Understanding Suffering and the Truth about God

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Have you ever been angry at God for letting you go through a difficult trial? Maybe you are dealing with illness, loss, or pain in any other form. It seems unfair and confusing sometimes that a good God would allow such pain in the world. I used to think I understood why, and I was confident that my faith was strong enough to endure painful trials whenever they should come. Then, I came into a period of suffering in my life that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy, and suddenly doubts, fear, and intense anger towards God began swirling through my mind.

If you’ve been in that spot, you understand. If you’re there right now, know that there is hope and comfort to be found in Jesus’ arms! Suffering is a hard, hard thing. It can feel isolating, scary, and hopeless at times. It’s in our weakest moments that we are also most vulnerable to the Enemy’s attacks. He loves to feed us lies that God doesn’t care about us or that God is out to punish us for our wrongdoing. Whatever the lie is that we believe about God during our times of trial—it’s dangerous!

Scripture gives us an important warning about our biggest Enemy—1 Peter 5:8 (NRSV) says “discipline yourselves, keep alert. Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour.” That’s scary! When I had severe anxiety, this verse crushed me, it filled me with fear of the devil, so if that’s you right now—keep reading, it gets better!

See, God knows that the Enemy tells us lies about Him. The Lord wants to protect us from that. That’s why He tells us to put on the “armor of God” (Ephesians 6) and why Peter tells us to discipline ourselves and stay alert. Peter doesn’t just leave us with a fearful warning though—if we look at the rest of that passage, we see that we are instructed to do something to protect ourselves! RESIST HIM--Resist the devil, stay steadfast in faith (1 Peter 5:9)!

Peter also reminds us in this passage that our brothers and sisters around the world are undergoing the same kinds of suffering. WE ARE NOT ALONE. That isolating feeling suffering brings—that’s from the Enemy and from our own isolation we create when we turn inward. In reality though, people all over the world are enduring trials and suffering right alongside us. If we look outside of ourselves and take the focus off of our own pain, we begin to see that.

Likewise, when we look outside of ourselves, we are able to feel more connected to our Heavenly Father. Peter, before telling us to be cautious about the devil prowling around, tells us in this same passage of Scripture to “humble” ourselves under God’s mighty hand. He says that when we humble ourselves we will be exalted in due time. But that’s not all—we are to cast all of our anxiety onto Him, because he cares for us (1 Peter 5:6-7). So we see once again that we are not isolated and not under a God who doesn’t care. No, our God cares deeply and he wants to HEAR our burdens and carry them for us.

While I was feeling intense pain in my life, it took me a while to wrap my brain around this—that God could be both caring and permissive of suffering at the same time. But truly, I now believe that the only way He could remove all pain and suffering from the world would be to remove free-will, to micromanage our lives, but there is no true love without free will to choose it. The more I experienced pain, the more I realized that it was our sin, our failure that led us to suffering in the first place—not that God is daily punishing us for each sin we commit; no, Jesus paid that price for us; rather, we live in a fallen world since the very first sin of man in Genesis. In a fallen world, pain exists, and that’s not God’s fault, even though Satan likes to make us think it.

The realization that God didn’t desire for us to suffer was so freeing for me. I fell HARD into Satan’s lies about God. But when pointed back to Scripture, the Holy Spirit enabled me to replace those lies with powerful truths like those found in 1 Peter 5. When I began sharing all of my pain and anger with God and giving Him my anxieties (which is a hard thing to do by the way), He began to transform my heart and the way I viewed my pain.

I began to see all the times in Scripture where He used pain and suffering for His glory and where He had compassion on the weakest people. I noticed time and time again when I read Scripture themes of inspiring, relentless love bestowed on the worst of sinners, and healing brought to people who didn’t deserve it at all.

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I deserve far worse pain and suffering than I am enduring now, but Jesus took that final suffering from me. He loved me so much that he endured the worst trial for me. That’s ultimately what opened my eyes to His goodness in the midst of pain—A God that isn’t good and a God that doesn’t care would never choose to become a lowly servant, and He certainly wouldn’t die for sinners.

Romans 5:7-8 is one of my favorite passages of Scripture now that I’ve endured an intense time of trial, because it is a great reminder of the intensity, and true nature of God’s love for me and all of the beautiful people I’ve met experiencing pain of their own. In this passage, Paul says “very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Remember that today—we can trust God’s love—because He chose to save us even when we were most undeserving. If you’re suffering, remember these truths—God cares for you. He wants to hear about your anxiety and fear. He wants to help carry that burden. The Enemy is not to be trusted. Weigh every thought you have about God against Scripture, and if it doesn’t align, resist it, deny it—stay steadfast in faith! God wants to save us, and though we suffer on earth, we know that this is temporary and that we have a lasting, eternal hope in Christ Jesus (2 Corinthians 4:17).

How can I pray for you today? How has God helped you through a time of suffering in your life?