Nagging Questions: Why Am I Suffering?
There are a great many perplexities in life, conundrums to be puzzled, mysteries to unravel, truth to be uncovered, and there are many reoccurring questions that we want answers to. One of those questions concerns the reason for your suffering.
What is the reason for my suffering? Does my suffering have a purpose? The Bible reveals 12 possible reasons for your suffering. We’ll explore those possible reasons and then attempt to figure out why we want purpose is our suffering and finally what to do in the midst of our suffering.
On a scale of 1 to 10 with one being the least amount of pain, distress, fear, depression, anxiety, loss, relational issues, health issues, economic issues, and 10 being the most difficult thing you have ever dealt with in your life—where would you mark yourself.
No need to compare yourself with anyone else, or somebody else’s situation or circumstances this is totally a “you” scale. No problems, you’re a one. Worst problems ever, you’re a ten.
With a self-score of 2 and higher, you most likely have asked what’s the purpose of all this? Why am I going through this? Why did this happen?
The Bible offers us 12 suggestions as to why you are suffering.
Genesis 4:8 (MSG)
Cain had words with his brother. They were out in the field; Cain came at Abel his brother and killed him.
You may be suffering because of the sinful choices of others. God endowed humanity with free will. With our freedom of choice, we may create heaven on earth or create hell on earth. Someone else’s exercise of free will may have created a hell for you.
Genesis 45:4-7 (MSG)
"I am Joseph your brother whom you sold into Egypt. But don't feel badly, don't blame yourselves for selling me. God was behind it. God sent me here ahead of you to save lives. There has been a famine in the land now for two years; the famine will continue for five more years—neither plowing nor harvesting. God sent me on ahead to pave the way and make sure there was a remnant in the land, to save your lives in an amazing act of deliverance.
The purpose of your suffering may be to maneuver you into a position where you can do the greatest good. During his suffering, Joseph had no idea what was going on. It took years before things became crystal clear. We know from Joseph’s story God can take the sinful acts of others and incorporate those acts into His plan of redemption.
Exodus 17:2-6 (MSG)
The people took Moses to task: "Give us water to drink.”…
Moses cried out in prayer to God, "What can I do with these people? Any minute now they'll kill me!"
God said to Moses, "Go on out ahead of the people, taking with you some of the elders of Israel. Take the staff you used to strike the Nile. And go. I'm going to be present before you there on the rock at Horeb. You are to strike the rock. Water will gush out of it and the people will drink."
The purpose of your suffering may be for you to recognize your need for God and then have God build your faith because He provided for your need. Sometimes it is only at the end of your rope that you turn to God for help. Suffering is the “e-ticket” ride to the end of the rope.
Deuteronomy 30:16-18 (MSG)
I command you today: Love God, your God. Walk in his ways. Keep his commandments, regulations, and rules so that you will live, really live, live exuberantly, blessed by God, your God, in the land you are about to enter and possess.
But I warn you: If you have a change of heart, refuse to listen obediently, and willfully go off to serve and worship other gods, you will most certainly die.
Maybe you are suffering because of your own disobedience. Remember sin is anything that deters, damages or destroys right relationships. It could be your own choices that have gotten you in the mess you are in. The pain is a wakeup call that a major change in your life is required.
God is calling Job to task.
Job 40:14 (MSG)
I'll gladly step aside and hand things over to you—you can surely save yourself with no help from me!
Maybe your suffering is to help you realize that God is God and you are not. Suffering has a way of beating self-sufficiency, independence and, arrogance, those children of egoism, right out of you. If so enduring the suffering grows you up in your dependence on God. You mature in the faith. Suffering can motivate you to surrender to God.
Luke 22:31 (MSG)
Satan has tried his best to separate all of you from me, like chaff from wheat.
Maybe you are suffering because there is some great good you can accomplish and the Devil wants to discourage you and prevent you from doing it. If you think you can’t, you’re right, if you think you can, you’re right. Discouragement is a great weapon of the enemy, a real mind game. Suffering may be because of spiritual warfare.
John 16:33 (MSG)
I've told you all this so that trusting me, you will be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace. In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties.
