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Why Is There So Much Suffering in the World?

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As a pastor, I’ve had many people ask me why there is so much suffering in the world. It seems that on any given day, we can peruse the news and hear about one senseless tragedy after another—shootings, natural disasters, political corruption, crime, and death. These trials occur on a personal level as well. Perhaps right now you are grappling with a divorce, bad news from a doctor, or losing something or someone important to you. Hardship and loss care not about a person’s color, culture, gender, age, class, or culture. We all are susceptible to different kinds of trouble in our lifetime.

So what do we do when we encounter inevitable hardships?

Whenever a person is sitting across from me with teary eyes, a broken heart, and deep questions, I’m keenly aware that suffering is not easy to explain. But I try to encourage that person not to ask God, “Why is this happening to me?” but instead, “How can I respond in a way that is honoring to You, Lord?”

Here are a few ways we can adopt this kind of response:

1. Fear God and shun evil.

Proverbs 9:10 says, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” It’s important that we are equipped with wisdom whenever we are facing unexpected challenges, and the way to glean wisdom is first by fearing—or, in other words, “revering”—God.

In the Bible, there is a man named Job who is one of the greatest survivors of tragedy the world has ever seen. The Bible says in Job 1:1, “This man was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil.” Job was a very wealthy man who had seven sons and three daughters, thousands of livestock, and numerous servants. One day, he is suddenly catapulted into a season of great testing, spearheaded by Satan himself (Job 2:3-7). Job lost his fortune, family, health, and reputation in one fell swoop. But look at Job’s response to his calamity: “‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.’ In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing” (Job 1:21-22). Job’s immense reverence for the Lord and his holy habit of shunning evil is what allowed him to praise God (instead of blame God) during such terrible times.

2. Remember where God is.

My dear friend, Dr. Jerry Taylor of Abilene Christian University, recently came to Shepherd Church and preached on 1 Corinthians 6:18-20. Verse 19 gives us an amazing response to the question of where God is in the midst of tragedy: “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?”

Regarding this passage of Scripture, Dr. Taylor said, “The Holy Spirit resides in you. I’m glad to know that God is not in some distant realm separated and isolated from His people who live in this present world. Yes, God is beyond the azure blue, but He is also residing in you! He is in outer space, but He also occupies your inner space.” God resides in each and every believer of Jesus Christ and wants us to be His hands and feet, and His love and compassion, in all situations.

3. Don’t lose hope.

No matter how dark or how bleak a tragic event or difficult season might be, never ever lose hope. The Book of 1 Peter is a letter written by the Apostle Peter to Christians in the first century who were facing intense persecution. The letter begins in verse three and four, not with fearfulness or complaining or commiserating, but with praise! Peter wrote, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you…”

Believers are reminded that, no matter what we may endure, we having a living hope in Jesus Christ, and the ultimate hope of receiving an inheritance—which is an eternity spend in Heaven with Him.

Trials can test and mature us, and they can strengthen our faith. While we may not always understand human suffering of God’s plan, we can take comfort in the truth that God is good. He is just. He is light. He is love. And He is near.

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