One dies in his full strength, being wholly at ease and satisfied; his sides are filled out with fat, and the marrow of his bones is moist, while another dies with a bitter soul, never even tasting anything good. Together they lie down in the dust, and worms cover them. - Job 21:2-9, 23-26
The wicked and the good, the suffering and the fortunate, all will die one day, regardless of the experiences we have in this life. I was reading the VOM Newsletter today and found this section on suffering (and it kind of related to Job 21, which I read today as well):
"After dedicating forty years of his life to missionary work among the Australian aborigines, a pastor fell sick. He suffered greatly as he was being transported on primitive roads to the city and was barely able to breathe. He asked his family to sing and to read to him from the Bible. Finally he said, "Stop praising! I have served Him my whole life and He does not care for me." He took the Bible from his wife's hand and threw it into the bush. He could find no answer to the problem of suffering."This is the danger of the "prosperity" gospel and the "love only" gospel that is so prevalent in our churches in America today. This missionary expected something for his sacrifice in this world, yet the Bible promises trials and tribulations in this life for believers. The article continues:
"The only answer that I believe should be given is not to ask the question. Jesus, when He was on the cross, asked God why He had forsaken even His only begotten Son. His question is followed only by a question mark. All that is revealed to us is that the question exists and that we can live with it."It is difficult though, isn't it? Yet if God didn't provide the answer to this question, then I guess we need to trust in Him anyway. His ways are much higher than our ways (Isaiah 55:9), and He has chosen to keep some things from us (Deut 29:29). Then the article moved on to another example:
"A sufferer once came to a pastor and asked him many questions. The pastor answered, 'Kneel here in church and ask Jesus for the answers.' The man replied, 'Do you really think I will hear a voice from heaven?' 'No, ' said the pastor, 'but by keeping quiet in prayer for several hours before God, you will realize that you can go along without answers to all your problems. This would have been Jesus' answer, and it will quiet you.' You do not need more than His peace, which passes all understanding. You do not need both peace and understanding, for understanding presupposes qualifications that most of us do not have." - Richard Wumbrand (from 100 Prison Meditations, pp. 16-17)Sounds like good advice. It seems that most often, it's the atheists and unbelievers who want an answer to this question, but does it really matter? Whether they believe in Jesus Christ or not, they still have the problem of suffering in the world. The real problem that they should have is, why does it bother them? Where does morality come from? If it's just nature and there is no God, does that answer why there is suffering in the world?
So, why is there suffering? I think it's because there is no better means to build faith, to build confidence in God's sovereignty, than suffering. It will force you one direction or another, if a false convert, you will turn and walk away in suffering, just like the pastor in the story who threw out his Bible after 40 years. But if you are truly one of the Lord's, it will strengthen your faith, even unto death, which will affect others who see it or hear about it later as well.
I find that reading stories of persecution and martyrdom tend to convict us, to break out of our laziness here in America, to see past the vast luxuries, blessings and freedoms that we take for granted but refuse to use. Learning of the persecution of other believers helps us to understand the importance of evangelism, sharing the full Gospel with others that they would be convicted of their sins against God, and truly repent, coming to Him alone for salvation, never looking to the rewards or sufferings in this world, but to glorify Him and spend eternity with Him, solely out of gratitude, seeking only to serve the Lord, because He alone is worthy.
Soli Deo Gloria