Why does life force me to suffer

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Many people are appalled to see reports of the suffering and pain caused in people's lives by disease, the forces of nature, or even human malice. How can God allow such a thing? If there is God and if he is a God of love, why does he not intervene? Why doesn't it at least prevent involuntary suffering? These or similar questions are asked again and again in such contexts, and they are not easy questions. Believers in the Bible have also dealt with such questions.

Even if it is not an easy subject, we would like to try to formulate some thoughts on it. We hope that they will be helpful in understanding more about the suffering and evil in the world. They should also encourage people to find a good way of dealing with suffering and to hold on to belief in our loving Creator or to find a new approach to God.

Before we write more concrete thoughts about the causes of suffering and why God allows it, the following section should look at how God feels about human suffering.

1 How did Jesus encounter suffering?

Almighty God himself became man in Jesus. So in Jesus we can see what attitude God takes towards human suffering. God neither caused the suffering nor is he indifferent to it. No. Jesus shows us that God wants to help us and will also carry us through all difficult times. We would like to single out a few examples reported in the New Testament.

Some time later he (Jesus) went to a city called Naïn; his disciples and a large crowd followed him. When he came near the city gate, a dead man was being carried out. It was his mother's only son, a widow. And many people from the city went with them. When the Lord (Jesus) saw the woman, he took pity on her and said to her: Do not cry! Then he went to the stretcher and touched it. The porters stopped and he said: I order you, young man: Get up! Then the dead sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him back to his mother. All were seized with fear; they praised God and said: A great prophet has appeared among us: God has taken care of his people. (Luke 7: 11-16 - standard translation)1.

The woman whose only son died was in a very difficult situation. A widow without children was not only lonely at the time, but also completely dependent on alms. She was penniless and often had no one to stand up for her rights. With the death of her son, this widow has probably lost her only support. Jesus took pity on the grieving mother, went up to her and said: Don't cry! Your need touched him and he helped.

Another example is the life of the blind beggar Bartimaeus. It has changed completely with the help of Jesus. Here is the text:

They came to Jericho. When he (Jesus) left Jericho with his disciples and a large crowd, a blind beggar, Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, was sitting on the street. As soon as he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he called out loudly: Son of David, Jesus, have mercy on me! Many became angry and ordered him to remain silent. But he shouted even louder: Son of David, have mercy on me! Jesus stopped and said: Call him! They called the blind man and said to him: Have courage, get up, he is calling you. So he threw away his cloak, jumped up and ran towards Jesus. And Jesus asked him: What should I do to you? The blind man replied: Rabbuni, I want to be able to see again. Then Jesus said to him: Go! Your faith has helped you. In the same instant he could see again and he followed Jesus on his way. (Mark 10: 46-52)

Unless you came from a wealthy family, begging was probably the only chance for blind people to survive back then. It is understandable that Bartimaeus cried out for help as loudly as he could when he heard that Jesus was nearby. He had heard of Jesus and believed that Jesus was God's sent Savior and could help him. And Jesus did not deny him his help.

Jesus' love for searching and hungry people is also clear from the following incident:

Jesus said to them (the disciples): Come with me to a lonely place where we are alone and have a little rest. Because they couldn't even find time to eat, so numerous were the people who came and went. So they took the boat to a lonely area to be alone. But you saw them leave and many heard about it; they ran there on foot from all cities and got there before them. When he got out and saw the crowd, he felt sorry for them; for they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he taught them for a long time. Towards evening his disciples came to him and said: The place is remote and it is already late. Send them away so they can go to the surrounding farms and villages and buy something to eat. He replied: You give them something to eat! [...] And they sat down in groups of a hundred and fifty. Then he took the five loaves and the two fish, looked up to heaven, praised the loaves, broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples to distribute to the people. He also had the two fish distributed among everyone. And everyone ate and was satisfied. (Mark 6: 31-42)

In these and many other situations, Jesus worked miracles. Many people still wish today that someone intervened in their situation in a wonderful way and put everything in order. But Jesus was concerned with more than just miraculously alleviating people's misery. When he came into the world, he wanted to show us that God loves everyone and also wants to help those who suffer. Jesus' action is an expression of God's mercy and his care for people in their suffering and need. The goal of God's love is not primarily the elimination of hunger and disease, because the greatest need of human beings is another ...

