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Pain and Suffering
This is probably one of the more difficult sermons or teachings I’ve had to present, because how can I bring comfort and peace to those who are in pain and going through a time of suffering? But then I realized that I can’t, only God can, and so my prayer for you is that God would intercede and bring you the healing and peace that you need.
Because we have all been born with the sin nature, we will, therefore, from the time of our birth to the time of our die, experience various kinds and levels of pain and suffering, whether it is physical, emotional, or spiritual, which are caused by various reasons, like illness, persecution, and abuse.
Since pain and suffering begins from childbirth, from the moment we recognize the pain and suffering and its source, we spend much of our time and energy trying to avoid or eliminate it.
If you watch TV commercials, you have probably noticed that many of them advertise how to manage pain. They advertise Tylenol, Advil, Aleve, and a dozens other drugs. However, such solutions are only temporary. They manage the pain, but they do not eliminate it.
But no matter which type of pain and suffering it is, it is still pain and suffering, and shouldn’t be sloughed off as if it doesn’t hurt. It does, and the pain is real, and trying to tell ourselves or tell others that it isn’t real, just causes additional pain usually in the form of depression thinking that no one really understands or cares.
Now, some try to avoid or eliminate the pain and suffering through drugs and alcohol, but these never eliminate the pain or suffering, rather they mask it, and as a result it spins us into addictions which only exasperates our pain and suffering.
For some they turn to religion attempting to coax God to help them by keeping religion’s many rules and regulations, only to be disappointed and disillusioned when they realize that through all their manipulations and maneuverings nothing has really changed, and they are in just as much pain, or experiencing the same amount, or an increase in their overall suffering.
This has caused many to turn away from religion, which isn’t a bad idea, because in truth religion doesn’t help one bit. The only thing, or should I say person that will help is the Lord God of the Bible, our Comforter and Great Physician, the One who created us and knows all about us, and knows what we need and what is best for our lives.
Now, in the beginning God’s plan was for us to live in perfect harmony with Him in a place where pain and suffering never existed, that is, the Garden of Eden. But sin entered the picture resulting in pain and suffering, even with the earth itself.
To Adam the Lord said, “Cursed is the ground for your sake; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you” (Genesis 3:17b-18a NKJV)
The key to this verse is where the Lord tells Adam that the earth is cursed through Adam’s sin. Because of this curse, the Bible says that all of creation is waiting for humanity’s final redemption when it will be liberated from its ongoing decay, for which it is groaning for even today, which is the cause of all these natural disasters that are bringing suffering to many around the world (Romans 8:22).
And so, no matter where we go, or what we try to do to escape, pain and suffering are a part of the human existence.
It is this, probably more than anything else that has caused many to turn away from God saying how hard it is to believe in a God who would allow such rampant evil, pain, and suffering to go unchecked, and not eliminate it altogether.
A common statement is, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” But the reality is that good and bad things happen to both good and bad people.
Jesus said that God causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matthew 5:45).
And so, to the question of why we are going through pain and suffering, I simply don’t have an easy answer, but let me share what I do know, and what I have experienced.
There are three major reasons as to why we experience pain and suffering.
Three Major Reasons For Pain and Suffering
“Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned.” (Romans 5:12 NKJV)
There is hesitation on my part to list this as a reason, and that’s because the damage that the faith movement has done. But the truth is that disease, illness, and death are a direct result of sin. Yet, at the same time, pain and suffering isn’t necessary a punishment for our sins, but rather we experience these things because we are in a sin-filled and sin-diseased world.
And this really shouldn’t surprise anyone, and if you really start boiling down the reasons people give as to why there is evil, pain, and suffering, they have to admit, that while they are mad and upset with God for not stopping it, the reason for the evil lies within the heart of man, not the heart of God.
The evil that is found in the world today is generally the result of our own or other’s destructive behaviors, like drinking and doing drugs, or cheating, lying, coveting, and any number of self-centered attitudes and habits.
As we have also seen, it is the sin that Adam and Eve introduced into the world and into our DNA that is the cause of the natural disasters that also cause untold pain and suffering.
