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Posted on July 01, 2017 by Mike LeDuke

Suffering and God's Pain

 

 

Why does God allow suffering?

In the last post, while considering the question of why God allows suffering, we noted that God actually brings suffering, and that He does so, partly because it is suffering that helps us to grow.

And yet, there’s more to contemplate on this question of God and suffering––because often the question is asked in great frustration at God, or while in the midst of great pain and suffering. At that point, hearing that God is using this pain in order to help you grow might not actually be incredibly helpful.

However, there is a side to this entire discussion that isn’t often considered. This aspect is stated clearly in the book of Isaiah, while the prophet looks back on Israel’s history and discusses God’s interaction with them after bringing them out of slavery in Egypt:

For he said Surely they are my people, children who will not deal falsely. And he became their Savior. In all their affliction he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them. In his love and in his pity he redeemed them; he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old Isaiah 63:8-9.

Did you notice what these verses reveal about God and suffering?

In all their affliction he was afflicted. When the Israelites were slaves and were beaten by their Egyptian taskmasters, God felt their pain. When their children were killed by the Egyptians who feared that the Hebrews would become too powerful––God too was grieved. When they suffered, He suffered too.

Tragically, we so easily forget this, especially when we are in the midst of our own pain. When God’s people are in pain, so is He.

This same characteristic was beautifully shown by the Lord Jesus, who perfectly manifested his Father’s character, after Lazarus died. Lazarus had two sisters, Mary and Martha, and the record makes it clear that the Lord loved all three siblings dearly (John 11:5). After Lazarus’s death, Christ came to Mary and Martha’s house––and after speaking with Martha, he asked to see Mary:

“Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died’” (John 11:32).

Mary was greatly troubled. And, beautifully, in seeing her pain, the Lord was pained as well:

“When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled” (John 11:33).

He wasn’t aloof from her and her suffering. He felt what she felt:

“And he said, ‘Where have you laid him?’ They said to him, ‘Lord, come and see.’ Jesus wept” (John 11:34-35).

Just as Mary had been weeping, Christ wept as well.

If God and His son suffer with us––weep with us––when we suffer, how much they must love us indeed to bring suffering! Yet they do it for our good, just as a parent brings difficult circumstances into the life of their child, knowing that the challenges and frustrations will help them to grow.

Is that not what the book of Hebrews teaches us?

“And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? ‘My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives’” (Hebrews 12:5-6).

Yet where does Satan fit into all of this?

Lord willing, we will consider that in the next post.

- Jason Hensley