Poverty, natural disasters, abuse, pain, sickness… death. Or grief, frustration, hatred, bitterness, heartbreak, anxiety… The list goes on and on. What exactly am I listing? I’m sure we all know that these are all the common things that we label under the word “suffering.”

Our human minds would automatically think of suffering as something bad, brutal and the complete opposite of joy. Suffering is, “the state undergoing pain, distress, or hardship” as the Oxford Dictionary states.

“If God is so good, why does he let bad things happen?”

Have you ever wondered why such things have to happen? It just seems like something useless in our lives, only dragging us down and bringing into our lives pain, distress and hardship. But is it really? Or are we viewing suffering in the wrong way? 

A familiar question I am sure everyone has asked at some point in their lives is: “If God is so good, why does he allow suffering to happen?” But I want to ask a question back in response: Are we asking the right question? 

After all, who are we to even ask such questions? By asking this, we are implying that we – sinful, evil, unworthy human beings – deserve anything other than the wrath of God. What makes us think that we deserve any good or for our lives to be smooth sailing? We, with our self-centred and selfish minds,  only ask this question because we judge God based on how well he meets our desires for our lives. Our suffering is the result of the fall; the result of the free will we have abused and because of our sin, this world is broken. As harsh as this may sound, this is the reality of the world, and the reality of how we so often view God. We forget the most fundamental attribute of God: His holiness. This attribute is present in all the other attributes. Meaning, His love if holy, His justice is holy, His grace is holy… etc. He absolutely cannot face us, sinful and wicked human beings and must therefore punish our sin in His holy justice.

Why is suffering important?

As we continue to run towards Christ during hard times, we will certainly grow closer to God. Think of it this way: if there is nothing hard or bad going on in our life, and everything is going perfectly according to plan, would we find the need to seek God? Just as James 1:3-4 says, “the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” After every struggle you go through,  look back to see how God has guided you and shaped you through it. Each trial will solidify your belief and trust in God, drawing you closer and closer to Him.

When we look at all Jesus’ disciples, we can see they all lived lives of suffering: Peter and Andrew was crucified, Bartholomew was beheaded, James was executed with a sword, John was boiled alive, Thomas was speared and a lot more happened to the rest of the disciples. We can see that their lives were filled with suffering and countless trials and spiritual battles. However, they found something of even more value than the suffering they experienced on earth because their eyes fixed on something beyond what they saw. “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.” (2 Corinthians 4:17). The glory that comes after is incomparable to any suffering we will experience on earth.

Is that the end?

God doesn’t just leave us to suffer alone. Remember this one thing: God will never place suffering or tribulation in our lives too hard for us to handle. This is confirmed in 2 Corinthians 4:8-10, “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.” No matter how hard of a tribulation we are going through, there will always be a way out: through obedience towards God.

Christ left us an example of how to live during suffering. Christ, who had to drink from the cup of God’s wrath, underwent the worst, most shameful punishment that no one else in history had ever experienced –  even though he didn’t deserve it. These are known to be the darkest hours in history because it was truly God’s wrath on Christ; the worst suffering a man could ever experience. However, his obedience towards God drove him to complete His task and his purpose on Earth up till that critical point on the cross. “To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.” (1 Peter 2:21)

With this in mind, we must learn to rejoice in our sufferings and to remember to have our eyes always fixed on the cross in whatever hard times we are going through. Going back to our original question, I hope we can all wonder instead at another question: how can God be so gracious and loving to us, sinful human beings who deserve nothing other than His wrath?

Erin Kurnia (14) is one of the writers for RE Generation-Z. She hopes that by God’s grace, she can write to spread the Truth and happiness to others, that they too may be children of God living in the light. You will find that she really enjoys playing piano, baking, sewing and designing.

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