Why Do We Suffer?

Proverbs 3:11-12

Theodicy – the branch of theology that defends God’s goodness and justice in the face of the existence of evil. The problem as presented by Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, others who deny the existence of God: We know that evil (suffering, hardship, etc.) exists; therefore if God exists, either he is not good or he is not omnipotent. They conclude that since a worthy God must be both good and omnipotent, and a good God would not permit evil to exist, there must be no God.

Many evangelicals don’t do a lot better in answering the question. Rather than deny the existence of God altogether, they claim that God has voluntarily limited his own sovereignty by allowing Satan to be in charge of the world. Since Satan is in charge by God’s choice, stuff’s gonna happen in spite of what God really wants and we end up getting caught in the cross-fire. Nowhere does Scripture indicate that God ever gives up anything inherent in his nature; in fact, Scripture declares:

Psalm 22:28For the kingdom is the Lord’s, And He rules over the nations.

Psalm 103:19The Lord has established His throne in heaven, And His kingdom rules over all.

Both of these arguments fail to recognize an important truth: a good, sovereign, omnipotent God can use evil to bring about a good purpose. This is not a redefining of evil into good, calling something what it isn’t, or denying the reality of evil. Suffering truly exists, it is painful, and it has a purpose in the life of the believer. Classic example: Joseph and his treatment at the hands of his brothers, Potiphar’s wife, the baker and butler, all as a prelude to being positioned to save his family from starvation.

A. God uses suffering to:

correct us v. 11;Heb. 12:3-11

in the form of instruction and discipline

correction

this way, not that way; righting what was wrong in thinking or behavior

often involves teaching by instruction

chastisement

specific affliction designed to have a particular result

situation that requires trust – may involve unknown or loss

experience is usually the teacher

develop usRom. 5:3-4

affliction/suffering/discipline is to produce certain things in the character of the Christian

perseverance – endurance – the ability to survive less than ideal conditions, to bear up under testing

sustaining repeated challenges to our faith

comparable to the ability of a sword or tool to endure repeated blows

character – proven character

purpose of SEAL training – prove the character of the trainees in all sorts of situations

hope – confidence in the future based on the character of God as seen in trials

every demonstration of God’s faithfulness strengthens our confidence/faith

since God brought us through that one, he must have a plan to bring us safely home

focus – redirect our thinking so we seek our strength from God

recognize our lack – God puts us in situations where we are in over our depth

necessary to look outside ourself and our resources for help

equip us2 Cor. 1:3-7

so we can minister to others in similar circumstances

“here’s how God got me through that time in my life”

aspects of his character

portions of his word

encouragement of his servants

remind usJohn 15:201 Pet. 2:20-21

of the sufferings of Christ

we’re no better than he

we deserve what he endured on our behalf

what our goal should be –Phil. 3:10

suffering is a primary way we learn just how awful sin is

it helps us know Him better

B. When we suffer we must remember that:

we’ve been adopted v. 12;Heb. 12:7

it’s because He’s a good Father – God delights in us, therefore he corrects us just as good earthly fathers correct their children

if we did not experience corrective discipline, we would have cause to doubt our adoption

it is individualLuke 11:11-13

No son or daughter need think that another cross would suit them better; they may be assured that the one they bear is the one that has been especially prepared for them, and is therefore peculiarly adapted for them.W. Harris

a good parent recognizes each of his children for the individual they are and treats them accordingly

it comes from a good God:Prov. 3:12&John 10:27-30withGen. 18:25&Deut. 32:4

1. God loves and delights in us

2. We are securley held in the hand of God – BOTH Father and Son

3. God will do the right, the just thing because it is his nature to do so

C. God has a purpose but:

we probably won’t know why right away

dealing with the suffering itself takes priority in our minds

While a man is suffering pain of body or mind, his feelings, more or less, overpower his reason. Although we know that it is to work good in the future, we fail often to realise the fact — feeling holds us down to the present.Harris

it’s essential to understand and rest in God’s nature and character

if we know God, it isn’t as important that we know why

we may not know all of the why ever

sometimes the comfort we give others is by example, not word

we don’t always know who is watching, how they are profiting

we probably won’t know how those we’ve encouraged use our experience to encourage others

we should pray: “Lord, help me get out of this what you want me to learn/develop.”

NOT “Lord, get me out of this”

Since we’re not in it alone, our circumstances are ordained by God, he has a good purpose for us, we can expect a greater blessing from God graciously sustaining us in our suffering than being removed from it.

if God uses suffering to conform us to the mold of his Son, the Lord Jesus, we should cooperate with his sanctifying process to the best of our ability

How unreasonable are the dejections of believers upon the account of those troubles which they meet with in this world ! It is true, afflictions of all kinds do attend believers in their way to God ; through many tribulations we must enter into that kingdom. But what then? Must we despond and droop under them as other men? Surely no; If afflictions be the way through which you must come to God, then never be discouraged at affliction; troubles and afflictions are of excellent use, under the blessings of the Spirit, to further Christ’s great design in bringing you to God. How often would you turn out of that way which leads to God, if he did not hedge up your way with thorns, Hos. ii. 6. Doubtless when you come home to God, you shall find you have been much beholden (it may be a great deal more) to your troubles than to your comforts, for bringing you thither: however, the sweetness of the end will infinitely more than recompense the sorrows and troubles of the way.Flavel

If suffering is the circumstance in which God chooses to bestow additional grace, demonstrate his love and power, we should welcome and not despise it. Day by day, moment by moment, we should trust God to use suffering for our good and grow us in the process.

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