Many people question the love and even the existence of God because they see so much pain, suffering, and injustice in the world. They themselves may be experiencing hardship, and they wonder why God would allow them to suffer so much. They think that if truly there were a God, he would not stricken people with sicknesses or cause people to die in terrible ways. However, I believe that, in spite of all the grief that we bear in this life, God does exist. He loves us dearly and only wants the best for us.
Lamentations 3:31 (ESV) says, “31 For the Lord will not cast off forever, 32 but, though he cause grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love; 33 for he does not afflict from his heart or grieve the children of men.” This passage shows us that our burdens will not last forever. Although God allows us to go through hard times, it’s not because he takes joy in it. He is a compassionate and loving God. But if this is true, we must understand why we find ourselves in affliction. The Bible gives several reasons, but the one that stands out most to me is the need for us to turn to God for help.
David says in Psalm 119: 67 and 71, “Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep your word… It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes.” Although he was a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22; cf. 1 Sam. 13:14), David had a time of weakness where he committed a terrible sin. He had to suffer the consequences of his actions. However, in his affliction, he learned to lean on God and keep his word and statutes in his heart. David’s experience teaches us that when we go astray, God calls our attention back to him by rebuking us or exposing our faults.
There are times, though, when we feel like we have not done anything to deserve chastening. For example, Job was a blameless and upright man who feared God and resisted evil (Job 1:1). God found favor in Job, but the devil believed that if he did not have the protection of God, Job would curse him (Job 1:6-12). God allowed Satan to test Job, and thus, he suffered terribly at the hands of Satan. As Job bore this affliction, he questioned why God would bring this hardship on him. He had no knowledge of the conversation between God and Satan. His friends were convinced that he had done something wrong; however, Job rejected the accusation because he was “righteous in his own eyes” (Job 32:1). We are not perfect; we all sin (Rom. 3:23), but Job refused to accept this and justified himself instead of God (Job 32:1). There was a young man, however, named Elihu who rebuked him and asserted God’s justice. He said to Job in speaking of God (Job 33:15-18):
15 In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falls on men, while they slumber on their beds, 16 then he opens the ears of men and terrifies them with warnings, 17 that he may turn man aside from his deed and conceal pride from a man; 18 he keeps back his soul from the pit, his life from perishing by the sword.
God allows us to suffer affliction in order to keep us humble and to make us recognize our weakness and vulnerability.
19 “Man is also rebuked with pain on his bed and with continual strife in his bones, 20 so that his life loathes bread, and his appetite the choicest food. 21 His flesh is so wasted away that it cannot be seen, and his bones that were not seen stick out. 22 His soul draws near the pit, and his life to those who bring death. 23 If there be for him an angel, a mediator, one of the thousand, to declare to man what is right for him, 24 and he is merciful to him, and says, ‘Deliver him from going down into the pit; I have found a ransom; 25 let his flesh become fresh with youth; let him return to the days of his youthful vigor’;
He wants us to turn to him for strength. He wants us to realize that we need to put our trust in him and not in ourselves. When we turn to God and seek his grace and mercy, he accepts us and gives us the comfort that we need. We then praise him even more because he has rescued us from our affliction (Job 32:26-28, 36:15).
26 then man prays to God, and he accepts him; he sees his face with a shout of joy, and he restores to man his righteousness. 27 He sings before men and says: ‘I sinned and perverted what was right, and it was not repaid to me. 28 He has redeemed my soul from going down into the pit, and my life shall look upon the light.’
15 He delivers the afflicted by their affliction and opens their ear by adversity.
God’s thoughts and ways are much higher than ours (Isaiah 55:8). He knows exactly how to deal with his creation. He knows that we seek to do our own will, and in doing so, we neglect him. Therefore, he calls us back by letting us go through certain trials and tribulations. Our response to this should be to turn back and seek him, knowing that he is our strength, stronghold, and refuge in the day of trouble (Jer. 16:9; cf. Ps. 22:19; 59:9).
22 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
23 they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
24 “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in him.”