Why am I suffering? That why question is one that haunts our souls when we are in pain, no matter whether that is physical, emotional, or spiritual pain. In the past eight years I have battled cancer twice and had a stroke in between the two episodes of cancer. I still don’t know if I can answer that question, but I would like to share four things the Lord has been teaching me from his Word:
1. God does not owe me an explanation.
God is holy, sovereign, and wise. I am sinful, weak, and foolish. In all the pain and anguish that Job endured, God never told him why. We know that Job was a key figure in a cosmic war between God and Satan. He was God’s point man in that battle showing that worship of God is not based on God’s blessing one with wealth and health. As far as we know Job never knows His honored position in God’s plan. When God shows up at the end of the book of Job he overwhelms Job with his power, his sovereignty, and the mysterious wisdom of his ways. Job responds in 42:5, “My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you.” Is God in all his glory and majesty all we need? In Psalm 131, David says, “I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me. For I have calmed and quieted my soul like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me.” A weaned child is no longer demanding anything from his or her mother. The child is simply content with resting in the loving arms of his mother. That is the goal God has for us – to be content with him even when we don’t understand.
2. God is not unjust to send suffering into my life.
We live in a fallen world since the rebellion of Adam and Eve. This world of sorrow and suffering, pain and misery is not how God created the world. It is the result of God’s judgment on mankind’s sin. Righteous and unrighteous; believer and unbeliever enjoy the beauty of God’s creation and its fallenness. I deserve hell for my sins against my Heavenly Father. The suffering of this present life reminds me that by the grace of God I have been redeemed from the wrath of God to come by the death and resurrection of Jesus.
3. God has a purpose for my suffering.
My pain is not meaningless. God’s ultimate purpose for our suffering is to make us holy (See Hebrews 12:7-11. God desires that we be conformed to the image of his Son Jesus. We learn obedience through the things that we suffer. That is why Paul says in Romans 5 that we rejoice in our sufferings, because suffering produces endurance and endurance produces character and character produces hope. Through my present fight against cancer, Dotti and I have begun reading the Bible and praying together more regularly than we ever have before. This has brought such a sweet intimacy to our relationship in Christ. It is amazing that it took us 45 years to come to that point. For that reason I rejoice in my cancer.
4. Finally, God understands my pain and suffering.
Jesus has gone through similar and even more intense pain than I am presently enduring (See Hebrews 2:14-18 and 4:14-16). Jesus is not untouched by my suffering and heartache; we do not have a high priest unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in every way just as we are, yet without sin. In my pain I experience the love of Jesus in a deeper way than when things seem to be going well. We learn experientially the truth of Romans 8:31-39, just how much God loves us. Paul in these verses lists numerous things that might destroy our belief in God’s love. But he ends triumphantly in light of the cross of Christ and the certainty of our justification through Christ’s death that he is convinced that absolutely nothing in all creation can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.