Maybe the reason for your suffering is because you live in a broken world and in a broken world bad things happen to good people. It serves as a reminder that this world is not right and helps you desire a better one. Such a desire might even motivate you to work toward making the world a better place for others.
Romans 8:18 (MSG)
That's why I don't think there's any comparison between the present hard times and the coming good times.
Maybe the purpose of your suffering is to help you see the bigger picture and in knowing that good times are coming gives you hope. Hope is a candle in the darkest night, a shelter in the midst of the storm. When there is hope in the future there is power in the present. The thought that “this too shall pass” helps you focus on what is ahead so that you can deal with the present.
2 Corinthians 1:4-5 (MSG)
He comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us. We have plenty of hard times that come from following the Messiah, but no more so than the good times of his healing comfort—we get a full measure of that, too.
Maybe the purpose of your suffering is so that you can receive God’s comfort and then, in turn, bring that same healing comfort to someone else. You signed on to be a servant of Christ, a slave of Jesus, you may not get to choose how you will be called serve.
2 Corinthians 4:7-9 (MSG)
We carry this precious Message around in the unadorned clay pots of our ordinary lives. That's to prevent anyone from confusing God's incomparable power with us.
As it is, there's not much chance of that. You know for yourselves that we're not much to look at. We've been surrounded and battered by troubles, but we're not demoralized; we're not sure what to do, but we know that God knows what to do; we've been spiritually terrorized, but God hasn't left our side; we've been thrown down, but we haven't broken.
Maybe the purpose of your suffering is so that others can see God in you. God’s power is what keeps you going. I am sure you’ve encountered a situation where you have said “I don’t know how they cope,” wondering “how they get through another day.” Your suffering may be glorifying God. Suffering makes you a witness and gives you a platform.
Philippians 2:5-9 (MSG)
Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. … he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave… It was an incredibly humbling process. …he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that: a crucifixion… Because of that obedience, God lifted him high and honored him far beyond anyone or anything, ever…
Maybe the reason for your suffering is to accomplish God’s will. Maybe it is only through your suffering that God’s good can be manifested. If so your suffering will be rewarded. In the Kingdom, no suffering for God goes unrewarded.
Hebrews 12:7-8 (MSG)
God is educating you; that's why you must never drop out. He's treating you as dear children. This trouble you're in isn't punishment; it's training, the normal experience of children. Only irresponsible parents leave children to fend for themselves. Would you prefer an irresponsible God?
Maybe the purpose of your suffering is to train you. The reason may be to prepare you for the task ahead, to equip you to go the distance, to face some future challenges. It’s not pleasant but necessary for you to become the person God created you to be.
Now we have 12 scriptural reasons that may be the reason or purpose for suffering. As you consider them ask the Holy Spirit to give insight into your particular predicament. Sometimes knowing “why” helps you to deal with the situation.
Most often suffering remains a mystery. No matter how many times we ask the “why” question the reason and the purpose of our suffering remains elusive. These kinds of mysteries are no fun. The grief, loss and, pain of our suffering often brings a certain amount of chaos into your soul. We have an innate desire to control our lives. Mystery makes it difficult for us to make sense of our situation and maintain control. We want answers so that we can stay in control.
In my own sufferings, I have considered each of the 12 possibilities and none seem to be the answer to my “why” question. Worse, when I think I have an answer, with the exception of number 4 when my suffering is because of my own wrong choices, I can think of better ways that avoid suffering to accomplish the same thing. In doing so I exalt myself to divine status, I know what’s best for me and the entire world. What I am essentially doing is turning away from God and basically complaining about how poorly God has handled the circumstances.
With the exception of number 4, which serves as a wakeup call for necessary change, when faced with the mystery of suffering surrender your “why” question to God and trust God to redeem your pain and eventually deliver you from it. If you are suffering today I encourage you to stop asking “why,” pray for deliverance and endurance. Pray hard but don’t expect a supernatural zap that will resolve your issue in an instance. That can happen, yet I have found you need to pray hard and work hard, doing everything you can to righteously deal with the situation. Then exercise your faith, your trust and confidence in God.