Why God Allows Suffering

I’m often asked what I think is coming for the Church in 2018 and beyond, and if we’re ready for it. As I wrestle with this question, it seems like we’re on shifting ground, even though we know in Christ we stand on solid ground. Whether our questions about the future relate to the changing political climate, the increasing pressure caused by social issues, or just the challenges of being an evangelical in an increasingly post-evangelical society, there is one thing the Church is in need of—a deeper theology of suffering.

In my opinion, one of the most difficult things in the Christian life is feeling the love of God when you are in pain. Our senior pastor reminded me recently about Philippians 3:10, “ . . . that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and may share His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death.” Verses like this one haunt me on difficult days. My mind races to the pain and suffering that others experience around the world, and then I look at my own circumstances. I realize I have it pretty good, but I’m still struggling to keep it all together during difficult times. I become my own worst enemy and start to feel so overwhelmed by my weakness.

During times like these, it’s easy for us to forget that difficulty and strife are part of the Christian walk. God uses them to shape us and prepare us for the glory and weight of the Kingdom. We must be willing to share in Christ’s sufferings if we are to someday share in His glory. A dear friend reminded me recently that all the things we experience here on earth, both great and challenging, pale in comparison to the prize of knowing Him. I realize that so many times I don’t look to the prize of knowing Christ as the actual reward of my salvation. Time after time, my circumstantial suffering reveals that my heart wants comfort above Christ. Am I really willing to share in the sufferings of Christ—to cling to Him while I laugh and while I cry?

Two biblical truths are important to remember during these sometimes hopeless moments: He weeps with us and He understands our pain. In the midst of my suffering I have to see our Philippians verse as a comfort rather than a death sentence. Philippians 3 is telling us something wonderful, which is that we are sharing in the sufferings of Christ, meaning that they are not foreign to Him. He understands the plight of life in a fallen world, though never having fallen Himself. He weeps with the broken, and He was tempted the way we are tempted. This should bring us great hope during these difficult moments. He has not forgotten us, but rather is weeping with us. He understands our circumstances and will use even our deepest darkest moments for His glory.

In the words of the apostle Paul, “For to me to live is Christ, to die is gain.” Imagine what the world would look like if every believer walked through every day with that mentality–if we saw our sufferings through the lens of eternity and held Him closer than our comforts. It just might make our fear of politics, social issues, and the culture around us less daunting. I hope this encourages you and that you never forget the encouragement of Romans 8:41, “If He is for us, who can be against us?”