As a pastor and minister I have to answer this question many times. What about faith? Doesn’t God look out for His children? How can a loving God allow His children to suffer? The question comes in different forms and from different angles. Is it God’s will for us to suffer, does He bring suffering to us to teach us a lesson or draw us closer to Him?
Religion has its own answers to these questions, but they don’t satisfy and often turn people’s hearts away from God. Ignorance of the truth has never helped anybody. The Bible gives good answers to life’s toughest questions and helps us to understand the heart of God. In the verses below Jesus gave us a key to understanding many of those things that trouble us:
Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:31-32)
We go to the Word for answers when we face trouble because this is where we discover God’s will – and where faith begins. The Bible mentions different kinds of suffering, and the first step to peace is to find out exactly what you are dealing with. It must also be understood that we live in a broken world where things go wrong, and that brokenness will come to us at times. For that reason it is good to surround yourself with good people that are willing to stand together and help one another in times of need.
Mistakes can bring suffering
We bring many of the troubles that we face on ourselves by mistakes that we make. Mistakes have consequences, and whether they were made willfully or in ignorance, as believers or unbelievers, there might be a price to pay for it. This is a very good reason to study the Word to make sure we stay in the will of God where it is much safer than anywhere else.
An unhealthy lifestyle will certainly lead to to all kinds of suffering, including physical and -mental health, the breakdown of relationships, financial problems, etc. In such cases it doesn’t help to pray for things to change things around, but rather ask for wisdom to make better choices. Even if you do receive a miracle, you will walk right back to your old problem if you don’t change your ways. It is truly amazing how one’s circumstances can change when the ways of foolishness are left behind.
There is a way that seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death. (Proverbs 14:12)
The way of the Lord is strength for the upright, But destruction will come to the workers of iniquity. Proverbs 10:29)
As for God, His way is perfect; The word of the Lord is proven; He is a shield to all who trust in Him. (Psalm 18:30)
But the one who was healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, a multitude being in that place. Afterward Jesus found him in the temple, and said to him, “See, you have been made well. Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you.” (John 5:14-15)
God is a just God and with Him there is no shadow of turning, so it goes without saying that you cannot expect Him to bless you if you neglect to follow His advice. And when you face the consequences of disobedience to God’s will, you cannot label it as suffering for the gospel. It is good to know, though, that God forgives and cleanses us when we confess our sin. (See 1 John 1:9)
Suffering under attack
The devil is the archenemy of every human on the planet. It is his nature and character to steal, kill and destroy (See John 10:10), and he will attack in any possible way where he finds the opportunity to do so:
Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. (1 Peter 5:8)
The secret to victory is to run toward God – and not away from Him – when you are under such an attack. While we are all vulnerable to his aggression, there are some things that one can do to either escape or gain the upper hand over him. Peter says to be sober and vigilant, and that means to avoid his schemes to lure us into his traps. He works very hard through people that respond to his promptings, and evil spirits, to make our lives difficult.
It is very common for the devil to attack us and then blame God for it. This lie has been a very successful, and the preferred weapon of our enemy. He uses it to sow doubt in the heart of believers so that they will doubt God’s love for them, and turn away from Him. When people die prematurely, religious people like to say that God took a flower for His garden in heaven, but look at what Jesus says about this:
The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. (John 10:10)
Jesus came to give us life, and that more abundantly! The devil is the murderer (See John 8:44); he steals from us and then blames God for it.
It is good to know that no matter what the devil attacks us with, we can overcome and retain our faith in God’s love and faithfulness toward us.
For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world–our faith. (1 John 5:4)
Suffering for His name
Jesus Himself said that if we follow Him, we will persecuted. It is actually normal for Christians to be persecuted, and there is a difference between suffering for Him and all other kinds of suffering.
Suffering for His name may very well be the hardest to handle because of the unfairness involved with it. Suffering for His sake varies from simple bullying to death. Torture, beheading, burning believers alive, rape, etc. are on the rise these days. Truth irritates some people.
Brutal as it is, this form of suffering has great glory attached to it. It is hard to make sense of it, but God looks down on it as the greatest honour that believers can receive.
Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. (1 Peter 4:13-14)
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5:10-12)
When you go through a trial, find out the reason for it first of all. Allow the Word of God to speak to you and discern the circumstances and reasons for it.
If you need to make adjustments, do so quickly, confess your errors to the Lord and accept His forgiveness and cleansing without delay.
If it is clear that the devil attacks you, establish your faith in the Lord and His truth that sets you free. Don’t affirm what goes wrong; instead confirm the truth from the Word and hold onto it in faith and prayer until the victory materializes. You may have to fight a difficult, lengthy spiritual war, but you have been given weapons that will bring the victory.
If you endure persecution for His sake, accept it, rejoice in the reward that will be yours, and thank God that you were counted worthy of such an honour. And don’t forget: this world is not our home.