Why Suffering?

Suffering exists because:

1. Sin exists and the wage of sin is death (Genesis 2.16-3.24; Romans 6.23).  Ultimately, this is to show the goodness of God in Christ, for Christ takes away sin (1 Jn 3.5).

2. God delights to humble His people and wean them from the comforts and fading pleasures of the world.  Job did not suffer because he was an unrighteous man.  Job was a righteous man, but God allowed him to suffer greatly.  He did this until Job saw and savored God more than anything else.  This is what God desires most.  Our satisfaction in Him.  Certainly, Jesus — God in flesh — did not suffer because He failed to delight in God.  He suffered precisely because He did exactly what was pleasing to His Father (Jn 8.28-29).  He suffered on the cross because of our sin.  And His death and resurrection have won this great benefit: the eternal enjoyment of a sin-free, suffering-free heaven for all who have repented of their sins and trusted in Him (Revelation 21).

3. God intends to glorify Jesus. All suffering is, ultimately, intended to magnify the power and wonder of Jesus.  When Peter’s mother was sick, Jesus healed her (Mk 1.29ff).  When the man was leprous, unclean, separated from God, and the covenant people of God, Jesus cleansed him (Mk 1.40ff).  When the paralytic was brought to Jesus, He raised him up, after forgiving his sins (Mk 2.1ff).  When the father’s demon-possessed child was thrown into the fire and tortured, Jesus cast out the demon (Mk 9.14ff).  When the woman with the issue of blood touched His garment, power went out from Jesus to heal her (Mk 5.21ff).  When Jairus’ daughter had died, Jesus raised her from the dead (Mk 5.21ff).  And when we lay broken and destitute and hopeless and cut off from God because of our sins, Jesus lived and died and was raised in our place, that through Him we might have the forgiveness of sins, incorruptible righteousness, and divine life (see the whole biblical storyline).

4. Jesus will be magnified as the high priest of all who believe.  Until the Son of God put on flesh, He could not be tempted as we are; He could not feel our infirmities; and therefore we had no perfect representative before God, to help us live holy, confident, and gracious lives (Hebrews 2.14-18; Hebrews 4.14-16).

5. Jesus will be distinguished from all false gods.  When the Buddhist is in pain, Buddha keeps his legs crossed and shows no remorse, sympathy, or concern.  When the Hindu suffers, he turns to false gods.  How can a cow sympathize with us?  Or, how can yoga or any kind of meditative religion intercede for us?  No amount of “nothingness” can press out the reality of suffering.  But God in Christ identifies with us and ministers to us, to alleviate our suffering.

6. Sinners need Jesus Christ.  Often, God will use suffering to humble the soul and bring the sinner to Jesus.  This was the case with almost everyone in the Gospels as Jesus made His way to the cross.  The human heart is naturally prideful, and until it is humbled (sometimes by suffering), it will not look to Christ.  While the sinner must, of course, realize the sinfulness of his sin before he takes refuge in Christ for forgiveness, suffering will often cleanse the lens of our worldview, tempering our desperation to be gods and reminding us that we are quite finite and mortal.  We become mindful that while we have suffered some in this life, even the worst of sufferers have tasted more of God’s goodness, more healthy days, more sweet moments, more blessing than not.  And this divine kindness is intended to lead us to repentance (Rom 2.4).  We have sinned against God by our ingratitude for life.  And we need to repent of this sin and believe in Jesus, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

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