Many diseases come through humanity’s sin and our neglect of God’s laws, which throughout the generations has mutated causing genetic defects, which have, like sin, been passed down from one generation to another.
But sin is not the only thing that brings pain and suffering, the author of that sin is also a culprit.
“He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil.” (1 John 3:8 NKJV)
What the Bible says is that Satan was the original source of sin and evil. In fact, Satan’s name means adversary or opponent. He is the one that opposes and stands against everything that is of God.
It began when he was the guardian angel full of wisdom and beautiful beyond compare. But we are told that pride and wickedness entered into his heart making him think that he was all that plus a bag of chips, and that he was just as wise and powerful as God, and God tossed him out for it.
Satan is then what we might call the author of sin. He was the one who tempted humanity and got them to fall (Genesis 3:1-6), and thus as the tempter he has been responsible for much of the sin that we find in the world today.
Whenever we consider suffering, Job immediately comes to mind. And from what happened to Job we see that everything he suffered, and the pain he endured, was the directly the result of Satan.
And yet, while Satan authored what happened to Job, God allowed it, but God put limits on what Satan could do. To Satan, God said, “Everything he has is in your power, but on the man himself do not lay a finger” (Job 1:12). And even after losing everything, including his children, Job didn’t crack, but still gave glory to God.
Satan then said that Job would curse God if he were allowed to strike him with disease and pain, and while the Lord allowed it, He said, “He is in your hands; but you must spare his life” (Job 2:6). And still Job did not sin, even in His words.
What this story tells us is that God is not the cause of our suffering, and as such is not the cause of our illnesses and pain. Yes, it does pass through the hands of God, but Satan authors it.
Alan Redpath, author, evangelist, and pastor said something that I believe is instructional for us at this point. He said, “There is nothing–no circumstance, no trouble, no testing–that can ever touch me until, first of all, it has gone past God and past Christ right through to me. If it has come that far, it has come with a great purpose, which I may not understand at the moment.”
And let’s not forget the age-old reason why we have pain and suffering
“And the Lord said, ‘My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, for he is indeed flesh; yet his days shall be one hundred and twenty years.’” (Genesis 6:3 NKJV)
God created humanity as perfect, but when sin entered the picture, so did decay and death.
And so it boils down to sin, because it is the sin of Adam, which has been passed down to all of us that we get old and die. And so, age is a reason why we deal with the pain and suffering that we do.
Because of an accident that I had last year, the neurologist told me that I should get use to the pain because I am getting old. Now, while I told him that his bedside manner stunk, I realized that this is just a reality of life and sin.
The older I get the more my body will start breaking down, and therefore such pain shouldn’t take me by surprise. And when I take this attitude toward what I am going through, I don’t have to suffer emotionally by getting depressed and disappointed with life.
Therefore, the longer we live, the more likely it is that we will have physical problems.
Hindrances to Healing
Since we pray and ask God for His healing touch, what are some of the hindrances that prevent healings from taking place.
1. Doubting God’s Goodness
How will we handle trouble? Will it bring us closer to God, or will it turn us away from God?
Satan uses pain to make people doubt God’s goodness. He wants to inject doubt into our minds until we distrust the nature and character of God. Satan seeks to promote bitterness and hatred towards God because of pain.
If Satan can make us angry with God or make us react with bitterness and hatred toward God or others, he will be leading us down a path of self-destruction.
2. Wrong Counsel
There is a lot of bad counsel and doctrine within the church today, and it centers upon why people are in pain and suffering. They are told that it is a direct result of their own sin. Now, as we have look at so far, we have seen that this mostly bogus, and far from biblical.
And this really isn’t new thinking, it was around all the way back to Job, which is actually before the time of Moses and the Law. We see this thinking in those who came to consul and counsel Job through this time of intense suffering and pain.
They believed that suffering was the result of an unavoidable law that every cause produces an effect. In other words, we reap what we sow. Basically they said, “Job, acknowledge your sinfulness and confess.”
But Job held on to his conviction regarding his personal integrity. And as we see in the Scriptures, Job’s pain and suffering wasn’t through anything evil or sinful that he did; it was because He was good and upright, which is God’s own description of Job (Job 1:8).
