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  • Writer's picturePaper Paladin

Wrestling with the "why"

Whenever we face suffering that makes us question how a good God can allow such and such, we ask, “Why?” Maybe we don’t always direct the “why?” at God, but it’s there. So that’s where I started: I struggled with seeing my friends battle infertility because it challenged me on the deepest level—my soul. How could the God of Love allow the suffering of infertility?

I went to God and asked Him. "Why do you allow suffering?"

This question—why does God allow suffering—has been written about for millennia. It isn't just a question that I've asked God. In the Old Testament, Job, Habakkuk, and King David asked this question, too. So, I was in good company.

Modern-day theologians continue to write about it, too. In John Piper's book The Passion of Jesus Christ, he talks about this idea in great length, and it challenged me to think about God allowing sickness and death.

If I really believe that God is sovereign over everything, I have to hold the truth that He allows sickness, death, and suffering. I have sat long in this. God, the one we always attribute love to, allowed sickness and death when sin entered the world. For what purpose?

First, suffering reminds me of my depravity. I think I already knew this, but when I asked “why?” there was an underlying tone in the question that my friends didn’t deserve the pain. But I had to own the reality that I didn't know my friends like God. Our ancestors, Adam and Eve, bought into the lie that they didn’t need God. We all believe this same lie. When Adam and Eve ate the fruit, they knew good—the God who had been caring for them in the garden, the garden itself—and they knew evil—they saw the trick, what they had done, breaking the relationship with God and one another. Similarly, I knew my friends were human—they had their stories that I didn't know about. The pain I witnessed was a reminder of the disconnect between myself and them and between them and God.

Second, pain and suffering allow me to experience God’s love, grace, mercy and hope. I needed to be reminded that my friends couldn't obtain their “perfect life” or righteousness (a right relationship with God) on their own (and neither can I!).

That realization allowed me to turn toward God. Instead of placing a stumbling block between us, it laid a bridge. God is the only one who can provide the right relationship between me and my friends and between humans and Himself. The Bible relays evidence of this when Jesus began His earthly ministry:

“News about him spread all over Syria. People brought to him all who were ill with different kinds of sicknesses. Some were suffering great pain. Others were controlled by demons. Some were shaking wildly. Others couldn’t move at all. And Jesus healed all of them.” (Matthew 4:24 - NIRV)

The people who were unwell and suffering diseases had already tried the doctors and natural remedies. Nothing they tried worked, and in some cases, those who were supposed to have helped them made them feel worse. The people who were sick were acutely aware of their brokenness—physical, mental and emotional. At that point they heard about Jesus, His healings and miracles, the reality of their brokenness, coupled with the awareness of Jesus’ abilities, drew them to seek Him out. They found healing with Jesus. He is the source of all healing and restoration—God’s Kingdom breaking through on earth. When we experience any brokenness—physical, mental, emotional—it only makes sense that we would seek Him out for healing.

As much as I hated seeing my friends suffering, I recognized that suffering has an essential role in our lives. As it highlights my weakness, shaking me to the core, forcing me to face my fears and feelings of inadequacy, an opportunity presents itself. An invitation to see humanity's grief through God's eyes. And by God’s grace, the suffering turns me toward Him. As Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 12:9,

“And He has said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.' Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.” (NASB1995)

Being aware of my weakness and that of my friends', and turning toward God, the source of power, I became intensely aware of the truth that we are recipients of His grace.

So, that’s the simplistic answer to my "why". I needed to know that me and my friends (and all humanity) can’t obtain our “perfect life” without God. And that only He has the ability and power to take our brokenness and weakness and turn it into something beautiful that will further illuminate His splendour. He is a skilled workman, and his workmanship displays his skill:

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10 - ESV)

Now, I get that there may be pushback here. What if we don’t want to be “worked on”?Staci Eldredge, in her book Defiant Joy, shares a beautiful sentiment that we must constantly remind ourselves that we matter to God. No matter what is happening in us or around us, God's focus is on us. God interferes with us because He loves us. So, how do we respond to that?

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