Job 11:13-16; 23:8-12; John 9:1-3
Javier Chavez, lead pastor
Amistad Cristiana International, Gainesville
2nd Vice-President Georgia Baptist Convention
Hispanic Representative Georgia Baptist Mission Board
Among the most common questions we as Christians are frequently asked by others are: if there is a loving God why is there so much suffering in the world? Why do good people have to experience so much suffering? Why am I suffering if I’m not a bad a person?
The reality is that we do not know all the answers but instead, there are moments in our lives in which we simply rest in the wisdom and foreknowledge of our heavenly Father. However, based on Scripture we find some reasons why suffering becomes present in our lives and what is the outcome after a time of suffering.
Suffering is a purifying experience.
The Apostle Peter writes to God’s elect to whom he describes as strangers in the world and scattered throughout (I Peter 1:1). Just by reading the introductory verses of his first epistle we realize that even though these brethren were chosen by God, sanctified by the Spirit, and cleansed by the blood of Christ, this privilege did not keep them from suffering and from alienation in the world. These Christians were suffering, were being persecuted, and were being martyred for their faith in Jesus. Then the question they asked was reasonable: Why us if we are living rightly before God?
Peter responded to them: “In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” (I Peter 1:6-7).
In other words, suffering is purifying you. Suffering is causing your faith to shine before God and before the world. Your faith is growing, is maturing, is being changed from the level of simple emotions to the level of deeper spiritual convictions. Your faith during times of trials and tribulations will result in glory and honor to Jesus Christ. After your testing, your mouth will be filled with awesome praise to the One who walked with you through those turbulent times.
Suffering is a personal experience.
The story of Job is of tremendous value for a suffering heart. A blameless and upright man who feared God and rejected evil found himself in a catastrophic situation. Lost all his possessions, all he had been able to accomplish for years, lost his children, lost his health, and even lost his marriage. He was left alone. Why? Because suffering is a personal experience. It is an experience between God and the person who is suffering. Others can pray for you, cry with you, listen to you, and counsel you but no one will ever feel or fully understand what you are going through. Our trials then become personal experiences.
As a pastor I often remind my congregation that we as spiritual shepherds are willing to always be there for our sheep; nevertheless, there will be moments in which we will be out of reach or simply busy helping others. In those moments they must be reminded that suffering is ultimately a personal experience in which the individual and God develop such a close relationship that will make them say what Paul stated in I Corinthians 15:10: “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect.”
Zophar stated to his friend Job this unchanging truth in which he reminded him that ultimately, only you know the reality of your suffering and only you will experience the peace that comes to your heart after your tribulation has ended: “Yet if you devote your heart to him and stretch out your hands to him, if you put away the sin that is in your hand and allow no evil to dwell in your tent, then, free of fault, you will lift up your face; you will stand firm and without fear. You will surely forget your trouble, recalling it only as waters gone by.”
Suffering is a positive experience.
Jesus and his disciples were walking by when they saw a blind man from birth. So, they seemed to engage in a theological discussion of the reasons behind the suffering of that man. The question posed was: “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” (John 9:2).
This question had some reason behind it because in the Old Testament sin and suffering had been linked in a cause-consequence relationship. Jesus, instead, responded emphatically: “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life” (John 9:3). In another words, this suffering is not the cause of sin but the opportunity to see God’s hand at work on his behalf.
I love the Spanish translation of this verse because it says: “this happened so that the glory of God might be at work in his life”. That is truly a positive experience. My dear friend, each trial and testing in your life brings the glory of God to your circumstances and your situations. God’s glory becomes manifest when we feel weak and powerless. Those moments are not necessarily negative but if we depend fully on God’s grace and strength, then He gives us glory for ashes.
I finish with the verses of the Apostle Paul in II Corinthians 4:16-17 “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.”
Then why are you suffering? You are suffering because God’s glory will shine upon your life even in the midst of those hard circumstances. Do not lose heart. He is there. You are victorious in His name.
Javier Chavez is the director of Amistad Cristiana International and senior pastor of Amistad Cristiana Gainesville. A graduate of Lee University, Wheaton College Graduate School, and Biola University, Javier is an ordained minister with the SBC.