And so, another hindrance to healing is wrong counsel, which produces wrong praying on our part.
3. Not Waiting on God
The Bible says that those who wait upon the Lord will renew their strength (Isaiah 40:31).
The Apostle James tells us to be patient until the Lord comes back, and in so doing reminds us that in the midst of whatever it is that we are going through that there is an end in sight. And for us as believers that end is heaven in the presence of God for all eternity.
Our problem is that we don’t want to hear this. We don’t like to hear the word “wait,” or “soon.” We want our healing now, and so we settle for temporary fixes rather than waiting and growing deeper in our relationship with God through these times of suffering and pain.
Suffering and pain sometimes are the best teacher we have, because it forces us to focus on God, allowing the Holy Spirit to dig deeper into our lives so that we can come out as gems, and as refined gold through the fiery trials.
However, if we’re not waiting because we don’t feel God’s presence in whatever we’re going through we rush forward only to find ourselves out of God’s will. Please understand that feelings lie, and feelings can also be manipulated by Satan.
So instead of trusting in our feelings, let’s trust in God that He has a plan and a purpose that is the hope of our future.
“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11 NJKV)
Resignation and acceptance are not the same. Instead they are two different things.
Resignation accepts that pain and suffering is something that we’re meant to go through, and therefore, there’s nothing that we can do about it. Whereas acceptance meets the tragedies of life with God’s destiny, that God has a plan and purpose. What acceptance says is that while we do go through times of pain and suffering, we can do all things through Christ who gives us the strength (Philippians 4:13).
Now, before we move on to what the Bible says about the reasons for pain and suffering, let’s take a look at a couple of examples from the Bible.
Example from Job’s Life
I think it’s interesting to note that pain and suffering were the first things God communicates to humanity, seeing that Job was before the time of Moses, and hence the Law. Instead of first giving us the Ten Commandments, God tells us about a man named Job, and shows us how to handle the difficulties that life presents.
Now, as we have seen, God allowed Satan to bring pain and suffering to Job’s life, even though Job was blameless and upright.
But instead of bringing an accusation against God for his apparent mistreatment, Job never sinned in His response.
Job said, “‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.’ In all this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong” (Job 1:21-22 NKJV)
Later when his wife told him to curse God and die, Job said, “‘Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?’ In all this Job did not sin with his lips” (Job 2:10 NKJV).
Job spoke and acted in a right way to the pain and suffering he was going through, even though he didn’t understand why.
We must take such a response to heart, because this is one of the best witnesses we have for God. It is where we trust in His faithfulness and rely upon His mercy and grace.
Example from Paul’s Life
The Apostle Paul, like Job, had a great handle on God’s purpose and plan for suffering, and the answer came directly from the Lord Himself.
Consider all that Paul went through in his life: he was whipped and beaten within an inch of his life several times, he was stoned and left for dead, he suffered shipwrecks, mistreated, threatened with death by both the Jews and Romans, and was suffering through an incurable disease.
It is this last issue, that is, his incurable disease that we find God’s answer.
God gave Paul a glimpse of heaven, but to keep Paul humble, God allowed Satan to buffet Paul with what he describes as a thorn in the flesh.
Paul said, “And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Corinthians 12:7-9 NKJV).
Paul suffered greatly in many ways, but it was all for God’s glory, that is, God got all the glory as Paul was able to say, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13 NKJV)
Biblical Reasons for Pain and Suffering
In regards to the suffering of God’s people, the prophet Isaiah said that God responded to their suffering with sympathy and compassion.
He wrote, “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; and He bore them and carried them all the days of old” (Isaiah 63:9 NKJV).
What I see is that God gets no pleasure from what we suffer, but rather has something planned out for good.
“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28 NKJV)
1. God’s Glory
As we saw in Paul’s life, God’s grace is sufficient to comfort and strengthen us. While Paul prayed for a healing, God said that He would get him through it by His grace.
The pain that we are feeling can’t compare to the joy that’s coming was Paul’s take in the end.
