Do you feel like you are walking alone on a path of heartache and suffering? Do you wish you knew where you were going, and the outcome of your pain? Would it be more bearable if you knew there was a good reason for your difficult circumstances?
Or maybe you see other people suffering, and you wonder why does God allow people to suffer? Why does he allow addiction? Why does he allow godly people to abuse others? Why does he allow chronic illness? Why does he allow infidelity in a marriage? Why does he allow families to disintegrate? Why does he let bad things happen?
Is God not big enough, good enough, gracious enough, merciful enough, powerful enough, loving enough, whatever enough to keep bad things from happening?
Could it be that God allows bad things to happen in our lives for good purposes? Could it be that the good outcome he desires, and knows is possible, is accomplishable only as we walk upon a path of suffering?
Oh, if only we could see the future! If only we knew in advance the outcome of the storm, then perhaps we would weather it more easily. But that’s not the case. We don’t know the future. We don’t know the outcome. We don’t know the duration of the suffering. Only God does.
It is reasonable to assume that God brings us into circumstances that we may not understand, or that are more than we can bear, for his purposes. Our lives are not driven by chance, but by our loving God who is always at work for our good (Romans 8:28). The Apostle Paul tells us that God allows great pressures, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we might learn to rely on him (2 Corinthians 1:6-9).
We are not alone in our suffering; God is there waiting for us to rely on him, to rest on him, and to bring our pain to him. If he is readily available for us, then is he not also accessible to the person whose suffering, heartache, and difficulty we are trying to remove? Are we doing anyone a favor by attempting to lift them out of their difficulty?
I struggle every time I see someone suffering. If there is something I can do to lessen a hardship, I believe I must do it, I suspect we all think that way. We are told to bear each other’s burdens (Galatians 6:2). And, we are also told that each one is responsible to carry their own load (Galatians 6:3-5). So which is it?
Our hearts break for people who are suffering whether physically, spiritually, or emotionally, so we pray, we protest, we write letters, we place phone calls, we bring meals, we sit, we hold hands, we listen, we comfort, and we do whatever we can to try to make things better. Are we helping to bear their burden or are we attempting to carry their load? Is there a difference?
We can’t fix people. We can’t remove their burden. We can’t take them out of their trouble – God has allowed it. We also cannot take on their burden. When we attempt to swoop in and save people out of their heartache, their woes, or their misery, are we working with God, or against him? How do we know?
If our desire is to keep people, or ourselves, from experiencing brokenness, then we are probably working against God. Sometimes God must break us in order to heal us. Sometimes he must break the ones we love in order to heal them.
Could it be that as we struggle to overcome, or to help others overcome, and things get worse, is it because God has a different outcome in mind than we do? If our outcome is comfort, then, yes, God has a different outcome.
We know God’s outcome for us in all things: he is at work to conform us to the image of Christ Jesus – to make us more and more like Jesus (Romans 8:29). God alones knows how much suffering that will require, and the best arena for that suffering, but he promises us that he will not destroy us in the suffering.
He promises us that when we pass through the waters, he will be with us, when we pass through the rivers they will not sweep over us, and when we walk through the fire, we will not be burned, the flames will not set us ablaze (Isaiah 43:2). But only God knows how wide the river, how deep the water, and how high the flames.
God allows suffering, God is good, his purposes are good, and therefore, it makes sense that our suffering is for our good. What suffering are you trying to avoid in your own life? What suffering are you trying to prevent in someone else’s life?
God knows suffering. For God so loved the world that he sent his one and only Son to die so that you and I might live eternally with him (John 3:16).
“Sometimes God allows what he hates to accomplish what he loves.” –Joni Eareckson Tada
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