Saturday, November 7, 2009

Why Does God Allow Christians to Suffer?

Why does God allow there to be evil in the world? Are are we not all created in the image of God? Many ask, and few seem to have good answers, for the question of,

"Why God didn’t just create us so that we would never have to experience pain, suffering, and sadness?"

After all, He has the power to make the world free of evil, yet He chose instead to make us creatures with free will. Thus, free will was the door left open for the possibility of evil to exist. If we have the right to chose between right and wrong, there is a 50% chance that we will chose to do the wrong thing and thus suffer the consequences of our sin. But why did He not just make us all good? Why must we live with the possibility that we, and others, may chose to do something that will harm us and the world we live in. After all, is he not a loving God? Either He's not as powerful as we're led to believe, not as perfect as we're led to believe, or He's just another abusive father who enjoys watching his children suffer. What's the purpose? Why does God allow evil and suffering?
God could have made us perfect without the ability to sin, and we would have never known pain and suffering. To do so however, would have meant that we would not have free choice in whether or not we would love Him. We would be like Chatty Cathy dolls mimicking whatever it is He wanted to hear us say and forcing us to do exactly what he wanted us to do. Is that the kind of life you would wish to live? Well, obviously God did not think so, that is why He made us creatures with a free will. That free will allowed Adam and Eve to disobey of their own volition and partake of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. They exercised the right of choice that God had given them. They could have refused to disobey God's command about the fruit, but they did not. Because they didn't, we have the sin that has been passed down. All of us, believers and non-believers alike, wrestle with the daily struggles of the "Adam and Eve" within us. Only through the power of Jesus' Holy Spirit in us can we truly have victory over the nature that was handed down to us.

As Christians, we should all know this already, but so many cannot complete the picture when they face sorrow and pain. This is why so many Christians inevitably ask the question,

Why am I suffering God? Why do my loved ones suffer?"

But wait... there's more. What if on the day we accepted Christ as our Lord and Savior, we were given God's total and complete protection, so nothing bad ever happened to us again? Well, do you remember what Satan said to God about Lot?
"Does Job fear God for nothing? Have You not made a hedge about him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But put forth Your hand now and touch all that he has; he will surely curse You to Your face.Job 1:9-11

Can you imagine what would happen if God did put a hedge about us on every side? Would not the people of the world who do not know Christ, say:
"So what, that you love God. Anybody would love God if He protected them the way He does you. I'm not impressed. Your God doesn't offer me anything; I live in the real world."
However, what if on the other hand, those people were watching us suffer? They saw the way we dealt with the same issues of pain, suffering and disappointment as they deal with. Yet we still looked to our Father in heaven with love and gratefulness for His loving mercy that allows us to be free enough to learn and grow through our trials and tribulations. Consider the following passages, the next time you ask, why does God allow pain and suffering in a Christian's life?
There was the time when the apostles were flogged and ordered not to speak in the name of Jesus. When they were released they considered it worthy to be able to suffer for the name of Christ. Acts 5:40-42 We are told by Christ that when people persecute us and falsely say all kinds of evil against us because of Him, that we should

"Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven will be great.Matthew 5:11-12

James tells us that we should consider it all joy when we encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of our faith produces endurance. James 1:2-4 These and other passages like them describe rejoicing, not in spite of the suffering, but because of it. Remember what Paul says about not losing heart over the fact that our flesh is decaying with age and infirmities,
"because our trials will renew our spirit daily............for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal,2 Cor 4:16-18
This is the same man who just a few short paragraphs later described the many trials and tribulations he went through. He endured imprisonments, beatings with whips and rods, he was stoned not once but three times and left for dead. Three times he was shipwrecked, threatened by robbers, Gentiles, Jews, attacked by wild animals, bitten by a poisonous snake, left cold, hungry, thirsty, and suffered many other hardships for the gospel of Christ. 2 Cor 11:23-27 Through it all Paul ran the race well. People saw that his faith in God was persistent, consistent, and profound. And they learned to trust Paul's God, not in spite of his pain and misery, but Praise God, because of it. Paul was the greatest and most successful evangelical missionary preacher the world had ever seen. It was his suffering along with that of the other apostles that eventually changed an empire. Tertullian said that,

The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church

It is through times of struggle and hardships that we as Christians can shine the brightest and reach more of the lost, that is, if we react to our pain and suffering in the way Christ did.

Use the comfort you get from God in your suffering as training so you might comfort others. Teach those who don't know the Lord to lean on Him in their suffering by leaning on Him in yours. Show them that you love Him and trust Him and know that He'll see you through even this. Bring them to Him as your faithful, loving father in your times of trouble. Show them who He is. Remember that we as Christians, must willingly approach our infirmities and hardships, knowing that we hold a greater prize before us after this life than this world can ever offer. That is what we have to teach the world. So ask not why you suffer, but praise God for the chance to shine and be an example as our Lord was for us.
But you may then reply that your suffering from a debilitating disease or terrible accident is not truly suffering for Christ sake. Oh, but your sufferings certainly are. Why? Because people are watching you and they are seeing how you as a Christian respond to the cruelty of this world. In your suffering, you need Him more than ever. Show them what a wonderful, comforting Lord you have. Give purpose and meaning to your suffering. Remember that the good times will never be as productive for Him as your bad times will be. Rejoice that Jesus has considered you worthy of suffering in His name. Carry your infirmity and shame with a sense of worthiness so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. For a day will come when you shall be given a crown of righteousness, and forever your pain and suffering shall be over and forgotten, as you spend eternity in the presence of the great, I Am.
I pray that those who have ears to hear will hear His voice and call upon the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.

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