Vladimir Lenin once said, “There are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks where decades happen”, the year 2020 can very well be marked as that year, one which is bound to tip and trigger transformations in every sphere of life. With an event so pervasive it is only natural for a believer to think deeply about their faith and a biblical response in these Covid 19 times. If anything, I feel that 2020 is a roaring call for each one of us to understand God’s grace and to obey his will.
As I meditate on this topic, I find myself in a difficult and inexplicable spot if I do not address the aspect of suffering in this world to better understand this pandemic. Therefore, in part 1 of this 2 part series I have presented a biblical understanding of suffering, its origin and God’s love amidst suffering. Part 2 will have a Christian’s response to suffering in general and during the pandemic.
Scope of the article:
Here are definitions and biblical truths which I have used throughout the article.:
- People of God – refers to those who have accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and their Savior
- God is Sovereign- Isaiah 45:7–9; Proverbs 16:33; Job 42:2; Colossians 1:16–17
- God is all Loving- 1 John 4:7–8; 2 Chronicles 6:14; Romans 8:31–32; Psalm 36:7
- God is all wise- Proverbs 3:19; Job 12:13; Isaiah 55:9; Psalm 147:5
- Scripture is all sufficient to understand Life and Holiness ; John 12:47-50; Psalm 119:142; James 1:25; Matthew 24:35
Often amidst suffering it is instinctive to wonder – if God is all Loving 3 and if he is Sovereign 2 , why does he allow suffering to happen in our lives? Why can’t good continue to happen to those who believe in Jesus Christ our lord? Why is there sickness in this world? These are very pressing questions which at times lot of us try to answer based on our narrow understanding of good and evil, right and wrong, cause and effect and so on.
Therefore, I wish to share a biblical understanding of suffering with a hope that it will help us navigate through our tribulations.
Why is there Suffering?
To understand suffering let us time travel with the help of the Bible and contemplate on the story of our origin. When God created this world there was no death, and everything was perfect (Genesis 1:31). God created Man-Adam and Woman-Eve in his image and placed them in a perfect environment- Garden of Eden. This was a paradise where there was no pain, no sickness, no death. It was perfect. God gave Adam and Eve, who were his most beloved creation, all the freedom, however, commanded them not to eat from the tree of Good and Evil and warned them that their disobedience would result in death (Genesis 2:16,17).
Things took a turn for the worst for the entire humankind when Satan enticed Eve to eat the forbidden fruit (Genesis 3:1,5). After Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, God pronounced judgment upon them.
This judgment included death and suffering (Genesis 3:19). The paradise was lost– or in other words God’s natural design for us was lost.
The above episode is also called the ‘Fall of Humankind’, as God’s judgement of death and suffering was passed on to all humans as indicated by Apostle Paul (Romans 5:12) (Romans 3:23). To summarize, suffering is a part of the world we live in due to the fall of humankind which transpired at the Garden of Eden, however, God because of his love for us, promises restoration and reconciliation as it was in the beginning through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ until eternity (Romans 5:19).
Where is God’s Love in Suffering?
If suffering is inexorable in this world and it is a consequence of the fall, can I even experience God’s Grace in my suffering? Or have I been left alone? Understanding God’s love can be very challenging amidst suffering, especially when we are pushed to our limits and we tend to lose hope. However, scripture gives us hope by saying:
“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).
I find this verse extremely comforting and very relevant while struggling to find hope amidst my sufferings. Let’s break this verse to glean its beautiful essence:
- All Things: God is sovereign 2 and can make anything and everything happen. Also, the verse says ‘all’ things happen, not necessarily good things to people who are called according to his purpose.
- Work Together: God makes things happen all together in totality and not in isolation. God is omnipresent, he is the only supreme architect who can make things happen all together.
- For good: Here the good is defined by God- which is the ultimate good. It is not limited or short sighted, it is coherent through the times and perfect in every way. Human capacity to define good will always fall short as our wisdom and understanding is limited.
- To them that love God, to them who are called according to his purpose: This promise is for the people of God 1
Isn’t this beautiful? With this promise, all we must do as children of God in our suffering is to keep loving him and to keep obeying his will; let God manage the affairs of our life with his supreme wisdom and love for us and the rest will be taken care of by our God, and this good is the ultimate good which our Father in Heaven has planned for us.
I have found myself often falling into the trap of justifying and categorizing events as good or bad, dwelling over my understanding of the present and sometimes also placing a lot of confidence anticipating future events. I call it a trap because I trust in my wisdom to be sufficient whereas in reality at best I can only understand and analyze life’s events in parts, with the extremely limited information that I am privy to, and with my limited capacity to comprehend. There have been times in the past, where clearly my wisdom and my understanding of my own good have failed me, but a greater grace and love has humbled me and broken me to surrender to his will. There is so much comfort and safety to be in the hands of our father. There is everything good in loving God and obeying his will. God is Sovereign, he is the Almighty and the one who loves us and keeps his promise.