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WHY DOES GOD ALLOW SUFFERING?
1) What kind of suffering that exist in today’s world?
- We see suffering on a global scale – Natural disasters, floods, famines, earthquake
- Community tragedies – World Trade Centre 9/11, accidents, tragedy at work places
- Individual levels – Bereavement, sickness, depression, broken relationships, persecution
2) Why God allowed suffering?
- Suffering is not part of God’s original created order (Genesis 1-2)
- No suffering before humanity rebelled against God
- There will be no suffering when God creates ‘a new heaven and earth’ (Revelation 21)
- Suffering entered because of Adam and Eve sinned.
- Why God allowed it?
i) Because he loves us and wanted to give us free will
ii) Love is not love if it is forced, it can only be love if there is a real choice.
iii) God gave freedom of choice in the beginning, men and women from the beginning has chosen to break God’s laws and the result has been suffering.
3) What causes suffering?
- Our own sins? Inevitable consequence of breaking God’s law. God comes down and judge people
a) The Great Flood (Genesis 6-8)
b) Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19)
c) Individual sins. Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira – Sold land but kept portion of money for themselves and lied to God. (Acts 5:1-11); King David's "sin" with Uriah and Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11-12)
- Not all suffering resulted from sin
a) Jobs and Joseph
b) Jesus repudiates the automatic link between sin and suffering ( 1 As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”3 “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.) [John 9:1-3]. Jesus also pointed out that natural disasters are not necessarilya form of punishment from God (Luke 13:1-5)
c) Peter draws a distinction between suffering as a result of our own sin and suffering which has no connection with our sin or suffering “for doing good”
(For it is commendable if someone bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because they are conscious of God. 20 But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God.) [1 Peter 2:19-20]
- Sin of others?
a) War, famine, man-made disasters
b) Murder, theft, rape
- Sin of a fallen world?
a) Adam and Eve’s sin – only a small proportion. It was their result that “thorns and thistles” entered the world (Genesis 3:18)
- We shouldn’t judge others for their suffering “When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” (John 8:7)
4) God works through suffering
- Suffering is used by God to draw us to Christ
- God uses suffering to bring us to Christian maturity – uses it to build our characters. ( 10 Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. 11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.) [Hebrews 12:10-11]
- To make our lives more fruitful – Jesus said that as a gardener prunes the vine, so God prunes every fruitful branch ‘so that is will be even more fruitful’ (John 15:2)
- People who suffer, who toil, have their eyes on God
- God often uses suffering to bring about his good purposes – Life of Joseph – not easy to see God’s plan early on but it will be revealed later on
5) God more than compensates for our suffering
- God was always with Joseph (Genesis 39:21), regardless as a slave in Potiphar’s house or in prison. In the end he was put in charge of the whole land of Egypt and he managed to see his entire family reunited and rescued from starvation.
- Loss everything, wealth, all his children and finally suffering from the most horrific disease. In the end blessed him with great wealth, 7 sons and 3 beautiful daughters, lived a great age and saw his children, grandchildren and great grandchildren
c) God has given us so many promises and how wonderful heaven will be.
d) Martin Luther once said “I would not give one moment of heaven for all the joys and riches of the world, even if it lasted for thousands and thousands of years”
6) God is involved in our suffering – the cross is the proof. God was ‘in Christ’, reconciling the world to himself. He became one of us; he suffered in all ways in which we suffer. He does not just know about suffering – he has suffered himself. He knows what we are feeling when we suffer.
7) How do we respond to suffering?
- We ask ourselves questions. Book of Job is not so much about why God allows suffering but how we should respond to it.
a) Is this suffering a result of our own sin?
b) What is God saying to us through this suffering?
c) What does God want us to do?
- NEVER LOSE HOPE, KEEP OUR EYES FIXED ONTO HIM
- If we see others suffering, the most positive thing we can do is to put an arm around the person and ‘weep with those who weep’ “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” (Roman 12:15)
In summary, we need to come back yet again to the cross of Christ. For it is here that we begin to understand why a God of love should allow suffering
1) Firstly we see that human beings abused their God-given freedom when they choose to nail Jesus to the cross. And yet God used that very abuse, enabling Jesus on the cross to pay the price for that sin, and for all sin through all time.
2) Secondly, we see God working through suffering. Those who nailed Jesus to the cross intended it for evil, but God intended it for good. The cross is ultimately a victory because it holds the key to salvation.
3) Thirdly, we see that God more than compensates for suffering. Jesus ‘who for joy set before him endured the cross’ (Hebrews 12:2) saw ahead of his resurrection, and as a result of that, to our own resurrection and eternity with him.
4) Lastly and most important of all, we see that God himself is not removed from suffering. He participated in the suffering of the cross and he suffers for us and with us now.