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Is it true that God permits or allows pain, suffering, hardships, adversity or trials?
     None of us can escape from pain, suffering, adversity, hardship or trials. At some point in our lives these will definitely come. But for a long time I cannot reconcile the point of view that God, who is love Himself and merciful, allows such things to happen. I can accept that pain, suffering, hardship and adversity come to us from:
a) what we do--eat (fried food, fat, red meat)
             ---breathe (cigarette smoke, pollutants)
             ---think (revenge, resentment, hate)     

   ---feel (anxiety,fear,doubt,unforgiving)

           ---act (pride,anger,greed,envy,sloth,lust,gluttony)
              ---hardening of hearts,

etc                     
b) the consequence of natural laws--earthquake, typhoon, gravity, mechanical, electrical law, etc
c) Satan----through nasty people, evil people, envious people, cruelpeople, constant fear, etc

But after reading The problem of Pain by C.S.Lewis and Charles Stanley’s article on How to Handle Adversity (www.intouch.org), I am now in a position to accept the idea that pain, suffering, trials and adversity can also come from:

d) what God allows or permits

        So, why is it part of Gods plan to allow adversity and suffering at all?  Well, imagine a world in which there is no pain, suffering, adversity or trials, then we will all be thinking that we are mini-gods and do not need God at all! When everything is going well with us, we naturally do not think of God. Only when we encounter suffering or adversity, do we start to focus on God. BUT, to God, it is far more important that we become the men and women He wants us to be than for us to spend a lifetime of comfort and pleasure. God is all knowing (omniscience) and unlimited in creative power (omnificence) and He has designed adversity and suffering as one of the ways to develop our faith in Him. Suffering and pain turn us to God. Suffering and pain are part of Gods mystical designed goal for us:
     to grow stronger in our faith in Him
     to fall deeper in love with Him
     to be more consistent in our walk with Him
     to draw closer to His heart
     to concentrate more on His Word
     to bear more fruit in our service to Him
     to keep us focused in His ability to see us through.

     However, God doesn’t always explain the whys of suffering because of human beings limited capacity to understand. There is, therefore, no easy or complete answer to the question as to why God allows adversity, abuse, pain or suffering to happen to us.  For instance:
 

a) The disciples saw a blind man, who had been blind since birth. They asked whether this was caused by the sin of the man or the sin of his parents. Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him.”(John 9:3 TEV) Notice that Jesus answered the specific question, that in this particular case, sin was not the cause of his suffering and ailment. Yet, Jesus did not give an explanation as to why this blind mans suffering was allowed to occur. Jesus only gave a general purpose, that the works of God should be revealed in him. This is Gods ultimate purpose for all difficult and trying circumstances in life. He wants to reveal Himself and reward that particular individual who endures the suffering. St James says, “My friends, consider yourselves fortunate when all kinds of trials come your way, for you know that when your faith succeeds in facing such trials, the result is the ability to endure. Make sure that your endurance carries you all the way without failing, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. But if any of you lacks wisdom, you should pray to God, who will give it to you; because God gives generously and graciously. . . .the wisdom from above is pure first of all; it is  also peaceful, gentle, and friendly; it is full of compassion and produces a harvest of good deeds; it is free from prejudice and hypocrisy.”(James 1:2-5, 3:17 TEV) We must hold on to our faith in God, for “Happy are those who remain faithful under trials, because when they succeed in passing such a test, they will receive as their reward the life which God has promised to those who love Him.”(James 1:12 TEV)
 

b) Sufferings are allowed by God for a purpose and reason. God allowed Jesus to be abused and suffer a cruel death. At that time, the disciples could not understand what possible good could ever come from this cruelty perpetrated on Jesus. They lost all hope. They viewed the crucifixion as a terrible mistake. They could not see the ultimate purpose and plan of God. Yet, God had a very specific purpose. “In accordance with His own plan God had already decided that Jesus would be handed over to you; and you killed Him by letting sinful men crucify Him. But God would raise Him from death, setting Him free from its power, because it was impossible that death should hold Him prisoner.”(Acts 2:23-24 TEV)
       After the resurrection, on the road to Emmaus, Jesus told His two disciples, “How foolish you are, how slow you are to believe everything the prophets said! Was it not necessary for the Messiah to suffer these things and then to enter His glory?” (Luke 24:25-26 TEV) Jesus knew that suffering was the necessary way to glory.
 

