Suffering: What are God’s purposes in why He allows suffering? Part 8

This is Part 8 of 8 parts answering the question, “What are God’s purposes in why He allows suffering?” in the larger question, “Why does a loving God allow suffering?” This concludes this question.

God Allows Suffering in Numerous Other Ways   

There are many other reasons why God allows and even initiates the circumstances that produce suffering. Sometimes it is to get the attention of a wayward Christian. David wrote of his horrendous bodily suffering in three Psalms. He wrote about how his  “bones grew old…groaning all the day” (Ps. 32:3), “vitality turned into the drought of summer” (Ps. 32:4), “no soundness in my flesh” (Ps. 38:3), “nor any health in my bones” (Ps. 38:3), “bowed down greatly” (Ps. 38: 6),  “my loins are full of inflammation” (Ps. 38:7), “I groan because of the turmoil of my heart” (Ps. 38:8), and  “the bones You have broken” (Ps. 51:8) as examples of God’s intention to getting David’s attention so that he would flee from sin. The writer of Hebrews made it very clear that God’s love was invoked to restore one of His sinning children,

5 And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons: “My son, do not despise the chastening of the LORD, Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; 6 For whom the LORD loves He chastens, And scourges every son whom He receives.”(Heb. 12:5-6 NKJ)

God often uses suffering to prepare us to understand and help others,

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 5 For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ.(2 Cor. 1:3-5 NKJ)

There are times God allows suffering to manifest the life of Jesus in us,

8 We are hard pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed– 10 always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. 11 For we who live are always delivered to death for Jesus’ sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.(2 Cor. 4:8-11 NKJ)

Any Christian serving Jesus Christ over many years will have a long list of painful periods in their own “crucible” of life. Paul’s was well-known,

24 From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; 26 in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; 27 in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness– 28 besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches. 29 Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to stumble, and I do not burn with indignation? 30 If I must boast, I will boast in the things which concern my infirmity. 31 The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is blessed forever, knows that I am not lying. 32 In Damascus the governor, under Aretas the king, was guarding the city of the Damascenes with a garrison, desiring to arrest me; 33 but I was let down in a basket through a window in the wall, and escaped from his hands.(2 Cor. 11:24-33 NKJ)

God will allow affliction so that we will turn and trust in Scripture, “It is good for me that I have been afflicted, That I may learn Your statutes.”(Ps. 119:71 NKJ) Additionally in Psalm 119, the writer recorded,

25My soul clings to the dust; Revive me according to Your word…28 My soul melts from heaviness; Strengthen me according to Your word.(Ps. 119:25,28 NKJ)

The purpose of some suffering is to remove certain sin patterns, especially pride.  God used suffering to humble Paul,

7 And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. 8 Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. 9 And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.(2 Cor. 12:7-10 NKJ)

Jesus is the perfect example of One who learned obedience from what He suffered, but never disobeyed the will of the Father. Paul wrote, “8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.”(Phil. 2:8 NKJ) And the writer to the Hebrews included, “…though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered.” (Heb. 5:8 NKJ) He learned obedience in His humanity to demonstrate that He was totally dependent on the Holy Spirit in all things.

God also allowed suffering to increase faith.  Through suffering, we learn to focus outside of ourselves for strength and sustainment. Peter wrote that the tribulations of life, when seen from God’s perspective, will result in rejoicing in His glory,

7 that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, 8 whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory.(1 Pet. 1:7-8 NKJ)

There are times when suffering is used as a test of loyalty, as in the case of Job. Job responded as a trusting son would before his father,

20 Then Job arose, tore his robe, and shaved his head; and he fell to the ground and worshiped. 21 And he said: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, And naked shall I return there. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; Blessed be the name of the LORD.” 22 In all this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong. (Job 1:20-22 NKJ)

Yet God also uses suffering today in the Christian’s life as a “proof” of faith,

7 that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, 8 whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, 9 receiving the end of your faith– the salvation of your souls.(1 Pet. 1:7-9 NKJ)

God often allows suffering so His children might experience His strength,

28 Have you not known? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the LORD, The Creator of the ends of the earth, Neither faints nor is weary. His understanding is unsearchable. 29 He gives power to the weak, And to those who have no might He increases strength. 30 Even the youths shall faint and be weary, And the young men shall utterly fall, 31 But those who wait on the LORD Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint. (Is. 40:28-31 NKJ)

One of the greatest benefits of waiting on the Lord through times of suffering is the increase of patience, which results in maturity. James wrote,

My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. (Jam 1:2-4 NKJ)

And finally, suffering and tragedy may be sent by God to the non-Christian as a warning.  Although we may consider it to be punishment in one sense, it likely may be a merciful opportunity for them to realize where they are headed and repent before they are eternally condemned. The writer in Proverbs mentioned this, “He who is often rebuked, and hardens his neck, will suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy.” (Pro. 29:1 NKJ)

The Purposes of God in Suffering are Beyond Our Finite Comprehension

While we can understand many of the reasons mentioned above, we will likely not understand all of them, simply because we are finite and God is infinite. What we can trust, however, is that He is righteous in all of His ways, and merciful as our heavenly Father. He would never allow suffering if it was not for His glory and good, resulting in blessing and honor to His children. If you look at suffering from man’s perspective, you will never understand the “why” behind them. Meditate on these principles and give yourselves entirely to them, so that your progress of understanding may be evident to all (cf. 1 Tim. 4:15).

Discussion Questions:

  1. What are some of the reasons you have heard for suffering in the world?
  2. Does it make sense to you that God would allow suffering to prevent us from being too comfortable on earth? Why do you think that some people have enough wealth to avoid any want? How do they suffer?
  3. Which of the above principles do you find the hardest to accept?
  4. Can you think of Biblical examples of how suffering might have caused the enemies of God to be silenced?
  5. Can you think of other reasons why God would allow suffering? What Scripture would you use to support your thoughts?1Eareckson Tada, Joni, “Redeeming Suffering,” Why, O God (Wheaton: Crossway, 2011), p. 17.

    2Ibid.

    3Ibid.

    4Ibid.

    5Ibid., p. 18.

    6ibid., p. 19.

    7Waters, Larry, “Reflections on Suffering from the Book of Job” in Bibliothecra Sacra 154 (October-December, 1997) p. 447

    8Ibid. p. 449.

    9Waters, Larry, “Suffering in the Book of Job,” Why, O God (Wheaton, Crossway, 2011), pp. 124-125.

    10 Ibid, p. 444.

This concludes this question.

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