Two months ago I would've described my life as “peachy” or some other term meaning very good. Now? Well, now I'm deeply bruised and my life is mashed and no longer makes any sense.
What did I do wrong? I'm a good person, but now all these bad things are happening to me! Over and over, can't I catch a break? Where is God in my troubles? Where is my Protector in my suffering?
I'm seriously wondering if God loves me any more—and I'm too scared to hope that I'm wrong. Whenever I try to pray I'm overwhelmed with all the terrible things in my life and all I feel is a palpable emptiness where I used to feel light and joyful.
Maybe God only chooses some people to love and now I'm left out in the cold. Why else would my life turn flipside? Why is this happening to me? It's not fair and I don't deserve it!
In the process of living and dying in a sin-cursed world we experience distress, agony, and misery due to pain, disease, loss, and damage. We call it suffering. Everyone experiences it sooner or later. It is part of the human condition. Some of it we bring on ourselves. Some of us suffer through no fault of our own.
Besides suffering being difficult physically, emotionally, and spiritually the fact that it often appears to have no rhyme or reason, and appears meaningless adds a measure of psychological suffering. Suffering is easier to endure if we can attach some meaning or purpose to it.
God never explains why suffering exists. But He does give reasons for allowing it:
He allows suffering so that through it He may glorify Himself. “Jesus answered, ‘It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him’” (John 9:3 NASB).
He allows suffering in one person for the benefit of another: “But if we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation” (2 Corinthians 1:6).
Like Paul's thorn He allows it to cause us to humbly rely on Him for His all-sufficient grace “Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me—to keep me from exalting myself!” (2 Corinthians 12:7).
God allows suffering as a consequence of sin. “For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself if he does not judge the body rightly. For this reason many among you are weak and sick, and a number sleep” (1 Corinthians 11:29, 30).
While we can't often control the sources of our suffering, we can control our response to it. God gives us direction as to how to respond so as to make it meaningful:
Get to the root of the suffering, not just the symptoms. If you believe your suffering is as a result of sin, then repent and ask God's forgiveness and healing (James 5:13-16; 1 Corinthians 11:29, 30).
It's OK to pray for the suffering to be removed (2 Corinthians 12:8 cf. James 5:13).
If God does not remove your suffering accept it with humble submission to the will of God, committing it to Him, knowing He still loves you. Resist self-pity since the devil will use that to build bitterness (1 Peter 5:6-8).
Seek grace to endure the suffering (2 Corinthians 12:9a).
Remember that you are not alone in your suffering. You already have the presence of Christ (Matthew 28:20), the prayers of other believers (2 Timothy 1:3) and the “fellowship of suffering”—other believers who are also suffering (2 Timothy 1:8; Hebrews 13:3; Colossians 1:24).
Reframe your suffering recognizing that in light of eternity the present suffering is momentary and your right attitude toward it is gaining you a reward (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).
Turn the suffering into a situation to praise God for His strength amid your weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9b).