This is the first part in the question, “What Kinds of Suffering do We Suffer in What God Allows? It is a part of a series of questions following the overall question, “How can a loving God allow suffering?” Portions of each week will address answering that overall question.
Suffering might seem obvious. All people suffer to a certain degree. Different kinds of suffering might be apparent. And to look at this from man’s perspective might seem pretty man-centered and introspective. Yet, there are several reasons why this question should be answered.
People are aware of personal, local and global suffering. They are even aware that others suffer in many ways that they don’t. However, it is also possible that those who suffer do not think much about how others are suffering, because they have their eyes too closely fixed on their own situation. Hence, the need to deliberately identify the kinds of suffering God allows. And yet, there will be some forms of suffering that will be missed, because as mentioned, there are seven billion people with different forms of suffering. These are ways people suffer from a biblical perspective.
There are basically five ways that people suffer. These categories are experienced in different ways in different people. There will be no way to mention every kind, but the purpose is to broaden the scope, so that as you continue to read how God wants you to view suffering, you can have an idea that suffering is considered by the God who allows it. The five categories are physical, emotional, mental, social and spiritual.
The first category is physical suffering. This includes suffering from lack of health, privation, weather, cancer, dying, attacks on the body, sexual and deformities from birth, surgery or outside forces. It includes suffering from heat, cold, exposure, bruises, degeneration of the body and thirst. Paul wrote to help us realize there is suffering and all of nature suffers as well,
18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. 19 For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; 21 because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. 23 Not only that, but we also who have the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body. (Rom. 8:18-23 NKJ)
Certainly Paul implied the inclusion of all forms of suffering here, even as the creation “suffers in corruption from the curse.” He described that “even we ourselves groan…eagerly waiting…the redemption of our body.” This body will suffer physically. It was not meant to last. Ever since Adam’s sin, man has had to “work the ground by the sweat of the brow.” Consequently, man has suffered physically to grow food, raise animals and secure food by hunting and gathering.
Adam was the first one to suffer separated from the Garden of Eden in the sin-cursed world. Because we are all born from Adam, we will all suffer until we are redeemed from this human body and we receive a new body from above,
For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 2 For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven.” (2 Cor. 5:1-2 NKJ)
When we are released from this body and pass the door of death, then there will be no more physical suffering, sorrow, or tears, “And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” (Rev. 21:4 NKJ) Until then, our bodies will incur minor and major suffering, exposed and hidden suffering, and obvious and unknown sources of suffering.
The second category is mental suffering. This suffering often results from choices people make in worry, jealously, outside-pressures, self-induced misery, comparisons with others and then the anatomical examples of brain-induced suffering like from Dementia and Alzheimer’s. Mental suffering includes fright, feelings of distress, anxiety, depression, grief and/or psychosomatic physical symptoms.1 It can result from physical threats, real or imagined, consequences of alleged or real wrongdoing and mental distress from embarrassment or damage to one’s reputation. It can occur during educational studies, military training and combat duty, as well as every job in the world. Let’s note several Biblical examples.
Joseph had received a dream from God that one day his family would bow down to him. When Joseph told his family, they rejected that truth. When Joseph’s brothers had their chance, they threw Joseph into a pit, while they were planning on how to dispose of him. When they went down to Egypt, because of the famine in the land, they still carried that guilt as Joseph tested them and they said,
21 “We are truly guilty concerning our brother, for we saw the anguish of his soul when he pleaded with us, and we would not hear; therefore this distress has come upon us. 22 And Reuben answered them, saying, “Did I not speak to you, saying, `Do not sin against the boy’; and you would not listen? Therefore behold, his blood is now required of us. (Gen. 42:21-22 NKJ)
While Joseph felt anguish in the pit; the brothers felt anguish when they were seeking food from Egypt.
David felt mental pressure as a result of his sin and he often wrote psalms regarding his mental state. For example he wrote, “…As for the light of my eyes, it also has gone from me.” (Ps. 38:10 NKJ) He was in so much mental duress regarding his sin, he responded, “Thus I am like a man who does not hear, and in whose mouth is no response…For I am ready to fall, and my sorrow is continually before me.” (Ps. 38:17 NKJ)
Of course, there is mental suffering in trying to meet financial, parental, family and provision responsibilities, even as Christians. The pharmaceutical industry is a billion dollar empire, because of the mental anguish that exists in America alone.
This will be continued tomorrow…