Lately, I’ve been reading a book called “The Reason for God” by Timothy Keller, a pastor at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York. While most of the Christian books that I read usually revolves around faith, vision, relationship, and discipleship, this is the first time I’m reading about Apologetics, the art of defending the Bible. The author does not shy away from the hard questions we often hear from non-believers, yet he answers them with respect and grace. In one of the chapters, he answered “How could a good God allow suffering?” He stated: “Just because you can’t see or imagine a good reason why God might allow something to happen doesn’t mean there can’t be one”.
As I further my Bible study, I found out there are several kinds of suffering. The first one is “Adam’s Suffering” - the suffering because of sin. Adam experienced this type of suffering because he went against God’s command by eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, therefore God banished Adam from the garden of Eden and cursed the ground, so Adam had to labor hard in order to eat his food (Genesis 3). The second suffering is “Job’s suffering” - the suffering for God’s glory. This happened because God wants to prove to Satan that Job is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil (Job 1-2). This type of suffering happens to good people and may include losing wealth, robbery, murder, accidents, natural disaster, sickness, loss of the loved ones, and other things the devil can throw at you. The victims may ask “Why me?” because it would seem there is no possible explanation to understand why it would happen to them. The third type of suffering is “David’s Suffering” - the suffering for growth. It took more than 22 years from the time David was anointed as king to the moment he actually became king. He had to experience unending persecutions from King Saul, yet through all of it, David grew in character, expanded his influence, and increased his followers and support overtime (1 Samuel 16 - 2 Samuel 2). In the beginning, David may not understand why he had to experience it, but over time it became clear that David had to go through these trials in order to become the great king that he was known for. The fourth type of suffering is “Jesus’ Suffering” - the suffering for redemption. Jesus was willing to suffer because of His love for God the Father and humanity. He braved physical torture, humiliation, abandonment, and eventually, being forsaken by The Father so we could be redeemed (Matthew 26-27). Jesus chose to endure the sufferings because to Him our redemption is greater than His own life. Similar sufferings were also experienced by apostle Paul, Peter, and the other disciples because they simply believe the Gospel is greater than life itself. They could have avoid the sufferings by choosing silence, not sharing the Gospel, and submitting themselves to the Jewish authority. However, if they had done so, they would not live in true peace because deep down they know, they weren’t fulfilling their calling.
Grasping the concept of all these four kinds of sufferings, I learned that God ultimately is always in control. He has His reasons, even for the sufferings we are yet to understand. God knows that Job’s heart is solid for Him that despite the sufferings, Job would not curse God. Job remembered that God will not let anyone be tempted beyond what they can bear (1 Corinthian 10:13). The next time we experience sufferings, let us be reminded of what God had said to Moses; “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” (Romans 9:15-16). It does not, therefore, depend on human desire or effort, but on God’s mercy. God, in His sovereignty, acts according to what He sees fit — and often incomprehensible by our small mind. Yet on Roman 8:28 the Bible says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” Furthermore, in verse 31-32 says, “What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all—how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things?”
In the midst of our sufferings, God’s love surrounds us. Even though in His sovereignty God can grant or withhold mercy, He chose to give us Jesus. God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8). God’s sovereignty leads us to our redemption.
Written by: Samuel Sutanto