God may make us to suffer in order to: I) to draw us near to him that we may repent as we live in an imperfect and fallen world. There is suffering. Due to sin we are depraved. We cannot even think about Holy God, far from contemplating and attempting to come to him!
ii) To prove our faith in God, our real faith in Him. Peter wrote: “These (sufferings) have come so that your faith — of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed.” (1 Peter 1:7).iii) To help us to look to the other world, to the world beyond this world. ‘Jesus said, “My Kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place” (John18:36). Paul said, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). Noteworthy it is to mention that of Christ it is said that he learnt obedience through suffering. “During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Although he was a son, he learnt obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, be became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him and was designated by God to be high priest in the order of Mechizedek ( Hebrews 5:7-10).
iv) When we suffer we need to depend on and trust in God. Jesus innocently suffered for our salvation and he committed his spirit at his death and God vindicated him and resurrected him from death. He set an example before us to endure suffering for a right cause. Is. 53: 1-7; Hebrews 2: 9-10; Revelation 20:1-3; 21: 1-4. He made all in all by God the Father and given all authority and power. He will throw Satan into the Lake of fire for eternity.
Man must not avoid his God-given responsibility to do justice, to love and to walk humbly before God as he is God’s image bearer. The most distinctive feature of the Biblical understanding of man is the teaching that man has been created by God in the image of God. This very unique concept is of great significance as we discuss this subject of suffering and pain. Dutch Theologian Herman Bavinck puts this issue thus: “The entire world is a revelation of God, a mirror of his virtues and perfections; every creature is in his own way and according to his own measure and embodiment of a divine thought. But among all creatures only man is the image of God, the highest and the richest revelation of God, and therefore head and crown of the entire creation.” God gave man authority and dominion over his creation. But due to his fall man lost that dominion. According to Christianity, Jesus Christ came to restore the believe that man is the image of God. He has been endowed with the moral attributes of God: love, justice, free-will, righteousness. We cannot blame God for all or any suffering that befall us. Man can avoid for him and for the innocent ones to avoid much of the sufferings that humanity faces often. We must be honest and truthful to our human vocation. It is human pride, lust and arrogance that lie behind most of our sufferings. Man must turn to God in humility and submission to the all-sovereign Creator God, Master and Owner of all creation. The Holy Bible admonishes man to love God and His work, love mercy, humble before Him and live with all people in justice. The whole human race can improve the situation to a great degree if man can live with fellow-men in love and justice. This is in our hands. If we cannot do what is within our reach, how can we live to have god-given dominion over nature? We continue to be at the mercy and whim of nature. We lost our God-given authority over nature because of our greed and pride at the fall. At least we can try to live our lives according to what God has ordained for us to: “He has shown you, O Man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with our God (Micah 6:8).” We need to change our ways, our attitude so that we can do whatever little change we wish to make in our world. To quote Albert Einstein: “The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.” Man needs to repent, to have ‘Tauba’ for all the wrongs that he does. We need to repent with tangible change in our ways and manners in our dealings with our fellow-beings, with our nature.
The writer is a Christian Theology teacher