WHY CHRISTIANS SUFFER
By Dr. Billy Graham
(from “The Hour of Decision” Radio Program)
“Why does God allow fear to continue to grip the hearts of men in this enlightened age? Where is God’s power? Why doesn’t He stop all this misery and cruelty with which our age has been cursed? If God is good and merciful, why are men and women crushed by agonies almost beyond endurance?” Questions like these are asked not only by atheists and enemies of religion, but also by bewildered Christians, who, staggering under the burden of anguish, cry out, “Why must I bear this misery? How can God lay all this suffering on me?”
The book of Job, probably the oldest book in the Bible, deals with this difficulty. Some of you have known hardship, but I doubt if any of you have sustained losses as large as Job did when treacherous enemies captured his men and all his herds and flocks. Perhaps you have received notice that a loved one has been killed in an accident. Job lost seven sons and three daughters in a single day. Others among you are stricken by sickness; perhaps you are groaning in pain. Job suffered from a form of leprosy that made his body a mass of boils and sores.
When Job could find no human explanation for his agonies, he cried to God, “Show me wherefore thou contendest with me” (10:2).
This question, “Why must the righteous suffer?” is as old as time. There is only one place that we can find an answer, and that is in the Bible. Yet in their blindness some men have rejected divine guidance and insist that everything in life comes from chance. Fate, they declare, has smiled on the people who have an easy, rich, untroubled existence, and Fate has frowned on those who are beset with unnumbered difficulties. They say that it is a matter of luck, “since we are only creatures of accident,” they conclude, “why not press every drop out of pleasure while we can, and have our full fling before tomorrow comes and death with it?”
I talked to a schoolteacher in one of our cities the other day and she said that the same attitude prevails among some students. They say, “We are going to have to go to war anyway; and the atomic bomb is going to blow the whole world to smithereens—why not have a good time now? Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die.”
Others have gone to the opposite extreme and declare that men suffer because they are weak. “Learn to be hard, cruel, ruthless,” they urge us. “Smash all opposition. Away with sympathy, kindness and mercy. Down with love. Might makes right. Don’t be a weakling; be a Superman.” That was the delusion of Stalin and Hitler, and the result was immeasurable misery for hundreds of thousands.
THERE IS A DIFFERENCE
The Bible says, “Whom the Lord loveth, He chasteneth.” This implies a difference in the suffering that comes to Christians and to those who have not received Christ. You do not need to study the Scriptures long to learn why sinners meet reverses and anguish. They are apart from God. Their sorrow is the result of their sins.
The Bible says, “God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap” (Galations 6:7). The Bible also says, “They have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind” (Hosea 8:7). Millions of persons are suffering today because of their sins, iniquities and wickedness. They will not only suffer in this life, but they will suffer throughout eternity unless they repent and turn to Christ as Savior.
But—why do Christians suffer?
The Bible teaches that afflictions are God’s APPOINTMENTS for His children. Christians are called to suffer. God does not promise Christians an easy pathway to heaven, nor does He promise flowery beds of ease. We will have thorns, trials, tears, temptations, tribulations and troubles. But this is part of our calling, for we have been called to suffer and to follow the footsteps of the Man of Sorrows. This world is not a place of bliss for the Christian, for Jesus reminded us that in this world we would have tribulation; is part of our earthly inheritance (John 1:33).
Again, Scripture teaches that many Christians suffer so that they may fellowship with others who are in affliction. In Romans we read, “Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep” (Romans 12:15). The
Bible teaches us that we are to “bear….one another’s burdens” (Galations 6:2). Only those who have known sorrow and suffering can have fellowship with those in affliction.
LEARN ITS PURPOSE
The Word of God also teaches that Christians suffer in order that they might GLORIFY GOD in their lives. The Psalmist said, “Call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me” (Psalm 50:15). Many Christians are ignorant of the fact that God can receive glory from their suffering. The Bible teaches that your sickness can be used to glorify god. The Bible teaches that a Christian can even die to the glory of God.
The Bible further teaches that Christians suffer in order that God might teach them lessons in PRAYER. Isaiah said, “Lord, in trouble have they visited the, they poured out a prayer when they chastening was upon them” (Isaiah 26:16). Christians call upon God more earnestly when His chastening rod is upon them. They never pray with such seriousness, humbleness, brokenness, fervency and frequency as they do when they are under the mighty hand of God. A sincere Christian never prays so sweetly and humbly as when under the rod. Many Christians have a cold prayer life in the day of prosperity, but let the day of adversity come, and they being to wrestle with God and become very warm in prayer.
Also, Christians suffer in order that God might bring them to REPENTANCE.
God says, “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten; be zealous, therefore, and repent (Revelation 3:19). Many Christians make light of sin and have little godly sorrow for sin. God rebukes them in order that they may repent of their sin. If there is sin in your life as a Christian, I urge you to confess it now before the chastening hand of God falls. “If we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged” (1 Corinthians 11:31).
