caused by human frailty, and the immense suffering endured by individuals in various circumstances. These observations deepen our understanding of the human condition, cultivate empathy, and reinforce the importance of seeking God's truth and living in alignment with His will.
Personal experiences of suffering have a unique transformative power. Although we may not always comprehend why we must endure certain hardships, these experiences provide opportunities for growth, resilience, and compassion. For instance, encountering illness, whether in our own bodies or in the lives of loved ones, allows us to gain firsthand understanding of the physical, emotional, and spiritual dimensions of suffering. Through these encounters, we can learn to offer comfort, support, and encouragement to others who are enduring similar trials, thereby becoming agents of God's love and compassion in the world.
The Gratitude of Eternal Life:
When we consider the promise of eternal life that awaits believers, the temporary suffering experienced in this earthly realm pales in comparison. The anguish and trials we face during our brief sojourn on earth serve to refine our faith, purify our hearts, and deepen our appreciation for the eternal peace and joy that God has prepared for us. Our gratitude for being delivered from the clutches of sin and the perils of this fallen world will be immeasurable, as we enter into a state where suffering is no more.
Embracing the Bigger Picture:
In our quest for understanding, it is vital to remember that suffering holds a purpose beyond our immediate comprehension. God, who exists outside the constraints of time, sees the entirety of our existence and knows what is necessary for our eternal well-being. Suffering becomes a continued process that molds us into individuals who are capable of receiving and appreciating the blessings of eternity. It is through the interplay of knowledge, observations, and experiences that we deepen our faith, strengthen our character, and prepare ourselves for the glorious destiny that lies ahead.
In conclusion, the reasons behind Christian suffering are multifaceted and often complex. As we embrace knowledge, observe the world around us, and learn through personal experiences, we gain a broader perspective of God's wisdom and purposes. We discover that our temporary suffering on Earth serves as a catalyst for growth, deepens our understanding of the human condition, and ultimately leads us toward a profound appreciation for the eternal life that God has prepared for those who love Him.
-Ronald A Fahrenholz II anchoredingod.org (free eBooks and coloring pages)