Where is God when we suffer?
When we found out that my dad had cancer, my brother and I worked together to set up his care. We were all devastated and scared but did our best to stay positive through the decisions. When my brother became sick five months later, I not only became my dad’s only caretaker, but I became the caretaker for my brother, also.
For the next six months, my life became busy with hospitals and nursing homes. One day I spent all day in one hospital with dad for surgery and was home no more than an hour when called to another hospital for my brother. I became angry with God and asked, ”Where are you? Why is this happening?”
This point of despair was not the first time I had thrown angry questions God’s way. My thought has always been, “I am a Christian! Why should I suffer?” But believing that being a Christian means you will never suffer is a lie.
Thinking that our life should be easy or have a hedge put around us just because we follow Jesus can be why people fall away from God when bad things happen. I am no exception. The truth is, Christians do suffer, and God tells us we will (John 16:33). God’s purpose is fulfilled through our sufferings, even if we do not understand the reason.
What does the Bible say about suffering?
The Apostle Paul is my favorite person in the Bible. Before his conversion into Christianity, he lived a sinful life persecuting and even killing followers of Jesus. After his conversion, it became his mission to tell others how to live for Jesus. He wrote many letters to the churches, which today make up most of the new testament.
But as a follower of Jesus, Paul lived through many sufferings. In 2 Corinthians 11:23-28, Paul talks about all the bad things he was suffering at the time. Paul suffered imprisonment and beatings that almost killed him; beaten with rods three times, stoned once. He was shipwrecked three different times, and he was adrift at sea for a day.
He talks about all the dangers he lived through, “… in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many sleepless nights…” (v 26-27a, ESV). Wow, Paul, is that all? The list is making my head spin. And I complained to God because I had to go to the hospital twice in one day?
What fascinates me most about Paul is his attitude through all of this. Paul suffered more than anybody I know. Instead of persevering through all of this suffering, he could have run the other way. Instead, Paul teaches us to “…rejoice in hope of the glory of God” (Romans 5:2b, ESV). He trusted God and continued with his mission of telling the world about Jesus. I am so glad he did. His letters have been a fantastic instruction manual for me as I learn to follow Jesus.
So, we are not to think that God will keep us safe from the trials of the world. Instead, we can rejoice in sufferings, trusting Him to fulfill His purpose through these trials while we continue to walk according to the principles of his word.
Suffering will happen. May we be like Paul and rejoice in the glory of God!