The bible clearly teaches this is not heaven; this is a temporary, fallen, decaying, and sin filled world. No human is exempt from hardships and suffering. The eastern concept of karma; a concept of a clear cause and effect, teaches that if I suffer I deserve it and if I enjoy a comfortable life I deserve it; this is not taught in the bible. God teaches us there is no formula to avoid suffering. Job’s friends believed in karma and were convinced Job must have done something to deserve his suffering, and they were soundly rebuked by the Lord.
Of course, there are natural consequences for bad choices. If I choose to live outside of God’s boundaries, I will suffer natural consequences. If I am a drunkard, a glutton or an unforgiving person, I will experience health issues and other problems. The suffering I am referring to is suffering that comes with being a human. As God’s child, He knows my name, His eye is on me, and any hardship that comes my way did not slip by Him. The challenge for me and you is how we will handle our hardships. I think the right perspective is crucial; if I know to expect problems than I am better equipped to handle the hardships. Jesus said in John 16:33 that in this world we will have tribulations, but in Him we may have peace. In fact, something to consider is a point that Timothy Keller makes; “If you rarely experience suffering it may be God’s way of judging you, allowing you to perish in your complacency.”
Consider some reasons our Abba Father tells us we suffer:
1. Suffering is part of my journey in this world. Job 5:7 Man is born to trouble. Remember, we are on our way to a place with no more tears, no more heartache, no more suffering, but we are not there yet.
2. Some suffering is corrective. Proverbs 3:12 (NLT) For the Lord corrects those He loves, just as a father corrects a child in whom he delights. When we veer off God’s path for us; He longs to correct our wrong turn. John 3:18 tells us when we believe in Him we are no longer condemned so His correction or discipline is always motivated by love with the goal of correcting our behavior, not with a goal of condemning, punishing or hurting us. Psalm 94:12 assures us that we are blessed when we are disciplined by the Lord, because He is teaching us His right ways. I remember telling a friend God was disciplining my husband and me because we made a decision without praying about it and everything fell apart and caused us a lot of problems. She was shocked that I would say the Lord was disciplining us, but I assured her the behavior was corrected because He cared enough to send us a little pain. Check out the Message translation of Hebrews 12:6 "My dear child, don’t shrug off God’s discipline, but don’t be crushed by it either." It’s the child He loves that He disciplines; the child He embraces, He also corrects. God is educating you; that’s why you must never drop out. He’s treating you as dear children. This trouble you’re in isn’t punishment; its training, the normal experience of children. Only irresponsible parents leave children to fend for themselves. Would you prefer an irresponsible God?
3. Some suffering is constructive. God is growing us more into His image. Suffering is a tool to develop a godly perspective, perseverance, compassion, empathy, godly character and humbleness as explained in Romans 5:3-5 and James 1:2-4.
“Adversity is like a fire that—rather than destroying you—can refine, strengthen, and beautify you,” says Timothy Keller. Perhaps you have heard the saying we meet Jesus on the way up, but we really get to know Him on the way down. He longs to show Himself to us and in turn for us to show Him to others. For some reason, we humans tend to run to Him more in our suffering than in our quiet, comfortable times.
“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths.
These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen." Elizabeth Kubler Ross
4. Some suffering is specifically designed to glorify our Lord Jesus. Sometimes God chooses you to display His glory and love to others through your hardship. I love the story in John 9 when the disciples and Jesus walked past a blind man, and the disciples wanted to know who sinned to cause his blindness, the man or his parents. John 9:3 (ERV) Jesus answered, “It was not any sin of this man or his parents that caused him to be blind. He was born blind so that he could be used to show what great things God can do.
Remarkable! God reached down and handpicked this man as a vessel to display His greatness to others. Has God handpicked you to show what great things He can do in a life? Has He handpicked you to comfort others with the comfort He graciously lavished on you?
5. All Suffering can bring about good when given to the Lord. Isaiah 61 speaks of God turning beauty from ashes, and Joel 2 assures us God can restore the years the locusts have eaten. Nothing is wasted when we invite the Lord into our circumstances.
In Genesis, the story of Joseph is heart breaking. He could have been wrecked for life with bitterness toward hateful brothers who sold him off to foreigners for no good reason except their jealousy of their little brother. Years later, after remaining faithful to His Abba Father, Joseph found himself face to face with his brothers and was able to say this:
Genesis 50:19-21 : “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”
What good is God intending through your difficulties? Whose life is God asking you to speak into and possibly be part of saving?
The truth is, God is always good, and you are always loved. I say this often to myself. Will you join me and say aloud, “God is always good, and I am always loved.” And remember to tell yourself this especially when troubled waters wash ashore in your life.