Often we struggle with why God would allow us to suffer. If God is all powerful and all good, surely there would be no suffering, particularly for his children. Thus if we suffer, either God is not all powerful, or not all good. He can’t be both.
But if there is a ‘good’ reason for suffering, then God is all powerful and all good.
So what might be a good reason why God allows his children to suffer? To ween them off the things of this world and help them to hunger for heaven instead.
One of our problems, as Christians, is that we can love this world too much. Many things in this world are very nice. It might be a relationship with a family member or friend, a food you enjoy, a part of creation you delight in or a piece of technology. These are all precious gifts from God our Father. But sometimes we become overly attached to them and we don’t want to leave them behind. The Christian all too easily forgets that his citizenship is not in this world. We should be people who long to be with Christ, but instead we become like unbelievers whose focus in on themselves. Paul compares such people with Christians in his letter to the church in Philippi: ‘Their [unbelievers] destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body’ (Philippians 3:19-21).
So what does God use to help us to have a greater desire for heaven? Suffering.
Paul speaks about how suffering leads us to look forward to paradise in his letter to the church in Rome: ‘I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently’ (Romans 8:18-25).
If we had heaven on earth, we would have no hope at all. As Paul said, ‘Who hopes for what he already has?’ If you had a world of no pain, no suffering, no tears, no physical hardships, how much would you want to go to heaven?
So when we experience suffering in this world, we lose interest in being here and long for the delights that are to come in paradise.
So do you trust in Christ and long for the glories to come? Do you accept suffering in this world so that you become more hopeful of what you are yet to receive?