He said, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” (Romans 8:18 NKJV)
Consider those three young men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego who were thrown into the Nebuchadnezzar fiery furnace. They weren’t delivered from the flames, but rather through the flames.
And God got all the glory as Nebuchadnezzar said, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, who sent His Angel and delivered His servants who trusted in Him, and they have frustrated the king’s word, and yielded their bodies, that they should not serve nor worship any god except their own God!” (Daniel 3:28 NKJV)
And speaking to this horrendously wrong counsel of a person’s suffering as a direct result of their sin, Jesus said that the man who was born blind wasn’t due to his or his parent’s sin, but for the distinct purpose that through his healing God would receive all the glory.
“Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth. And His disciples asked Him, saying, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ Jesus answered, ‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him’” (John 9:1-3 NKJV).
2. Our Witness
Earlier, while looking at the example of Job, I said that how we handle our pain and suffering is one of the best witnesses we have for God. It is where we trust in His faithfulness and rely upon His mercy and grace.
The suffering we experience is our chance to tell the world, especially those within our sphere of influence, that our lives are consistent with our beliefs. And our lives cannot be consistent until we learn to be consistent in our time with God.
But look at what the Bible says is one of the reasons we go through these times of pain and suffering.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)
Sometimes are we are the only Bible people will ever read.
People tend to form their opinions and conclusions about Jesus Christ based a lot upon how we live our lives during these times of trials and tribulations. It is how we live and endure these times of pain and suffering that will make a difference in the lives of others.
We witness for the Lord through our living for eternity rather than for the temporary, and it by not losing hope when everything seems to be hopeless.
3. Our Character
In James 5:11 it says, “Indeed we count them blessed who endure. You have heard of the perseverance of Job and seen the end intended by the Lord–that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful.”
James uses the example of the prophets and Job, people whose lives were marked by difficult circumstances that often times they didn’t understand, but through which God forged their spiritual character.
I think James wants to shift our attention from what is happening to us in order to use what God is forming inside us. He uses Job to show us what patience and following God in the midst of pain can do.
Character isn’t built when life is easy, but rather it is when life gets tough and we remain faithful.
“But we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope.” (Romans 5:3-4 NKJV)
Job said, “He knows the way that I take; when He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold.” (Job 23:10 NKJV)
But there is no refinement without the fires of affliction.
What Can We Do?
1. Get Into God’s Word
“My son, give attention to my words; incline your ear to my sayings. Do not let them depart from your eyes; keep them in the midst of your heart; for they are life to those who find them, and health to all their flesh.” (Proverbs 4:20-22 NKJV)
Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord … pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” (James 5:14, 16b NKJV)
“The prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up.” (James 5:15a NKJV)
When it comes to pain and suffering, let’s first go to God and pray for a healing, along with getting His take on what’s going on. We also need to secure services of those in the medical profession, and let’s pray for our doctors that God would give them the wisdom to deal rightly with what we’re going through.
We need to go to God for answers and deliverance, but please catch this, and that is, God goes one step further. He gives to us Himself.
God gives Himself as a husband to the divorced and widowed. He gives Himself as the bridegroom to those who are single. And to the orphan, He becomes their Father.
God becomes the great physician to those who are sick, and the Wonderful Counselor to those who are depressed and going through emotional turmoil.
And God becomes the bread of life, and the living waters to those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.
Having that relationship with Jesus is the answer, as He is the Word that was made flesh, and who died upon the cross for our sins so that we can have a right relationship with Him, and then live for all eternity in heaven where there is no more pain or suffering.
God is good, not because he explains or gives us reasons why we suffer, or takes pain and suffering away, but because He fully experienced pain and suffering for all of us, and explained Himself and His plan for our salvation there upon the cross. God is good because Jesus fully gave Himself for us.
When thinking about the goodness of God, I think C.S. Lewis said it best through Mr. Beaver about Aslan, who in the Chronicles of Narnia was representative of Jesus.
Mr. Beaver said, “Who said anything about safe? Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good.”
God is not the author of suffering; instead God is the author of good (James 1:13-17).
Wednesday Evening Bible Study