@bracherbracher @SeanO and others have already given you good answers and much has been said about suffering in many other posts. Nonetheless, I would like to join the conversation.
Let’s suppose God did what we want. We want him to stop all suffering and what causes it. Better yet, we wish God had snuffed any chance of suffering when the first bubble of pride stirred in Satan’s thoughts. “Is there really only one God. Why not more? Why not me?” (Isaiah 14:12-14). His pride roiled into rebellion among the angels and the ruin of the creation that God had pronounced “very good.” Ever since, “all creation is still groaning and is in pain” (Romans 8:22).
Step back in time and into heavenly realms and watch God do what we think he should. God, who knows the thoughts of man, certainly knows the thoughts of angels, too, and detects the seed of darkness in the Angel of Light. God has already rendered judgment — the wages of sin is death — and he pays immediately. Execution is instant, The Almighty destroys the devil. One casualty. Creation is safe. But at what cost?
We don’t know God any better and we probably like him less. He is sovereign, but we already knew that. He is almighty, but we knew this, too, because think of what it took to create all there is from nothing. God makes the rules because, after all, he is the one who made everything and he is sovereign. We know all the more that God can do what he wants, when he wants and how he wants because he is all powerful — and sovereign.
So, watching The Almighty destroy the devil doesn’t deepen my affection. He frightens me. He is quick to anger and just as quick to weed the garden. He is an all consuming fire. Who can stand before him? There is a tinge of tyranny in the Trinity.
Thankfully, God’s ways are not our ways. If to love him is the greatest command, God ordained that forgiveness, not fear, will be the spring from which love flows (Luke 7:47). Forgiveness means something went wrong and there has been suffering on both sides. Indeed, we suffer for a season, but God even more — He is long suffering. But how would we know, if he had aborted sorrow before it was born?
His wisdom to delay execution and allow suffering looks foolish to us, but suffering is the window through which we see the gracious side of God. He leads us through the valley of the shadow of death, ministering grace and mercy, forgiveness and reconciliation, redemption and restoration. We want his trigger finger on justice but are glad — when we think about it — that he is “a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger and rich in faithful love and truth” (Exodus 34:6). Tyrant? Not at all. When I want (when I suffer) I discover he is The Good Shepherd and surely goodness and mercy are not far behind.
A family who lived just outside Jerusalem in the days of Jesus makes the point. Jesus loved the two sisters, Mary and Martha, and their brother Lazarus, but he did a strange thing when he learned that Lazarus was seriously ill. Jesus pocketed the sisters’ request to come and and he stayed where he was. Strange behavior for the Lord who heals. Even stranger was his response, “This sickness … is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it” (John 11:4).
Just how is there glory in watching someone you love suffer in sickness, and finally die? Mary and Martha didn’t get it. They chided Jesus when he eventually arrived four days after the funeral. “If you had been here, my brother wouldn’t have died!” said each one at different times (John 11:21, 32).
Listen to their faith in this intense encounter with Jesus.
- Jesus loves us (11:3)
- Jesus heals (11:21, 32)
- Jesus has God’s ear and favor (11:22)
- Jesus is the Messiah and Son of God (11:27)
What a statement of faith! They would fit in with just about any evangelical church today. Yet, for all this, one thing they didn’t know: Jesus is the resurrection and the life.
How do you teach a truth this startling? The one who raises the dead goes where the living have fallen. You go to a tomb and speak the words of life. You unveil your glory, letting others know something about you they didn’t know before and could learn no other way.
Lazarus suffered in his body. Martha and Mary suffered in their hearts. And Jesus suffered with them. He came to their home. He went to the tomb. He wept.
All of this for the glory of God.
All of this so a family awash in bad news could receive the good news. “ I am the resurrection and the life. ”
All of this so that he could bear the sorrow he allowed.
Do we wish God had never allowed suffering? Yes. But how we love this Jesus, this man sent from God, himself a man of sorrows — God with us. Because of suffering, we have seen his glory and one day will enter it ourselves.