This is Part 5 of 6 parts answering the question, “Will God remove the suffering He allows?” in the larger question, “Why does a loving God allow suffering?” Part 6 will be posted tomorrow.
All Suffering Will Be Removed For His Children
While the trials on earth can be agonizing, it is the only place God’s children will suffer. Let’s note five things about this. of all
First, suffering will be temporary, though it may last years. As Israel was about to leave the agony of the wilderness wanderings and enter into the prosperity of the Promised Land, Moses declared, “And you shall remember that the LORD your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not.” (Deut. 8:2 NKJ) The suffering was not wasted; God had a purpose. He wanted to know and wanted them to know what was in their heart, in order to train them to keep His Word. We should recognize that even after 40 years, they quickly forgot within two generations (Judg. 2:10).
Secondly, there are times when suffering will be dealt with using an even worse form of evil! God’s people have questioned Him about their trials throughout their history (Ps. 13:1-2; 22:1-2; 74:9-10; 94:3). Habakkuk struggled with the sinful and immoral ways of God’s people Judah. He seemed to understand that some of their suffering was simply God’s discipline brought on by their sins as they as a nation turned from His Word in disobedience. Yet, as God responded, Habakkuk was confused and seemed to ask, “God do you know what you are doing?” And asking the Almighty questions from a humble heart is allowed (Habakkuk had learned this from the way in which He had dealt with Job!). We can enjoy intimacy with God as we run to Him and seek to understand His ways. Stephen Bramer writes,
Habakkuk had a wonderful message to those who suffered. He was an unusual prophet because, rather than speak to the people as a typical covenant–enforcement mediator on behalf of God, he spoke first of his own concerns and then on behalf of the people to God with their concerns. He first asked, in effect, “God, are you not going to do something? Look at your people. They are sinning. Will you not do something?” (Hab. 1:2–3). And God answered, “Yes, I’m doing something. I’m bringing the Babylonians” (see v.6). Habakkuk then responded, “Oh no, not the Babylonians. They are not good people!” (see vv. 12–17).1
While God was going to use the wicked Babylonians, His purpose was to bring His people to repentance and thus remove some of the temporal aspects of Divine discipline.
Thirdly, there are times when suffering is designed not only for chastening but to bring His people to repentance. Stephen Bramer wisely records that the suffering is often about personal sin,
Daniel 9 states that the seventy years of exile were just about up. But Daniel realized that the purpose of the exile was to urge the nation to repent of their sins (9:13). In keeping with God’s word in Leviticus 26:18-19, the Lord revealed through Daniel that there would be seven times the punishment until God’s mercy is extended toward them in restoring the kingdom…Daniels message is that God would ultimately deliver Israel from Gentile domination and allow his kingdom to prevail.2
Repentance will only be experienced on earth, because beyond the grave there will be no need for it. God’s people will worship at His throne forever!
Fourthly, suffering has a purpose that often only God will understand. After the resurrection, the disciples were still confused about the Lord’s purposes and timing of the kingdom (Acts 1:6). They thought they were on the ground floor of the greatest kingdom ever, to be established at the right hand of the Messiah! But when the crucifixion occurred, they were numbly trying to put the pieces together. Mark Bailey captures the thought of this dialogue and the purpose of the suffering,
After his resurrection Jesus explained to his disciples that his suffering and death were a necessary part of the plan of redemption predicted by God in the Old Testament. To the two on the road to Emmaus, he said, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” (Luke 24:25–26). Later, to the Eleven he said, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead” (Luke 24:46).3
With our finite perspective and failure to understand the timing, purposes or results of suffering, we are left to trust the Lord, which is exactly what He desires from us! Fortunately, suffering will end.
Fifthly, for the child of God all suffering will be removed in the end. At some point, every believer will either pass through the door of death or be raptured into the presence of the Lord, and the temporal aspect of suffering will conclude. John wrote concerning our hope, “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) What a day of rejoicing that will be! What a resounding chorus of “Hallelujah” will be shouted out before the throne of grace! What a relief that surpasses all forms of temporal relief on earth!
And the best part of it all is that all of God’s people will be together in harmony, in His presence and rejoicing in His glory!
1 Bramer, Stephen, “Suffering in the Writing Prophets (Isaiah to Malachi), in Why, O God. (Wheaton: Crossway, 2011), p. 154.
2Ibid., p. 158.
3Ibid., p. 175.