When you are suffering, where do your thoughts go? Do you wonder if God is not aware? Do you fear the suffering is His retribution? Do you think about God’s role in your suffering?
It is important to understand that God is in charge of suffering. He allows it and He uses it. God is an active participant in our trials and sufferings and is actually orchestrating what kind of suffering we undergo. Does this trouble you? Look at what the Bible says:
Can anything happen without the Lord’s permission? Is it not the Most High who helps one and harms another?Lamentations 3:37-38 (NLT)
This passage of Scripture offends people, especially people who are hurting. People do not like to think of God helping one and harming another. Many have been brought up to think that God is love, and is never angry with sinners. Some churches teach that every bad thing that happens is Satan, and that God is no place to be found in human suffering.
We do not like to believe that God actually orchestrates tragedy! While you may understand that God is a God of love you may not have been taught that he does allow and even bring adversity into our lives. Suffering is limited to the scope that is necessary for the Lord to accomplish the heart and life changes that He intends to bring about. Suffering is on a proverbial leash and can go no deeper or further than He allows it to go.
Please don’t misunderstand; I am not saying God sins. I am saying He allows us to be affected by sin and He uses sin to teach, break us, and change us. He uses our sin and the sin of others to afflict us and transform us into His image. This means that the trials and sufferings we experience are undergoing are necessary and profitable. A careful search of the Word of God says this is indeed the case.
Part of our problem is that we don’t like how suffering feels. When something hurts we want to avoid it and we interpret the pain as bad. However, regardless of how it feels to us, God says our suffering is purposeful and that is far more important than any personal experience or even our feelings about adversity. Any woman who has ever delivered a baby without pain medication understands that labor and delivery are painful, however she understands it is pain with a purpose.
Not all pain and suffering is for such noble reasons because a primary reason we suffer is because of sin. Sin always carries a price and has a penalty and consequence attached. All sin is a worship disorder, a reflection of a theological problem at the heart level. As a believer, I sin because I am an idolater at heart whose hart is set on satisfying and worshiping “self.”
Self-worship lends itself to self-focus, and as the sufferer focuses on the pain of the situation, before long all the thoughts are focused on self. There is little to no focus on glorifying God, or acceptance of what is being accomplished in the suffering. The only focus is on “Me and my pain.”
When the sole focus is on feeling better, feeling happy, gaining freedom from pain or any of a number of other desires a person has become an idolater. God sees the thoughts and intentions of the heart, He is never mocked and no human is able to fool Him.
In Psalm 38 we read that David suffered physically, emotionally and mentally as a result of his sexual sin. He was tormented and ill. In later Psalms David speaks about understanding that even when he suffered because of his sin God was gracious and merciful (Psalm 106:43-46).
But He, being compassionate, forgave their iniquity and did not destroy them;And often He restrained His anger And did not arouse all His wrath. Thus He remembered that they were but flesh, A wind that passes and does not return. Psalm 78:38-39 (NASB)
God’s handling of us when we sin is instructive and intentional. The consequences we bear are intended to help us to grow and change. God intends that we learn from our consequences and also from the example left for us in His Word.