A STORY OF PAIN,
SUFFERING, AND PURPOSE

by Pastor Errol Hale

 

There once was a man of whom it was said,

"He is a blameless man, upright in all his ways. He fears God and shuns evil."

This man had a large family and great wealth.

Then one day calamity struck. Bandits came and stole everything he owned. On the same day, a great wind came and blew the house down where his seven sons and three daughters were. They all perished. The man was devastated by the news. But rather than become angry, he fell on his knees and worshipped God. This is what he said:

"Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I shall return there. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD."

The man did not accuse God of wrong-doing.

Some time later the same man was stricken with an awful skin disease. He was covered from the top of his head to the soles of his feet with open sores. In great discomfort he sat, scratching himself but finding no relief.

His wife, at wit's end no doubt, said to him,

"Do you still hold to your integrity? Why don’t you just curse God and die?"

He answered his wife saying,

"You speak as a fool speaks."

Then he asked her a question.

"Shall we be happy to accept good from God, and refuse to accept adversity?"

The man spoke correctly.

After a time, three of the man's friends came to visit him. They sought to comfort him. What they did was quiz him about his life.

"There must be something wrong in your life if God would treat you like this."

But the man said,

"No, I have done nothing."

The friends insisted, saying,

"God doesn't do things without cause. Surely there is some sin in your life that has caused this."

Still the man claimed to have done nothing.

This went on for some time. Each friend in turn accused the man of sin, and each time the man defended his righteousness. As the man continued to speak of his own goodness, he began to say to himself,

"Yeah, I have done nothing."

Egged on by his friends, the man began to question God,

"Why have You done this to me?"

His anger grew hotter, until in a rage, the man challenged God to a debate.

"I'll state my case to God. And then we'll see what He has to say to defend Himself for all this pain He has made me endure. He owes me an answer. I want to know why!"

Then God answered the man.

"Who is this who talks so much, and yet knows so little? Prepare yourself like a man, and I will ask you a few questions! Where were you, when I laid the foundations of the world? Tell Me if you think you know!"

God continued with His penetrating questions. Thus God answered the man's question "Why" with 70 questions of His own.

The man, who had worshipped God, but then chose to question God, was being reintroduced to reality. He regained his perspective. He was reminded of how great God is -- and how small he was. When God finished His cross-examination, the man confessed,

"I have heard You, and seen You. And now I know that I am nothing."

And the man repented of the sin of challenging God.

The man's name was Job. His story is found in the Bible. In the end God blessed Job: restoring his health, doubling his wealth, and giving him 7 more sons and 3 more daughters.

Why did God refuse to answer? Did He have something to hide? And, if we may, why did such calamity befall Job? The answer is clear to us who read Job’s story, because we know what Job didn't. God was bragging on Job to Satan. Satan challenged God saying, "Of course Job is a faithful man - the way you care for him, who wouldn't. But let him suffer a little. He’ll turn on you."

Job didn't turn on God because of his suffering. He worshipped God and said we must take the bitter with the sweet. It was Job's friends who caused him to question God. They provoked him by trying to answer the question "Why." Their answers were wrong. Job's suffering was not due to sin in his life.

A couple of thousand years later, the disciples asked Jesus why a certain man was born blind.

"Was it because of his sin, or the sins of his parents?"

Jesus answered,

"Neither. He was born blind so that God would be glorified when I heal him."

Why does life include pain, suffering and death? Why do unborn infants sometimes not live to see the light of day, dying instead before they are born? Why do children die before they have grown? Why do young people get cancer and die deaths that we suppose are reserved for the aged? Is it because of their sin?

No.

Is suffering due to the sins of one's parents?

No.

Although honest parents will be the first to admit they are not sinless, their children are not taken because of their sin either.

Why then?

That God might be glorified. God is glorified by the courage and strength suffering people receive and display in the midst of their pain. God is glorified through the love and care given to the hurting by loving family and friends. God is glorified when we who have no answers, must turn to Him for peace. And God will be glorified if even one person grows closer to Him, even if it be by means of pain and suffering.

God wants to be glorified in each of our lives, in yours and in mine. He will be if we, along with Job, will recognize how great God is, and how small we are, and because of that realization, turn to Him with our very lives.

Being angry at God only demonstrates a lack of knowledge of God. Those who know and love God are willing and able to receive the bitter from His hand as well as the sweet.

It is my prayer that if you do not know Jesus Christ, you will. For only then will you be able to know and experience His inner peace when on the outside everything else is in turmoil.

Jesus said:

"Come unto Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me.For I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light."

There is one particular question that still begs an answer. What about the infant or small child who dies?

It is tempting to base one's beliefs on sentimentality, but sentiment is not a stable ground upon which to base one’s beliefs. The only sure foundation is the Bible. Because the Bible is silent on this issue, it is wise for us not to be dogmatic.

It is true that David spoke of his assurance that his first child by Bathsheba, who died, would be with him in eternity. That is not sufficient evidence to say that all cases are be the same.

Rather than focus our attention on the child who has died, especially since we do not know about that child, let us instead focus our attention on the Lord God Himself. What we know about Him is more than enough to give solace to the broken-heart of a grief-stricken parent.

And what do we know about God? We know that He is Sovereign. There is nothing He cannot do. We know that He is all-knowing and infinitely wise -- He always knows and does what is best. We know that He is perfectly righteous -- He is absolutely fair in all His judgments.

As if these were not enough, we know that God is gracious, "rich in mercy because of His great love with which He loves us."

Armed with these facts about the character of God, although we do not know exactly what happens to those who die before they are grown, we can take special comfort in the knowledge that our eternally loving God is in control of everything and that He does all things well.

Let us take comfort in the knowledge that children and infants who have died have been created by God for the same purpose each of us were -- to glorify God. If they have been called to do that by bypassing much if not all of this life, and passing directly into the presence of Almighty God, then may God be praised!

A few Bible passages of comfort and hope

"If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most to be pitied." 1 Corinthians 15:19

"I will lift up my eyes to the hills; From whence comes my help? My help comes from the LORD, Who made heaven and earth.

He will not allow your foot to be moved; He who keeps you will not slumber nor sleep.

The LORD is your keeper; the LORD is your shade at your right hand. The sun shall not strike you by day, Nor the moon by night. The LORD shall preserve you from all evil;

He shall preserve your soul. The LORD shall preserve your going out and your coming in from this time forth, and even forevermore."Psalm 121

"I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content. I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in al things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ Jesus who strengthens me." Philippians 4:11-13

"I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong." 1 Corinthians 12:10