How many times have we heard someone begin a question with the words “Why does God allow………….?” Usually it’s because they see injustice or hardship and they just can’t understand why it happened.
The truth is, hardship and suffering have been going on almost from the beginning. The accounts are recorded in the Bible.
Consider the story of Joseph from the book of Genesis. He was sold into slavery by his brothers and ended up in prison because of a false accusation. He helped a fellow prisoner win his release, but afterwards, he totally forgot about Joseph, and Joseph languished in prison for two more years.
Uriah the Hittite got a very raw deal from a person in a position of authority. Uriah, as you might recall, was the husband of Bathsheba. Uriah was a man of honor. And ultimately that was what got him killed.
Jeremiah spent his entire life preaching the Word of God and and for his trouble he was beaten, put into stocks, imprisoned, threatened with death, and thrown into a cistern. If Jeremiah was a contemporary evangelical Christian, we would say he preached his entire life and never won a single convert.
Job went bankrupt, lost his family, and had his health destroyed almost overnight.
Stephen was stoned for preaching the gospel and became the first Christian martyr.
When the Apostle Paul began preaching the gospel, many Jews turned against him and sought to kill him. Some of them were probably former friends.
A cynic would ask “Why? Why would God allow that?” They might even dare to criticize God for allowing His people to suffer for no good reason. That’s because they think the way the world thinks.
Jesus taught us to expect suffering. He said “In this world, you will have trouble.” The Bible is not a collection of stories about people who suffered needless hardship. God allowed these things to happen for a reason. Let’s take a closer look at those examples.
Joseph never wavered in his faith. When he looked back on all the hardship he had endured, he realized God had put him in those situations so he would be in a position to save his people. God will sometimes put people in a position to do His work years in advance, as He did with Joseph. He told the brothers who had sold him into slavery, “What you meant for evil, God meant for good.”
Uriah’s story teaches us that there will be times when we’re dealt a raw deal, and sometimes it might come from someone in a position of power. It won’t be fair or reasonable and there will be nothing we can do to stop it. We live in a fallen world and these things happen. But this story also teaches us that there is no escaping the watchful eye of God. Justice will be served, as king David found out.
What about Jeremiah? What can we learn from him? Well, how many people today do you think would call it quits if they faced half the opposition Jeremiah faced? Just because some of us have not yet led someone to faith in Christ, it doesn’t mean we should throw in the towel and stop trying. Our responsibility is to share the gospel of Christ. We’re not responsible for those who choose to reject the message.
The lessons learned from Job are well known and can be summed up in one simple statement: Praise God in good times and bad. Job said to his own wife, “Should we accept only good things from the hand of God and never anything bad?”
Stephen did not shy away from preaching the gospel, even though he was surrounded by enemies of Christianity on every side. He could have compromised. He may have even been able to save his own life by renouncing his faith in Christ. But he chose to die rather than back down from preaching the truth of the gospel.
As for Paul, his story teaches us that anyone can be saved by the grace of Jesus Christ. Paul aggressively persecuted Christians, yet God chose him to carry the gospel message to the Gentile world.
There are many other stories in the Bible about people who suffered adversity in the course of their service to God. While God had no part in creating the evil that brought about suffering in the lives of His saints, God used those experiences to achieve his good purpose and to strengthen and encourage believers in the faith. And it teaches us in our day how to respond when troubles come our way.
God also promised to walk by our side, no matter how tough the trial. As difficult as it can be, when we respond to trials the way God taught us, God will ultimately be honored and glorified through our response.