As someone who has battled a chronic illness since I was a child and as a doctor I have encountered much suffering. I have asked God many times why he allows suffering. I think many people have struggled with this same question, why does a loving God allow such suffering in his children? I think to address this question I have had to looked at suffering from different view points.
Type 1- suffering due to your own sin or sins of other people. In order to understand this type of suffering I had to first understand that God gives people free will. It is this free will that means people can choose to sin rather than following God. This will in turn can cause suffering in ourselves or others. Even though the suffering is caused by others outside of God’s will, I truly believe there is hope of healing through liberation, the body of Christ and medical care. Furthermore when we submit to God even in our suffering he is able to use it as a testimony to others in order to bring about change. For God is sovereign over all things when we choose to go to him in our suffering rather than turning to other things to make the pain numb.
Type 2- suffering due to illness that is due to living in a world with sickness. This type of suffering is often of no ones fault. It is just due to the breakdown of the body. I truly believe that God has gifted us modern medical care to combat and alleviate this type of suffering. But modern medical care is still not God and it is far from perfect. It has side effects and often fails. Why does God allow this? It is a result of our broken world. For we live in a world with sin and sickness. Jesus is the answer for through him we have the promise of eternity in heaven where there is no illness. In our modern world it is the suffering due to illness that commonly reminds us of our need for Jesus.
Type 3- suffering due to loss/separation. Whether it be the loss of a loved one, loss of a home, future, dream or the break in relationship or even loneliness from being single. This type of suffering is due to a longing to be near to someone or something. It ultimately mimics our desire and longing for our Heavenly Father. For it is the loss and longing that is a reflection of the loss and longing God has for us his children. It is again through this suffering that we have the opportunity to draw near to God though Jesus. This allows that whole in our hearts to be satisfied.
Type 4- suffering for Christ, so that others may hear and believe the gospel. Jesus said that we are to take up our cross and follow him. This means we often leave a life of ease and protection for the sake of the kingdom. There are those who lose their live in the attempted of sharing the gospel but there are also those who suffer torture, abuse and intense suffering for the sake of Jesus’s name. We have to realize that Jesus himself endured this suffering. It was not that he did not feel the pain rather he endured it for all of us. Our reward is in heaven and God is faithful in providing endurance. For again it is through this suffering and persecution that others often hear and believe in the one true God through Jesus.
We should not cause undue suffering in others for no purpose. There is enough suffering in the world by itself. I think we should when possible try to alleviate suffering and come along side each other during times of need. But we should also not live in fear of suffering. For it is the fear of suffering that leads to another type of bondage. Similarly we should not let the fear of suffering keep us from following Jesus teaching and being a light unto the world.
“Jesus strictly warned them not to tell this to anyone. And he said, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.” Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self? Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. “Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God.” Luke 9:21-27