Summary: One reason God allows suffering is so we will depend on him. Suffering shows us the value of God’s grace. Sometimes we think grace was just something way back yonder when we got saved. But we forget that God’s grace is active right now, present tense.
I felt the tugging of the Holy Spirit this week telling me to go back and look at verses 3 and 4 of Romans 5 because I know some of you are going through some very difficult times right now, struggling with suffering and pain and tribulation. I hope the Holy Spirit will use this message to encourage your heart today.
There are all kinds of pain out there. There is physical pain, of course, which is sometimes the easiest to deal with. In addition, there is emotional pain, mental pain and relational pain. Dr. Karl Menninger, a clinical psychiatrist in Wichita, Kansas, has listed some of the things we experience in life which causes us the most mental anguish:
1) The death of a spouse
2) The death of a child
3) The death of a parent
4) Divorce, which is the death of a marriage
5) Receiving a bad health report
6) Losing a job
7) Being placed under arrest, or having someone in your family arrested
8) Death of a sibling
9) Death of a grandparent
10) An estranged family member (meaning a family member that you can no longer even talk to)
I have had people tell me they are going through a tough time because as adults they have to look at putting their parents in a long-term facility to care for them. I have others tell me they’re heartbroken because of the divorce of a grown child. They no longer have access to a grandchild who is so precious to them. The sufferings, the pains and tribulations of this life come in all shapes and sizes. None of us are immune to them. Rather than just trying to talk about where they come from, instead, I want us to look at what the Bible says we should do in the midst of suffering. It’s right here in Romans 5:3-4. “Not only so, but we also rejoice in our suffering, because we know that suffering produces perseverance. Perseverance produces character, and character produces hope.”
A number of years ago, I read a book by Paul Billheimer, entitled “Don’t Waste Your Sorrows.” In other words, if you don’t learn something from the pain and disappointment of life, you basically wasted that experience. Instead, the Bible says, “There is something we ought to be learning from it.
I think there is probably somebody in this room, who has either already gone through all ten of those things I just read a while ago or you are going through them now. It is amazing to me to realize that Sunday after Sunday, there are people seated in these pews, who at that very moment are going through the most desperate crisis of their entire lives. I don’t know who it is, and you may not know who it is, but there are people who come in Sunday after Sunday who are saying, “I am struggling, and I don’t know how I am going to make it.”
I. WHY DOES GOD ALLOW SUFFERING?
Well, God has a word for you today about how to rejoice in your suffering. I want to ask you three simple questions about suffering. Number one, why does God allow suffering? Why, suffering? And, why is not as important as what can I learn from suffering? But let’s look at the answers. Why does God allow suffering? Let me give you at least three answers. There are many others.
1. Suffering forces us to depend on God
Suffering forces us to depend on God. When you are not going through any kind of struggle, you are just clipping along, and you are happy and free, and everything is okay, you find yourself not depending on God. On the other hand, whenever you are going through a tough, desperate experience, that’s when you realize you have to depend upon God.
One of these days I’m going to write a book, and the title of the book is going to be, “Things the Bible Doesn’t Say.” There is a lot of misunderstanding out there about things people think the Bible says. For instance, have you ever heard anyone say, “The Bible says, “Cleanliness is next to Godliness.” Mothers like to quote that verse. But you that’s not in the Bible. You won’t find it anywhere in the Bible. Another quote people are sure is in the Bible is, “Well you know the Bible says, ‘God helps those who help themselves.’” Friend, that is not in the Bible. Not only is that not in the Bible, that is contrary to the truth. God does not help those who help themselves. God helps the helpless.
Here’s another thing that’s not in the Bible but people say, “You know what the Bible says, ‘God won’t put more on you than you can bear.’” That sounds good, and we wish it were true, but I challenge anybody in this room to go through the pages of scripture and find where it says God will never put more on you than you can bear! There is a promise about temptation in 1 Corinthians 10:13, “There is no temptation that you face that is such that you cannot endure it.” What that means is God doesn’t cheat. He doesn’t give you a temptation that is so strong you cannot resist it. But, we are not talking about temptation here; we are talking about adversity, trouble, or problems. Where does it ever say you won’t have more on you than you can bear? The truth is sometimes we have so much on us, we cannot bear it alone, and it drives us to God. You say, “Well, is there a scripture about that?” Well, it’s right there in front of you. 2 Corinthians 1:8-9. Here’s the apostle Paul, who is an expert on suffering. He says, “We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships that we have suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure far beyond our ability to endure.” The truth is God will put more on you than you can withstand by yourself. Keep reading, “So that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the symptoms of death.” Why did this happen? “but, this happened that we might not rely on ourselves, but on God who raises the dead.”