Thursday, February 11, 2016

Why doesn't God stop my Suffering?

When suffering impacts a person’s life, it does not discriminate, is not influenced by any particular prejudice, it is not motivated by any bias, or racial, economic, cultural, political, religious or gender specific class within society. It touches all of us indiscriminately, and comes to us without notice. No one is immune to its entry into their own life, or that of their loved ones. 

There comes a point when every sufferer struggles with questions that can impact their faith like:
  • Does God know that I am Suffering?
  • Does God really care that I am suffering?
  • Why does God allow suffering to refine a Christian?
  • How does Suffering refine the Christian?
  • How can I trust God if He allows me to continue to endure continuous pain and suffering? 
  • Why doesn’t God stop my suffering?
  • Will the suffering cease when I have learned what I am supposed to learn, or grown to be more mature as a Christian?
The sufferer can struggle with feelings of being abandoned by God, and question ...

“Why do You stand afar off, O Lord? Why do You hide Yourself in times of trouble?” NASB

Additional insight is gained when this question is read in the following translation of this verse:

“Why are you so distant, Yahweh? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?” NOG (Names of God Bible)

The name for God, Yahweh, means "The Lord will Provide." 

The psalmist found it confusing that the God who provides would seem to be hiding when he needed him the most, especially during times of trouble.

We are powerless to prevent suffering, and have literally no real control over when, how, or why suffering has come to shadow our lives in ways that we previously had not thought possible. It may not seem feasible to sincerely proclaim ...

"It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I may learn your statutes." Psalm 119:72

We long for the maturity to pray with humble thanksgiving ... 

“I know, O Lord, that your rules are righteous, and that in faithfulness you have afflicted me.” Psalm 119:75

We do not have control of when suffering comes into our lives, or what form it will take, and how long it may be there, but what we do have is the choice of how we respond to it. We can either allow suffering to cripple our life in every way imaginable, or have the faith and courage to see suffering for what it is, a consequence of the fall of man (Genesis 2-3). God uses it for His Glory, and our growth in grace, but it came as a result of disobedience in the first family in the Garden of Eden. 

At that pivotal moment in human history, moral innocence and perfection gave way to a fallen sinful nature (Psalm 51:5), needing spiritual redemption (Ezekiel 18:4), and the physical body would later be affected by disease, physical afflictions, birth deformities, and a myriad of illnesses both physically, as well as those illnesses, disorders and syndromes that affect one mentally and emotionally. (Matthew 4:23).

The Shadow of Suffering over one's life

When your life is impacted by prolonged illness, disease, chronic health disorders, acute and unrelenting physical pain, then suffering becomes the dark canopy that shadows your daily life. If you live with major depression, panic or phobic disorders, obsessive compulsive disorders, schizophrenia, PTSD, TBI, bi-polar manic depression, or any number of a myriad of mental and or emotional disorders, suffering cloaks your life with a burden that is not understood by most people, with little support by the better part of society. 

The Enslavement of an Addiction

If you live with addiction, and have struggled with the ravages of the effects of addictions like alcohol, drugs, sexual, food, gambling, hording, or any number of addiction related issues that paralyze your life, or that have gripped your family with an unspeakable sorrow, then profound suffering has touched your life, and the lives of your loved ones. Life is most often never the same, and relationships are often scarred by the consequences of how addictions create chaos, conflict, and unimaginable suffering, within the very core of the family. 

Suffering in the midst of an Affliction 

Suffering is in reality, a word that describes the effect of hardship and affliction upon our lives, it is not the affliction itself. Suffering is therefore the natural debilitating experience of one undergoing extreme hardship, unrelenting pain, and or chronic illness or disease. It is possible to focus so much upon the experience of suffering that we have little focus available to draw near to God in the midst of our pain and illness, and bring it before Him at the Throne of Grace. 

“Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Hebrews 4:16

Suffering and the issue of Obedience

It is imperative to remember that sometimes suffering is directly related to the chastening or corrective discipline of God when sin is not repented of. There are times when affliction, illness, suffering and hardship is God's means to get the attention of His child to remind them that blessing flows out of obedience to His word.

"He will bless you only if you listen carefully to Yahweh your Elohim and faithfully obey all these commands I’m giving you today." Deut. 15:5 NOG Bible

Suffering and God's Sovereign Purpose in our lives

Paul himself experienced an affection so distracting, and physically uncomfortable, that he called it a “thorn in the flesh”, without naming the affliction itself. He sought God’s healing on three different occasions, but his healing was not to be. Consider.... Paul, the Apostle, was denied healing from God .... Paul, who wrote 13 of the 27 books of the New Testament, and whose healing gift was so evident that even to have a handkerchief that he touched, was deemed to have healing power.

 “God was performing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, so that handkerchiefs or aprons were even carried from his body to the sick, and the diseases left them and the evil spirits went out.” Acts 19:11-12

The healing powers of Paul in the Book of Acts were given to him to validate his Apostolic office to the other Apostles, and the new emerging churches of the New Testament. The miraculous healing gift of Paul’s began to diminish as the letters of the New Testament were written, and later circulated, so that the Scriptures would become the central focus of their faith, and not the sign gifts of the Apostles. Now Paul found himself afflicted also, and his prayer of faith to have it removed was denied not once but three times. Healing therefore does not always happen no matter how much faith a person may have. Healing is always in the hands of our sovereign almighty God, and His eternal purpose.

