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God and Suffering

Interestingly, this week I met two different people in two different circumstances. They both knew what pain is and what it is to go through suffering, but both have cultivated worldviews that are polar opposites.

Turning Away
The first incident I would like to share happened this way. Ashamed of being
not so active in evangelism, few days back, I decided, along with my wife, to go to a public place once a week, in the evening, and share the gospel of Christ Jesus. When we went this week, we saw a person sitting on a cement bench. I went near to him and initiated the talk.

After our initial talk, when the time came to speak about God, he started to blurt out his angry feelings. He shared how he lost one-third of his left hand in an accident occurred in a company for which he was working, and how, as a result of this accident, his marriage that was fixed called off. He went on expressing the various difficulties he underwent, like finding a good job and so forth.

He is now married, has a good job and things are much better than they were, but still, because of the pain he underwent, he no more believes in the existence of God. His argument—if God exists why should I have to suffer this way?

Turning To
The second incident that I want to share happened a day before the above incident. I was invited to handle Q&A session, along with another preacher, wherein the participants were the students who wrote post graduate medical entrance examination. One main purpose of this gathering was to motivate them to remain strong in the Lord in spite of whatever exam results they get.

After the Q&A session, the brother who organized the event came up and spoke. As he spoke, my eyes were fixed upon him, my ears became more attentive to hear him and my heart was deeply moved by his words. He shared about how people get shaken in their faith in God during afflictions. Then he went on to share the illnesses he suffers in his body, which caused great difficulty even to travel long distance for the event. Much worse, his eldest son, since 8 years, suffers from cerebral palsy, requiring 24/7 attention and care.

Reflecting upon all the pain his family is undergoing, he asked, “What shall I do now?” He then reminded us about how many of Jesus’ disciples left Him because of His hard teaching. And when Jesus asked the Twelve, “You do not want to leave too, do you?”  Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” (Jn. 6:66-68)

This is what the brother said, “When I think about all the afflictions in life, what shall I do? Where shall I go? Jesus is having the words of eternal life. There is no way but Jesus.”

Which is Better - Turning Away from God or Turning to God?
In the first incident, because of suffering, this person ended up disbelieving in the existence of God. I have seen all unhappiness written over his face. He is emotionally in a pathetic state, although his external conditions seem to be better. He daily boozes at night, chews tobacco and tries to spend time with some people in order to escape the inner ache of loneliness. He seemed to be more miserable without God.

I have never seen a man turning his back against God and living a better, blissful life.

In the other incident, I saw genuine peace in the brother who believed in Jesus despite the afflictions in life. In fact, he is courageous and unflinching under suffering because of his faith in Christ. He has great hope in God. Even though he has to confront pain in this fallen world, there is great peace in his inner life and his heart is tremendously burdened to help others. He seemed to be more blessed, more optimistic and full of life because of Christ. This reminds me of Jesus’ words to His disciples:
"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." (John 16:33)
What can I deduce from these two lives? Here is my conclusion, which is based not just on these two men, but from reading the Holy Scripture and observing numerous lives in the fifteen years of my Christian life.

The man who rejects God because of pain and suffering grows more miserable—if not outwardly but for sure inwardly. He lives in a hopeless state and becomes pessimistic about life. He may prosper materially and may appear externally happy but he cannot escape the inner ache of emptiness and loneliness.

But the man who clings to Christ in spite of pain and afflictions becomes stronger, patient and mature. He knows that God is in control and works all things for good (Rom. 8:28). He possesses indescribable inner peace and joyful hope in God. Moreover, he even refreshes the hearts of many, for people need encouragement from those who have been through the path of pain and have peace as their shelter amidst the storms of life.

Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. (Rom. 12:12)

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (Jas. 1:2-4)

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. (2Cor. 4:16-17)

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