God chastens Christians not only to bring them to repentance but to TRAIN THEM. The Scripture says, “For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth” (Hebrews 12:6).
I have five children, and many times we have had to discipline them for their own good in order to train them. When God trains us, every lash is a useful lesson. His scourges are our schoolmasters. Sanctified afflictions open men’s ears to the voice of discipline and turn them from iniquity to a close walk with Jesus Christ. By afflictions, troubles, distresses and dangers the Lord teaches his people to look upon sin as the most loathsome thing in the world; they see holiness never so sweet as when their troubles are greatest.
Often God speaks when we are prosperous, but we do not hear or we refuse to listen. The Scripture says, “I spoke unto thee in thy prosperity; but thou said, I will not hear. This hath been thy manner from they youth, that thou obeyed not my voice” (Jeremiah 22:21). Since God calls in time of prosperity and we do not hear Him, He must strip us and chasten us in order that we may hear and obey Him.
Yes, God sometimes allows Christians to suffer in order that they learn the secret of OBEDIENCE. The Psalmist said, “Before I was afflicted I went astray; but now have I kept they word” (Psalm 119:67). It was not until after great sorrow and much affliction that David learned obedience to God.
My dear Christian friend, if you are today suffering at the hand of God, and you have asked a thousand times, “Why?”—I beg of you to be patient and quiet before God and listen to the still, small voice. Bow under His loving hand and recognize that above the clouds the sun is shining. God has a purpose and design for your life, and what is happening to you is for your good. The Scripture says, “All things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).
Anthony Zeoli, in his book WHY DO CHRISTIANS SUFFER? discusses the attitude of a Christian during a time of suffering and tragedy. FIRST, of all, a Christian should bear his suffering. Jeremiah said, “Woe is me for my hurt; my wound is grievous; but I said, Truly this is a grief, and I must bear it” (Jeremiah 10:19). Sometimes we think that our load is too heavy to bear and that we cannot go on any longer. But God never gives us a heavier load than we are able to bear.
SECOND, the Bible teaches us that we should be content in suffering. Paul said, “For I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.” (Phillipians 4:11).
The Bible teaches, THIRD, that Christians should glory in suffering, Paul said, “Most gladly, therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Corinthians 12:9).
FOURTH, the Bible says that we should be joyful in suffering (1 Peter 4:13).
FIFTH, the Bible says that we should be patient in suffering (Romans 12:12).
SIXTH, the Scripture says we should be steadfast in suffering, Paul said, “But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24). Christians are not to be moved away from their faith by suffering and trial, but rather strengthened and fortified.
LAST, the Bible says that we are to be still in suffering. The Scripture says, “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). How easy it is to become restless in times of sorrow and of suffering. If we would be still before God and trust Him, all of our storms would cease and we would enjoy the wates of quietness and peace. The Psalmist said, “He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still” (Psalm 107:29).
NO BROKEN PROMISES
Reader, take courage, God is always with His people through thick and thin. Jesus said, “I am with you always, even unto the end of the world (Matthew 28:20). He is with us when the crowd is for us. He is with us when the crowd is against us. God is with us when we are well, and God is with us when we are sick. He is with us in pleasure and in pain. He is with us now, and will be with us unto the end. He has promised that He will never leave us nor forsake us.
Some of our troubles and distresses are but for a short time, while others are for a longer period. But whether long or short, God is with us. The Scripture says, “For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth to show himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him” (2 Chronicles 16:9) God has promised, “When thou passest through the waters, I
will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee” (Isaiah 43:2).
Many of you who listen to “The Hour of Decision” week by week are bedridden. The Bible says, “The Lord will strengthen him upon the bed of languishing; thou wilt make all his bed in his sickness (Psalm 41:3). God is especially close to us when we are lying on a sickbed; God will make the bed soft and will freshen it with His presence and with His tender care. He makes the bed comfortable and wipes away our tears. He ministers to us with special
tenderness at such a time and reveals His great love for us.
Again, the Scripture says, “Fear thou not; for I am with thee; be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with thhe right hand of my righteousness” (Isaiah 41:10).
Today, whatever your trouble, tragedy or distress, I beg of you to trust God.
The suffering of this present time is not to be compared with the glory that is to be ours forever and ever. I would rather suffer all of my life down here than to spend one minute in Hell. I would rather have one minute in heaven than to have all the joys and pleasures that this world can bestow. “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither thall there be any more pain; for the former things are passed away” (Revelation 21:4).
However, these promises of God are for His children. If you have never become a child of God, there is a step to take and special promise for you: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” (Acts 16:31). “As many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name” (John 1:12).
Christ died for your sins; won’t you come to Him today and receive Him as
Savior and Lord? Then all of God’s promises will be yours—for this life and the life to come.
LIFE’S GREATEST QUESTIONS
1. What will be the center of my life?
2. What will be the character of my life?
3. What will be the contribution of my life? Will I commit my life to others?