Suffering results either from personal or natural evil. Suffering that results from evil is inevitable in a free world. The Bible records certain times when God delved out punishment for one’s sin, but it is a lie to proclaim all of suffering is God’s will. In the story of the falling tower Jesus laid to rest the age-old argument that suffering is always directly because of one’s sin (Lk 13:1-5). The truth is much of suffering is either self inflicted or inflicted upon others by lawless and cruel people. C.S. Lewis has suggested that wars, crimes, and injustices – evils that come through bad choices make by cruel and lawless people – account for at least 80% of humankind suffering.
Miracles turn heads more than they do hearts. Humans have short attention spans. Jesus’ miracles attracted crowds but rarely encouraged long-term change. Jesus’ suffering is what changed the world and not His miracles. What’s a God to do? Besides making a farce out of freedom, it may not always be wise for God to intervene with human or physical nature. Might there be good reasons for God to restrain His mercy? What can be learned from a catastrophe from sufferers and bystanders?
No amount of good forthcoming can justify any evil, but suffering can remind us of the brevity of life. Suffering can make us to depend on God, which was always in our best interest from the beginning. Since suffering is inevitable, we can allow suffering to bring out the compassion in us toward others that should have been present all along. Sometimes we don’t become the people we ought to be until after a catastrophe. Messages of suffering are as much for the survivors as the afflicted should we choose to be receptive.
As a parent I don’t want my kids to experience any pain, especially if not brought on by their own selfish or immoral behaviors. Much of suffering though is not self-induced such as going through difficult adjustments whether it is a new school or job. What parent wants their child to experience any problems they themselves rather not face? I can remember starting with my current company over fourteen years ago. I enjoy what I do now. I can also remember wanting to quit the first three months as I was overwhelmed with what I had to learn and the challenges at hand. I was an emotional wreck. Any person starting a new job or college knows what I am talking about. I would rather just skip the adjustment stage.
Do we really want God to be like us though? During difficult times who doesn’t want God to just wave a wand and makes things all better. We may be tempted to get angry with God during suffering because we don’t understand His ways may be better than our ways. Do we really grow when challenges or problems are made to just go away by God? How does this prepare us for the next adjustment? Doesn’t success during difficult times empower us the next time and provide encouragement and memories that we can handle whatever obstacle is in our current path?
If God constantly brings about miracles in our life, why not for everyone else? How is that fair that He always intervenes in some peoples lives and not others? Doesn’t that simply make a mockery out of freedom? How can we really help others when they see miracle after miracle in our life and not handling suffering as they are? I hate writing about suffering because compared to most in life, I have suffered very little. The true saints in life are those who accept suffering, lean on God during these times, and have a peace beyond understanding. Those are the people who have something to teach me and that I ultimately respect. Anyone can handle a miracle.
Thank God He is not like me! Thank God He does not act like a Jeannie in a bottle. What is amazing is that God can make pain go ahead and doesn’t. As a Parent He is willing to go through the agony much more than we as parents. God has the power to make things all better and resists. We parents don’t have the power but we may die trying to prevent pain and create short-term fixes.