I don’t believe we can endure suffering without resting our hope and faith in eternity with God.
At one time or another, all of us have questioned how a good God who is supposed to love us would allow suffering.
Thing is, we won’t get a satisfying answer. That’s because as advanced as we have become in areas such as technology, science, and medicine, we don’t understand everything.
Yet, we still seem to want and even demand to understand this. Even people who don’t believe in God are really recognizing his existence through rejecting him.
That’s because the Creator of the universe has written eternity on our hearts. In other words, whether you accept it or not, you can’t change it. It’s there.
When we accept suffering as a part of life, we learn to co-exist with it. We don’t accept it to the point of self deprivation or thinking embracing pain makes us more holier or acceptable to God.
Through faith, we trust God with it all, and find comfort in all his promises of being near us when we are in pain.
A child runs to a mother or father or any trusted caretaker for help and comfort. A picture of our Heavenly Father being there for us, too.
We’ve had our own personal experiences of suffering which can make us bitter and miserable if we cannot see beyond our life on earth. And often, when we get angry with God, we are only responding humanly to injustice. We don’t like to see people suffering.
God understand this. He created us to respond with compassion. We know how to help in many ways whether helping a neighbor who is suffering (from illness to the inability to shovel snow) or volunteering/contributing monetarily to a charity.
Yet, we are limited. In our own lives and the lives of others.
Consider this scripture found in the Bible:
How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow?
Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone.
Thankfully, most of us are not always thinking about this (I respectfully realize some suffer with fear). This is God’s design, too. We live life each day, our routines, and doing the next thing.
Even people who do not live as freely in some countries will tell you they have happiness. It may not look like yours or mine.
Throughout the centuries, people have looked ahead. I think suffering makes us do this. Like the adage says, “things will look better in the morning”, we are designed to hope in tomorrow. This is from God, too: Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
I think one of the most inspiring times of suffering in American history is listening to the richness of the spiritual songs sung by plantation slaves of the Old South. Their suffering was immeasurable. Yet, I have read about an immeasurable strength in the midst of their pain.
Then, other times in American history of mothers and babies dying during childbirth, loved ones dying with illnesses and diseases we now have medicine for, young men as young as 16 going off to war and never experiencing a future.
Then, the Holocaust. I recently finished a book based on a true story, The Girl from the Channel Islands, about a Jewish girl trapped on the island of Jersey occupied by the Germans during WWII.
Consider this passage:
No fat reserves, she’d recenlty discovered, meant that sitting for long periods, even with a cushion, was a painful experience. She had spent the afternoon wandering aimlessly from room to empty room, searching for the balance between warming up and burning calories, but last night even climbing the stairs to the attic, had left her panting and dizzy, Her weakness frightened her …
… for seven days, they had between them two ounces of margarine, seven ounces of flour, three ounces of sugar, four ounces of meat … for a few moments they rejoiced as they devoured an acceptable lunch – perhaps a slice of tongue to go with a crust of tasteless Occupation bread.
Lastly, Hebrews 11, found in the Bible, records the heroes of faith. It begins with this:
Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.
People of faith who had amazing victories:
who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. Women received back their dead, raised to life again.
Yet, at the end of the chapter:
There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground.
Not so victorious, were they? At least not our definition of victorious.
But God commends all of these people:
These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.
I have determined, only this satisifes the questions we have about suffering. We might call our perseverance the human spirit, but even that comes from God.
We don’t have all of the story now. We don’t have a complete explanation now.
But through faith, through trust, we believe.
He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more,
neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.