Unbelievers sometimes ask, “How could anyone trust in a God who allows so much suffering?” If you choose not to trust in God, that’s a convenient, noble-sounding reason. But “so much suffering” is relative. Living in Africa, we saw many suffering the effects of polio, blindness due to measles, AIDS, and leprosy. To them, the suffering most people experience in America might seem less traumatic.
A more valid question is when Christians ask, as Gideon did in Judges 6:13, “If the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us?” They reason, “As a parent, I would never willingly allow my children such heartache. Why does our heavenly Father?” These often-unspoken questions can undermine our faith and render us ineffective for our Lord. God didn’t rebuke Gideon for asking, but God had to build Gideon’s faith through some remarkable signs. For us, God has given the Scriptures to build our faith.
For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. (Romans 15:4)
The key to dealing with suffering is to focus on God in faith, maintaining confidence in His ultimate purposes. Indeed, faith of this nature is the key to a victorious Christian life. Our Bible-based life-skills book and discussion guide, More Than Ordinary Faith, explores God’s purposes for suffering.
However, our faith must be in God and not the purpose itself. For Scripture nowhere promises to reveal God’s exact purpose of suffering in a given situation. One reason God may not reveal His specific purpose is that to a person experiencing suffering, no reason would seem good enough. An honest Christian mother who had lost a child told us, “If God said to me that because of my son’s death, all of Africa would come to Christ, that would not have been a good enough reason.” Although God may not reveal His specific purpose in our suffering, He does give us plenty of precedents in Scripture to give us comfort and confidence that He does have an eternal purpose.