Why do we suffer and where is God in all of it?

I have heard so many people crying out, wondering WHY they are suffering, why their child is suffering, or their mother, or…. Its overwhelming sometimes, to think of all the usfffering in the world… And we want to know where God is.

First, let me say I’m sorry these things happen – that we have to suffer. As little comfort as it provides, I am here to tell you, you are not alone in your suffering. While I would never compare the depths of your pain to my own, I too have had to live through difficult times and wondered where God was in the midst of it, or what God was doing.

My only response is that we go through difficult times for a multitude of reasons: to help us find Him, to help us learn something, to provide us with something that can help others in the future, or sometimes because we are fragile sinful humans living in a world damaged by fragile sinful humans, to discipline us (How does God discipline and punish today?).

Sometimes we are being sifted by Satan – Peter was sifted by Satan when Jesus was arrested.

Luke 22:31

“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat;

Sometimes the consequences of our actions have long and far-reaching effects – sometimes they affect different generations to the third and fourth generation.

Exodus 34:7

7 who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations

Sometimes the suffering we face is due to our own choices: .

Hebrews 10:26-31

26 For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries. 28 Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29 How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know Him who said, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge His people.” 31 It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

Sometimes God disciplines people so they might seek his righteousness:
Hebrews 12:4-11

4 You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin; 5 and you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons, “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
Nor faint when you are reproved by Him; 6 For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines, And He scourges every son whom He receives.”

7 It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9 Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. 11 All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.

God determines when and where people live so they might find Him.

Acts 17:24-27

24 The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; 25 nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things; 26 and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, 27 that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us;

Sometimes we suffer because of our selfishness, or that of others.

James 4:1-3

1 What is the source of quarrels and… conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? 2 You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures.

Sometimes we suffer so the work of God can be shown in the midst of our suffering.

John 9:1-12

 1As He passed by, He saw a man blind from birth. And His disciples asked Him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?” Jesus answered, It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him. We must work the works of Him who sent Me as long as it is day; night is coming when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the Light of the world.” When He had said this, He spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and applied the clay to his eyes, and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which is translated, Sent). So he went away and washed, and came back seeing. Therefore the neighbors, and those who previously saw him as a beggar, were saying, “Is not this the one who used to sit and beg?” Others were saying, “This is he,” still others were saying, “No, but he is like him.” He kept saying, “I am the one.” 10 So they were saying to him, “How then were your eyes opened?” 11 He answered, “The man who is called Jesus made clay, and anointed my eyes, and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash’; so I went away and washed, and I received sight.” 12 They said to him, “Where is He?” He *said, “I do not know.”

Sometimes we cry out to God and dont seem to get the response we think we need/want. But sometimes we dont get because we dont ask, or we ask with the wrong motive, or we ask while we are actively rebelling, or we are being disciplined, or Satan has asked to sift us, or to show God’s love and power. Sometimes we dont see God because others in our lives make it difficult for us to do so. Sometimes we suffer because we are doing the right thing and others are not. Sometimes we suffer because we are in the middle of a spiritual battle. Sometimes we suffer because we live in a world adversely affected by the sin of people.

I cant explain why we suffer and where God is in the middle of our suffering,  but I can provide an analogy: I know that sometimes parents have to let their children fall and get hurt so they can learn to walk or to run or to ride a bike. Sometimes we watch while our children hurt or get hurt as they learn to navigate in this world filled with people. Its painful to watch, just as it is painful to experience. But its sometimes necessary. And it doesnt mean we dont love our children or that we are not there for them. In fact, sometimes it means exactly the opposite of that.

Sometimes God says He will do as He sees fit.. He is our creator and is able to do with His creation as He wishes – just as children build Legos creations and can do with them what they wish.
Unless God chooses to explain to us why He chose to allow or ordain certain things to occur, we may never know why until we are in the afterlife. But this doesnt mean we are alone in those difficult times. It just means we cant always tell He’s there.

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