c) The suffering and abuses, which we have endured, are also for a purpose. When we suffer we often ask, Why me? We react to suffering as something uninvited, undesirable and unwelcome. But every suffering or pain we experience is the kind that normally comes to anyone. Pain and suffering are part and parcel of our planet earth, and Christians are not exempted. The kingdom of suffering is universal. We all stand in it and are not free from it. But what is special for people who love God are that the suffering is never wasted or of no value. We may not be able to see what possible good could ever come from our suffering. Yet, God promises to take all things including suffering, abuses, evil things, and turn them round for good as “in all things God works for good with those who love Him.”(Romans 8:28 TEV) God also promises all believers that He is able to turn our sufferings over for good in our lives. But what is for our good, personally? This is for the individual to pray and with Gods help discover for himself his good. All God requires of us is to come to Him in prayer and trust Him completely. Trust Him to turn our lives around. He will not fail because we can trust God “who always keeps His promise.”(1 Peter 4:19 TEV) We do our part and He will do His part. God never asks us to understand; we need only trust Him in the same way that we expect our earthly children to trust our love. We are reminded to “Trust wholeheartedly in Yahweh, put no faith in our own perception” (Proverbs 3:5 NJB), “For we know only imperfectly” (1 Corinthians 13:9 NJB). Peace comes when we realize we are able to see only a few threads in the great tapestry of life and of God's plan. God allows adversity to mould and shape us in order to transform us to the likeness of Christ. Suffering can become a turning point from which we take our greatest leap forward in our spiritual journey.

        But, no one wants suffering. No one likes suffering. No one seeks suffering. No one enjoys suffering. No one looks forward to suffering. We do not welcome suffering and pain. Neither did Jesus want suffering. He prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, take this cup of suffering from Me! Yet not what I want, but what You want.” (Matthew 26:39 TEV) In great anguish He prayed even more fervently; “His sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.”(Luke 22:44 TEV) In His suffering, “An angel from heaven appeared to Him and strengthened Him.”(Luke 22:43 TEV) So too, we need friends to be angels to us. We also need Jesus to strengthen us in our suffering.
       God allows suffering as one of the ways He grabs our attention to truly and fully turn to Him. We are therefore encouraged to continue to seek His comfort, His support and His strength. We are also encouraged not to view the present situation as one, which should only be endured until relief comes. We know that in our world, we learn to mature and grow through difficult, challenging and painful experiences. So, we have to face our suffering, we have to befriend our suffering. We have to live through our suffering and not quickly get over it. We have to let our suffering bear fruit in our hearts and the hearts of others by celebrating the joy of life and the gift of life that no illnesses should take away.
       Suffering is God’s megaphone calling us to Him, calling us to make that quantum leap in our faith and trust in Him.
Jesus reminds us that, “not one sparrow falls to the ground without your Fathers consent. . .you are worth much more than many sparrows!” (Matthew 10:29,31 TEV) “We know that we are children of God” (1 John 3:1 TEV), and that “God is always ready to help (us) in times of trouble” (Psalms 46:1 TEV), and nothing can come into our lives unless He allows it. We have to believe that with all our heart, and look about expectantly for what God is doing---in us or through us. We have to learn to accept whatever He allows or permits or sends or gives us with a big smile. As Mother Teresa said, “Accept whatever He gives---and give whatever He takes with a big smile.” (A Gift for God, 46) We have to trust that God will guide and orchestrate our lives. We have to trust that God is preparing us to bear much fruit (John 15:2 TEV). We have to trust that joy can come amidst our suffering just as crushed grapes can produce delicious wine.
God allows suffering to be a means of discipline through which faith, love, patience and grace may be cultivated in our lives. When we pray and let Jesus live near our hurts, we will learn how He uses our suffering to mould and draw us closer to Him.

        
     Interestingly, why doesn’t God stop wicked people from inflicting suffering, abuses or pain on defenseless and innocent people?  When we ask that question we are, in fact, asking God to stop the world. For this is the only way to stop suffering and evil. People hurt and abuse others because they are in rebellion or they choose to go against Gods command to love the Lord and to love others. To stop someone from abusing us, God would have to force this individual to love and obey Him. To force a person to take any action would be contrary to Gods nature of love. For God has declared that men must willingly choose to personally receive Him, as: “you are not willing to come to Me in order to have life.”(John 5:40 TEV) Therefore, God’s love cannot and will not force anyone to believe and obey Him. It is not that God is unable to stop abuse and suffering, but if He did, He would be violating His own nature of love by forcing men to do good. God will not act contrary to His own nature. He is true to His word and we can be confident that He will never violate what He has said. On the Judgment Day, God will stop the world, but until that day comes, He will not stop cruel people from inflicting harm. Jesus says, “This is how it will be at the end of time: the angels will appear and separate the wicked from the upright, to throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth.”(Matthew 13:49-50 NJB)

 

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