Suffering: Between Eden and Eternity

Have you figured it out? Can you tell me why there is so much suffering on this earth? Even those who God has named His children go through terrible times of pain and grief. Why? Why? WHY? Does God bring suffering? Is it punishment or testing or discipline? Do we suffer because we aren’t good enough, wise enough, or in prayer enough? Or does trouble come because we are God’s children and Satan is at war with God? Is all this suffering caused by the enemy who constantly seeks to destroy what God creates?

We were created to live in unspoiled and utter intimacy with God, and that is still His plan. The paradise in Eden began with that intimacy between God and His creation, and now God’s people are promised a life with Him, a life where all tears, death, sorrow, crying, and pain will be gone forever (Rev. 21:4). But between Eden and eternity, between Genesis and Revelation, is the story of the whole human race and each individual life on this earth. And it’s a story of thorns and thistles and pain and tears.

Scripture does not answer all our questions about suffering and pain. In fact, it answers very few. Some passages read as though pain may be the discipline God uses to transform us into what He means us to be. Other passages might indicate it’s punishment or judgment on sin. Some arguments are made that it is the result of evil in a fallen world … And here we are, back to the same questions posed in the first paragraph.  And so we go ‘round and ‘round, asking Why? Who? What if? Why does God…? Why doesn’t God …?

I think we ask the wrong questions.

We will never be able to answer some of those questions about our lives. God’s thinking, ways, and plans are so far beyond our ability to comprehend that trying to understand, dissect, and define what God might be thinking could even push up against idolatry. Are we presuming that our intellect is able to understand God?

Yet there are things we can know because God does give us very clear, definite statements about what’s going on in this thorny, painful world.

* Jesus puts it bluntly: “In this world, you will always have trouble.” There you have it. “But,” He says, “I am stronger than anything the world can throw at you.” (John 16:33)

* Jesus is alive and with us now. God lives with us, right where we are, in every circumstance, in every moment. (John 14:23; 1 John 4:13; Matthew 28:20; Psalm 139:7-10)

* His plan is to change each child of God, to give us new hearts and new character and new lives, no matter what is going on in the earthly realm in which we live. (2 Corinthians 3:18 and 5:17; Ephesians 2:10; Philippians 1:6)

* Those who have been given new life and a new relationship with God are now His ambassadors on earth; we’re part of God’s work in bringing people back to Himself. (2 Corinthians 5:18-20)

* He works for our good in everything—and that includes suffering and tears. (Romans 8:28)

* He promises us all kinds of resources: power, strength, armor, refreshment, wisdom, comfort, guidance—everything, in fact, that we need to live a life devoted to Him. (2 Peter 1:3-4 and hundreds of other verses)

* We look forward to going home, where we will live in unspoiled and utter intimacy with God the Father and Creator in a place without tears and pain. (Hebrews 13:14; Revelation 21:4)

This is our story between Eden and eternity. The whys in our lives will always be mystery. The necessary question we must ask ourselves is, Are we believe-living His promises that enable us to live beyond?



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