When Suffering Doesn’t Make Sense
Now there came a famine throughout all Egypt and Canaan, and great affliction, and our fathers could find no food. Acts 7:11
Most of us, at one time or another, have asked God why. Why did you do this to me? Why would a loving God allow this pain and misery? Maybe it’s regarding the loss of a family member. Maybe it’s the heartache of watching a loved one struggle with addiction. Whatever the trial is, we want to know why God would do such a thing.
Personally, I’ve questioned God most regarding my own struggle with addiction. Why did you make me this way? I’ve got a response to opiate pain medications that others simply don’t have. The first time I took those pills, I absolutely fell in love. Most people just don’t have that same reaction. I wanted to know why God would give me this appetite, knowing it would lead to something so destructive.
Today’s passage speaks of suffering that God used to orchestrate his plan regarding his people. In the story, Joseph rose to power in Egypt and then, when a famine struck, God used Joseph to save Egypt and his family. At minimum, God knew ahead of time of the famine and allowed the suffering. At most, he caused it directly, in order to bring about his plan. I’m not sure if it matters how we speak of it – if he allowed the suffering, or if he caused it. The truth is, God made the world and all that’s in it. If a thing happens, it doesn’t happen outside of God’s jurisdiction. The painful truth is, God allows terrible pain in our lives.
What seems worse, is that we’re not always promised a why. In the book of Job, the main character never got to see the cosmic battle that led to his suffering. He was simply told that he must trust in God’s plan. Job had the only proper response, Though he slay me, I will hope in him (Job 13:15).
When we’re struggling, we too, must turn to God. God grows us, working through life’s trials. That may or may not be the why, but either way, the only productive response is to accept God is in control and that we must follow him, particularly when it’s hard to do so. Faith isn’t faith if we only follow him in the easy times.