We are bombarded as Christians with the question, “Why does God allow suffering?” No one likes the answer, but the Bible does give us a reason.
I’ve been studying the book of Hebrews lately, and normally I think of it as the book of “faith”. But this time around reading it, I have seen it more as a manual. It gives us the reason for suffering. It gives us a perfect example of suffering. And then it ends with how to survive the suffering. That’s pretty comprehensive.
Hebrews 2:9-10 But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man. For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.
So here we see Jesus. ‘Became him’ literally means it was fitting for Him. Why? He made all things, all things exist because of Him. So it makes sense that the Captain, or Author, of everything should be made perfect and complete through suffering. But you know what really stands out in this verse? That God’s grace allowed Him to taste death for every man. If Jesus was not exempt from suffering, why should we be? He was made perfect just like He promises us in 1 Peter 5:10 that we’ll be made perfect. Through suffering.
Hebrews 2:17-18 Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted.
There are some words in this passage that we don’t use a lot anymore. Behoved and succour. This means that in all things He had to be made like us. He was obligated. Why? Suffering made Him compassionate so He could in turn be merciful and faithful to us. Because He was tempted and tried, He is able to aid and help us when we are tempted and tried. He can relieve us.
Hebrews 4:14-16 Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.
You know, sometimes it’s hard to complain or talk to someone who hasn’t been where you’ve been. They just don’t get it. They can try and they can listen and pray. But they don’t know. Jesus does. And that’s why we can BOLDLY come before Him. Whatever we bring Him, He understands.
Hebrews 5:7-8 Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared; Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered;
I don’t think I had ever really paid attention to these verses. Jesus has been where I am. But He has also prayed something over and over again, with strong crying and tears, only to still have to endure the suffering. He still had to face His cross. He still had to die. I don’t know how many times I’ve come to Him over the same prayer request. I cry until there are no more tears to cry and sometimes I want to give up, because the suffering still lingers. But He’s been right there, too. “His way was much rougher and darker than mine. Did Christ my Lord suffer and shall I repine?” He had to learn obedience through suffering. Do I think I’m going to get a pass on something that even my Master had to face? No.
He could have just left it there. “I suffered and made it through, so will you.” Oh, but no!! He’s a merciful and faithful High Priest. He shows us how to get through the suffering.
- Trust His Plan
Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
As if His example wasn’t enough, He gives us a whole chapter of people who endured suffering through faith. We don’t have to know His plan or understand it or even agree with it. He just asks us to have faith. And to trust what He’s doing.
- Consider His Person
Wait, haven’t we already done that?
Hebrews 12:1-3 Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.
Yes, but this gives us an even more intimate look at Jesus. We aren’t just to consider what He went through, but we are to look to Him. We were the joy that was set before Him. And Heaven is the joy set before us. We pushed Him on. And Heaven, and all that awaits us there, is what pushes us on. Knowing what He suffered for us, gives us the strength to keep going on in our suffering.
- Remember His Promise
Hebrews 13:5 Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.
He promises us something He was not promised. That’s kind of ironic, right? There isn’t anything we go through that He hasn’t been through and yet, the one thing that did happen to Him will never happen to us. We will NEVER, EVER, NO NOT EVER, be forsaken by Him. He was alone so we would never have to be. What a wonderful, loving Savior.
And yet, as soon as suffering comes, we point our finger at Him and say, “Why are you allowing this?” I know. I’ve been there. What in the world are you doing, Lord? How is this GOOD for me? It will never make sense.
No it doesn’t make sense and it will never be easy. But trials are temporary. It will not last. Even if we have to suffer right up until we take our first breath in Heaven, it will end. And we should be honored to be called to something that Jesus was called to. I want to know Jesus. Not just know of Him. And the only way I can see knowing Him so completely, is through suffering. Nothing else drives me to His side like that does. Nothing else shows me how desperately I need Him and utterly hopeless and helpless I am. I want the following verses to ring true in my life:
Philippians 3:7-10 “But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;”
There is sweet fellowship I would not otherwise know if it weren’t for suffering. Thankfully, He has equipped me with everything I need to know to get through it. Even if for the moment, it doesn’t make sense.
I can’t think of any words or song that complete this post better than the one below.
“He is dear when life is easy, but in heartache so much more…”