The Question of Suffering
No one is a stranger to suffering. Whether it’s the death of a loved one, a painful diagnosis, a conflict at work, a broken relationship, or anything similar, trials are not exclusive to any one person. Throughout Scripture, we see numerous accounts of suffering. As we live life and as we read our Bibles, it becomes unarguably apparent that suffering is a part of human existence.
Once we accept this reality, one of the most critical questions we find ourselves asking is “Why?” Why do people suffer? All worldviews and religions offer their attempts at answers: “Pain is just an illusion.” “There is no God; pain is meaningless.” “Pain is out of God’s control.” “Pain is payback for past deeds in your present or previous life.” All those answers have something in common: they offer no hope. But God Himself offers us a better answer.
While He could have stopped Satan from deceiving, or stopped Adam and Eve from being deceived, or even stopped suffering altogether. God instead chose to use suffering to teach men and women the meaning of willing love and genuine obedience, and of their need for a Savior. It is our very freedom that makes learning this lesson a possibility. God did not make us to be automatons. He wanted us to serve Him freely and lovingly, not out of force or obligation. Tragically, though, in that freedom, humanity chose life apart from Him—with dreadful consequences. And whenever we sin, we show that we are no different than our first ancestors.
God knew that men and women needed to be confronted by the truth that rebellion against Him is folly. That is why He banished them from the tree of life in Eden (Genesis 3:22-24). That is why the world no longer works as it was created to—and neither do our bodies (v 16-19). Like a rebellious child realizing the folly of their choice, willingly returning home and appreciating their family all the more, we can freely return to God, longing for His love. God allowed sin to come into the world in all its horribleness so that we could feel the consequences of our choices and learn to love Him all the more as He displays the beauty of His own love in a world of evil.
C.S. Lewis famously put it this way: “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain. It is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
God is not the author of evil, but He is sovereign over evil. Therefore, we can have this hope: there will be a day when God will bring all evil to an end. Meanwhile, He determines to leave things as they are in order that through our trials we might cling to the Suffering Servant as our Savior. Do not let your disappointments over life in a fallen world persuade you that God is not there or He does not care. Rather, let them drive you again and again to your Savior, who promises one day to make an end of all that is wrong and stretches before you an eternity in which all is right.
The Parable of the Prodigal Son
11And he said, “There was a man who had two sons. 12And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them. 13Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living. 14And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. 15So he went and hired himself out to2 one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. 16And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything.
17“But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father's hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! 18I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. 19I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’ 20And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. 21And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’3 22But the father said to his servants,4 ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. 23And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. 24For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.
25“Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. 26And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. 27And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and sound.’ 28But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, 29but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. 30But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’ 31And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’”
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