One of the most common questions people have whether they are Christians or not, is- " Why does God allow suffering?"
Looking at the Bible can help us understand the problem of suffering in this life.
Basically, there are four types of suffering.
- The first type comes from natural disasters, such as an earthquake or a hurricane. The suffering that results from these disasters happens to everybody, both the righteous and unrighteous.
- The second type of suffering can be called man's inhumanity to man. War would be classified under this type of suffering. Because of man's greed and pride, people try to hurt other people.
- The third type of suffering is best seen in the life of Job in the Old Testament; it came as a result of Satan's attack on him. After receiving permission from God, Satan moved in and caused incredible suffering to Job and his family.
- The fourth type of suffering comes from our own actions. For example, if I walk off a roof and fall to the ground, breaking my leg, I am suffering because I broke God's law of gravity. In this same way, we suffer when we break God's moral laws.
A lot of suffering can be traced back to the bad choices we make. Some, but not all, suffering is allowed by God as a punishment for sin. Often God simply forces us to live with the consequences of our actions (Galatians 6:7-8).
Whenever people break God's laws, others are bound to suffer as well. We see this in the story of Achan in Joshua 7 in the Bible. He wanted and took some of the spoil from the battle of Jericho and his mistake cost the lives of thirty-six men in the battle against Ai. When we disobey God it almost always hurts other people.
The way we respond to suffering—whether or not we brought it on ourselves—is either going to make us or break us as Jesus followers. Circumstances often do more to reveal our character than to shape it. When we properly respond to trials, we develop patience and proven character (Romans 5:3-4).
Instead of focusing on our circumstances, we need to keep our focus on Jesus Christ. He is the source of life and will bring us through whatever situation we face. As a result, we will be stronger Christians. In the end, we will see that our trials help us to serve Him better.
Even when we are suffering, we can say with the psalmist, "The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?" (Psalm 118:6). The Lord Himself, as the great Sufferer, is our comfort and hope in troubled times.