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Is There Purpose In Suffering?

Aug 17, 2007
We don't have to be in this world long before we experience pain, failure, disappointment, frustration or a myriad of other means of suffering that cause us to grieve. We're destined to suffer. God clearly warns us in His written word that we can expect trouble from the day we're born to the day we die.

Man born of woman is of few days and full of trouble. Job 14:1

The length of our days is seventy years - or eighty, if we have the strength; yet their span is but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away. Psalm 90:10

Is there purpose in our suffering?

Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life; you stretch out your hand against the anger of my foes, with your right hand you save me. The LORD will fulfill [his purpose] for me; your love, O LORD, endures forever - do not abandon the works of your hands. Psalm 138:7,8

You and I walk in the midst of trouble every single day! Are we aware of that or, for the most part, do we blissfully make our way through our days totally oblivious to God's hand shielding us from whatever or whoever wishes to harm us? Because God is good and takes such good care of us, carefully setting boundaries regarding what can touch us, we don't experience nearly the number or degrees of troubles we would if God weren't so faithful in caring for us. Do we notice and daily thank Him for saving us and preserving our lives? Or do we adopt this sinful attitude:

They say to themselves, "Nothing bad will ever happen to us! We will be free of trouble forever!" Psalm 10:6 NLT

Then when God chooses to allow trouble to strike us so He can fulfill His purpose for us, mind you, trouble that He has carefully defined and limited so it won't be beyond what we can bear, we are very quick to notice and respond! Our first response is so often to accuse God of failing to protect us or provide for us! We question His good name, "How can a loving God cause or allow such calamities to happen?"

Then we ask, "Why?"

That is really not a bad place to start. If we're suffering because we did something really stupid we certainly want to figure out what we did so we won't repeat it and so we can help others avoid suffering in the same way. If the question's sole purpose is to make ourselves a victim or to look for someone to blame then it is really not helpful and we'd be better off not pursuing the answer. If we're honestly searching for an answer to help us better understand God and His role and purpose in our lives then we stand a good chance of coming through the mourning process with something of real value.

God's purpose is always wrapped in His enduring love. At the very heart of each of God's actions, whether He chooses to allow trouble to touch us or He chooses to withhold something we desire, is His plan to save us and give us life by helping us know and experience Him.

Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. John 17:3 NIV

There are many things about God that we can discover and experience only through the pain of loss and suffering. When trouble strikes it causes us to grieve, the greater and more intense the trouble the more intense our emotional suffering. Grief causes us to lose our sense of well-being and experience conflicting feelings and thoughts, turmoil, uncertainty, worry... And then we begin the process of trying to regain our sense of well-being. We mourn. We try to make sense of our pain. We try to reconcile our past experiences, our knowledge, our faith and beliefs with what we're experiencing. We look for hope where there doesn't appear to be any.

Job went through this process when grief and anguish rudely invaded his secure world when all of his possessions, servants and children were destroyed and he was afflicted with intense physical suffering. He struggled to understand why his friend, God, had turned on him and become his enemy. He was certain he was innocent and did not deserve this treatment reserved for sinners. He questioned God's fairness, justice and purposes. He did not stop seeking the truth until he encountered God in the midst of his pain and turmoil. Then he was able to say something good came out of his suffering:

I admit I once lived by rumors of you; now I have it all firsthand, from my own eyes and ears! Job 42:5 MSG

Could it be that rather than asking God, "why" when trouble strikes we should praise Him for giving us the opportunity to learn something new and deeper about Him and ask, "what do you want me to hear and see and experience through my grief, Lord?"

So often our questions, fears and doubts separate us from God rather than drawing us closer to Him so we can know Him better. Instead of experiencing Him as our life preserver, our shield from enemies, our fulfiller of His purposes in us, our faithful lover we assume He's abandoned us! But even in death we have hope that God will save us and give us life.

Though you have made me see troubles, many and bitter, you will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth you will again bring me up. You will increase my honor and comfort me once again. Psalm 71:20,21 NIV

May your times of mourning always draw you closer to God so that even in the midst of trouble and pain you will never doubt God's enduring love for you so there will be no room in your mind or heart for doubt or fear of abandonment.
About the Author
Sharon Young is a dedicated mom and wife with a deep desire to discover who God is and how to navigate this life guided by His truth.

Mourning Glory, A Devotional for Grieving is a book for those struggling through a loss and looking for support and comfort. http://www.amourningdevotional.com
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