When Affliction is allowed by God to keep us humble

“Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me.”
The character trait of humility, developed by God in the heart of a Christian, is part of the process of progressive sanctification. He allows affliction to teach us to be humble before Him, and to seek Him for His grace to bear up under it He purpose is to not allow pride to get its subtle tenacious roots into our attitude, or our estimation of ourselves. 
“He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8

In this case, Paul identified the thorn as a “…messenger of Satan,” allowed by God specifically keep his heart and mind humble, as he had been given so much from God, and had been allowed to see visions the other Apostles, apart from John on Patmos, had not seen. (II Cor. 12:1-6)

The Grace of God will sustain us in the midst of Affliction

When faithful prayer has not brought about healing, either as a result of one’s own prayers, or through the administration of anointing for healing through a group of elders (James 5: 14-16), and if healing has not come to pass through medical intervention, then James reminds us to wait upon God patiently, and allow His will to be accomplished even through the experience of suffering, whatever it may be.

“Brothers and sisters, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. As you know, we count as blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.” James 5:10-11

It is God’s grace that enables us to reach up with weakened arms to heaven, and whisper with tear stained cheeks, “Lord, I am trusting You. Have your way in this affection so that Your will shall be accomplished in my life, however you choose to use this suffering.”
 We must never forget that in the hour of greatest testing, God bends near to hear the whisper of our burdened heart, and He is listening when no one else is. 

When we are Suffering, our humility opens the floodgates of God’s Grace

“But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” II Cor. 12-7-10

James reiterated this principle:

“But He gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says:
“God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” James 4:6 (Quoting Proverbs 3:34)

Pride argues with God, while grace yields to God’s sovereign will. Satan wants people to blame God when suffering comes our way, and to harden our hearts toward Him. Lucifer sought to exalt his will against God, and was consequently defeated, and was thrown out of heaven, along with one third of the angels that had joined with him in that rebellion. At the fall, it was his goal to undermine God’s will in Adam and Eve’s thinking and actions by using his seductive persuasion to put themselves  on the same level with God. He has done so with disastrous results since the beginning of time.

Pride is at the very core of Satan’s rebellion against God. The prophet Isaiah wrote of Satan’s declaration of pride in his attempt to exalt himself against God:

How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning!  How art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! For thou hast said in thine heart, 

I will ascend into heaven,
I will exalt my throne above the stars of God:
I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north:
I will ascend above the heights of the clouds;
I will be like the most High.
Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit.” Isaiah 14-12-15

In the midst of suffering, Satan desires to have us get angry with God, and to doubt that He has our best interests at heart. He wants us to believe that God has abandoned us, and to feel that He shows partiality by allowing you to suffer, while others prosper and are in good health. He also wants us to believe that the Christian faith is powerless and not true, and to doubt that the Bible is reliable His goal is to get us to essentially close off our heart and mind to God, at the very time when He desires that we yield to Him, and stand solidly upon the reliability of the Scriptures and trust in His faithfulness.

Job came to a place, after intense and prolonged suffering, where he realized that his belief regarding God’s purposes and actions toward him were not only erroneous, but that he had bought into Satan’s pride and arrogance to question God. His response was to repent and confess His sin, and yield completely to the sovereignty of Almighty God.

“Then Job replied to the Lord:
“I know that you can do all things;
    no purpose of yours can be thwarted.
You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?’
    Surely I spoke of things I did not understand,
    things too wonderful for me to know.
“You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak;
    I will question you,
    and you shall answer me.’
My ears had heard of you
    but now my eyes have seen you.
Therefore I despise myself
    and repent in dust and ashes.” Job 42: 1-6

It is always important to remember that the will of God shall never lead you where the Grace of God cannot keep you. 

The following scriptures remind us that suffering in our lives may be there to fulfill different purposes, depending upon both the will of God, and the circumstances that we might find ourselves in:

Suffering and the development of Christlike Character

“Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance.” Romans 5:3

The Eternal focus to maintain while Suffering

“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” Romans 8:18

Christ comforts us with compassion because He too Suffered

“For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.” II Cor. 1:5

Satan likes us to feel we are alone when suffering, but we are all experiencing times of Affliction

“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.” I Peter 5: 8-9

Suffering can deepen our relationship with Christ

“I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of His resurrection and participation in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death.” Phil. 3:10

In spite of Suffering, through God’s Spirit, the Word brings Joy to our hearts

“You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit.” I Thes. 1:6

Suffering, especially when persecuted, is part of being a disciple of Jesus Christ

“Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.” I Peter 4:12

Suffering reminds us to be sensitive to pray for others who are suffering

“Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.” Hebrews 13:3

Suffering, especially when being persecuted, solidifies our faith in Christ

“That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet this is no cause for shame, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day.” II Timothy 1:12

Our Testimony is more evident as Christians when we Endure Suffering patiently

 “For it is commendable if someone bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because they are conscious of God.” I Pet. 2:19

When it seems that God does not stop one's suffering, it may be that there are deeper more eternal purposes unfolding that we may never understand this side of Heaven. 

“Yet He knows the way I have taken: when He has tested me, I will emerge as pure Gold." Job 23:10


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