Dr. Charles Swindoll, speaking as chancellor to faculty, staff and student body at Dallas Theological Seminary, January 12, 2005, attempted to answer the question of suffering. His reasoning was to encourage the student body not to give up. He commenced his talk by sharing some of the tragic things that had happened at the Seminary in the recent past. He did this to declare that even in a Christian Seminary, life is still vulnerable to pain and suffering and they will be faced with the question of why. (YouTube: Lessons from Suffering-Charles R. Swindoll, June 7, 2012)
“Now, my heart turned quickly when thinking about this to 2 Corinthians, Chapter 1,” Dr. Swindoll stated. Dr. Swindoll recalls to us that Paul, the writer of this letter to the Corinthians, suffered much and in most of his life, so his lessons from suffering are valid and authoritative. “Interestingly, the focus isn’t on how hard life is, but on how great God is,” Dr. Swindoll submits. He then goes on to suggest in his thirty-two minute dissertation, three lessons we can learn. (Lessons from Suffering-Charles R. Swindoll, YouTube)
“First, ‘that we may comfort those who are in affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.’ Who best knows how to understand the loss of a wife than one who’s lost a wife? Who best knows how to comfort a couple who’d lost a baby than another couple who’s lost a baby? …It’s like dominoes bumping up against each other. God comforts us in our affliction. We, in turn, comfort another in his or her or their affliction. A major reason we go through such times is to prepare us for a ministry or a help to others.” (Lessons from Suffering-Charles R. Swindoll, YouTube)
Dr. Swindoll discusses the idea that God is our best comfort during times of suffering and pain. He reminds us of the Gospel of John account where Jesus addresses his closest followers that he must leave, but when he goes, he will send his Holy Spirit and one of the purposes of His Spirit will be as Comforter. Dr. Swindoll points, as an example, to the portion of Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, verses eight and nine where Paul admits at being so deeply burdened that he lost hope of living (2 Corinthians 1:8). Paul explains in verse nine that “this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God” (2 Corinthians 1:9). Suffering that brings us to our lowest point drives us to God. (Lessons from Suffering-Charles R. Swindoll, YouTube)
Finally, Dr. Swindoll shares that suffering eventually develops in the suffering one an ability to be grateful for the lessons God teaches us. (Lessons from Suffering-Charles R. Swindoll, YouTube)
Dr. Charles Stanley when attempting to answer the question of why we suffer in an episode of Ask Dr. Stanley agrees that often these difficult experiences drive us to God. (Ask Dr. Stanley: Why does God allow evil, pain and suffering when he has the power to stop it?, YouTube, July 20, 2012)
Dr. Stanley declares this is a good thing, because anything that draws us closer to God is a good thing. He suggests that if the suffering is a result of disobeying God, then the pain exposes the sin and we can chose not to behave that way again. He also suggests that suffering is a safeguard like pain when we become sick or injured and the pain tells us that we need a doctor or healing. Dr. Stanley also confirms pain to be advantageous at times because it reveals our weaknesses and dependence on God. (Ask Dr. Stanley, YouTube)
“Why does God allow these things to happen in our life? … Paul was dealing with the same situation. Remember what he said? … In his pain and suffering that God would not remove, he said he discovered the sufficiency of the grace of God. God said, ‘My grace is sufficient’ (2 Corinthians 12:9a). … What did God do as a result of that pain and suffering in his life? It equipped him to help others. And I can look back at my own life, again and realize that things I’ve been through that caused me the most difficulty, the most painful and the times of greatest suffering, have equipped me as a pastor to help other people who were going through the same thing.”(Ask Dr. Stanley, YouTube)
Pain and suffering also demonstrates our vulnerability and strength according to Dr. Charles Stanley. “… one of the reasons (for the suffering) is we find out who we are. We think we’re strong. We think we’re patient. We think we have everything under control. And all of a sudden you’re lying(sic) there this awful pain, this suffering and you don’t have a solution. And you don’t have an answer. And what happens? We recognize our need of God.” (Ask Dr. Stanley, YouTube)
Dr. Charles R. Swindoll ended his message at Dallas Theological Seminary that January, solemnly proclaiming, “My hope is that somehow in the absence of all the hype and the presence of such realistic words as you sat through so patiently, there will be a feeling of purpose and hope, because men and women a part of that which you glean from your years of seminary, not to be found in the textbook is depth, depth. And I don’t know that any of us would grow deeper if it were not for those trials that bring us to our face before God. Let it be.” (Lessons from Suffering-Charles R. Swindoll, YouTube)
These thoughts from these two learned pastors are valid and sound. Yet, truly, if you have suffered, will suffer or are suffering even now, it does not give you a definitive and specific answer to why this happened at this time. These lessons above do represent some of the lessons I have learned from the loss of a wife, the challenges and disappointments of raising children, the struggles and anxieties of financial burdens, the stresses of responsibilities that not only affect me but my friends, family and co-workers and the pain of betrayal and disloyalty.
I have also learned that sometimes there are no answers. Also, sometimes when we do find an answer, the answer brings its own pain. I have learned, too, that I have limits and have so little control over circumstances and situations life might bring. The greatest lesson that I’ve learned is that God is faithful and near. It seems that the closer I am to God, the more I can handle the joys and the struggles in life.
When confronted with the question about why God allows things like the Holocaust and apparent triumph of evils like that, Tim Keller at The Veritas Forum honestly admitted to Professor David Eisenbach at Columbia University, he didn’t know (YouTube, The Veritas Forum: Exploring True Life, October 31, 2011).
In that same discussion with Prof. Eisenbach, he declared that because there is not a good answer, doesn’t mean there is no God. He proposed that in his experience as a pastor dealing with those who suffered more common struggles, but none-the-less as devastating to them at the time that the best response to them is silence, love and speak when spoken to. He, then also suggested that for those who believe in God, the struggle is more tolerable.
Using Martin Luther King, Jr’s letter from the Birmingham jail which states that how we know a cause or action is unjust is because there is a higher law which is more just. Therefore, for someone who does not believe in God, how can they declare a Holocaust, an untimely death or even the triumph of one concept like racism unjust when the natural law of life is the fittest overcoming the weakest. So, the reason we sense injustice is because there is a divine justice. One has to declare there is a God Who is just, to say that any opposite action is unjust.
Tim Keller argues that even though he cannot explain why God doesn’t stop suffering is not because He doesn’t care. The Christian view of God is much different than other views of God. The Christian God suffered on the cross as Jesus Christ. His suffering, because He is God is on a higher echelon of suffering than our suffering. This in itself does not answer why God allows, but it does negate the supposition that God doesn’t care. God cares enough to die on a cruel cross and suffer such physical pain. The belief in the Gospel expels the belief that God is indifferent. It confirms the fact that God loves and cares.
This is my belief. It is a strong encouragement even in suffering. Because I know he cares, then someone cares and is sympathetic to my suffering. Because He suffered at higher level than my current suffering, He is able to understand better than anyone. This brings comfort. Then, I have the added joy of knowing that this experience draws me closer to him.
I don’t wish for suffering. I do know there will be suffering of some type as long as I live. I also know that I will not suffer alone. I believe that even if I were to suffer from now to the end of my life, there will be an end to my suffering and an eventual end to all suffering throughout eternity because He suffered for me. He lives and He loves me and you.
I write about what I'm thinking or what I've imagined in an effort to regain that childhood imagination and marry with my many years of real experiences. I'm getting better at it the more I write.I am a published author of two romantic intrigue novels.My books can be found at Amazon.com or if you want a personalized copy, by emailing me at email@example.com.