2 If God did everything well ...

The Bible says that God created man and gave him paradise on earth as a home. Paradise does not only stand for unspoiled nature, for peace and health; it stands for the harmony between God and his creation, for the love of God, his protection, his care and goodness towards man. It also stands for sincere and loving relationships between people, who should be shaped by the loving nature of the Creator in their behavior towards one another.

Part of the love of God is that He gave man a conscience. This “inner voice of God” should guide people in their actions, in order to do precisely that which corresponds to love and thus to remain in peace with God and people.

The life in paradise was intended as a preparation for the eternal communion with God, into which every human being should “pass over” at the end of his existence on earth. That is the real goal of our existence. To be with God forever - that is what man was and is destined to be.

3… then where does the suffering come from?

As long as man trusted God, God could protect and provide for him. It was only when man turned away from God that suffering and death came into the world. The Bible describes this in the account of the Fall (Genesis 3). Although man suffered no lack or need in paradise, he wanted to make himself independent of God, no longer subordinate himself, wanted to determine for himself what is good and bad, what he can do and not do, and so has lost paradise.

This not only destroyed the harmony between God and man. The story of Cain's fratricide of Abel (Genesis 4: 1–16) shows that the fall of man also has very bad effects on people's coexistence. The Sufferthat as Consequence of sin came into the world, has spread with humanity. That too Diseases caused suffering is one of them. In the following sections we want to go into more concrete detail and also some thoughts on the problem of Forces of nature write that can pose a threat to people.

4 human suffering

Since man lost paradise, most of them have tried to find happiness independently of God. Today, many seek it in material prosperity, in familiar family life or in relationships in general, i.e. in recognition, in being accepted by other people. In doing so, paths are often taken where one does not really care what one's own actions and behavior mean for others. Because the search for your own advantage, your own security, your own "good" feelings is the determining factor. The destruction of man and his world continues on these wrong paths. The negative consequences of this all feel directly or indirectly; they are as real as sins themselves.

In the Bible we see how God repeatedly warns people not to sin, not to be indifferent to God's values ​​and will. Sin always contradicts love and inevitably brings suffering. This does not only manifest itself in wars, acts of violence and crime. We are constantly surrounded by it in our everyday life. Where people do not love God, values ​​such as love, humility, purity, sincerity, selfless service, justice ... unfortunately often only apply very little. Instead, you want to be big and important, want to achieve something, apply something, dominate others or satisfy your own desires. There is a lot of competition, pride and envy, insincerity, hypocrisy, selfishness and ambition. These are often the reasons why people suffer. Those who do not meet the demands of their environment feel inferior, unloved, out of place. People frantically try to get attention from others. When they fail, they are often dropped without mercy, falling into despair and depression themselves.

As far as global social injustice is concerned, many people in general are somehow aware that the wealth of the rich countries is to a large extent responsible for the poverty of the poor countries. But where are people willing to change something about their lifestyle and only take from themselves what they actually need? How many people look at documentaries in the media about the injustice or the misery in the world, shake their head and ask how God can allow such a thing, but never think of sharing what they have ...

It is well known, for example, under what catastrophic conditions seamstresses in Asia have to work, and that many workers in the sewing factories have lost their lives or their ability to work due to fire disasters and the like, because the large corporations in the protection and well-being of their workers not much lies. Nevertheless, many in our society do not want to do without buying new cheap clothes again and again (even though the wardrobe is full) in order to keep up with every new fashion trend. Everyone who does this is also responsible for the exploitation and injustice that is perpetrated on other people out of greed for profit.

And how does God feel about it? He doesn't just clear our bank accounts against our will and distribute the money to the poor. He does not force us to do what is good, but he has given us a sense of responsibility and a conscience that shows us what to do, that calls us to act in accordance with love and to turn freely to others in their need. Forced good deeds are not really good and (not only) have no value in God's eyes. God wants us to be really good and responsible people who like to love and not close ourselves to the suffering of others.

5 ailments caused by disease

“Health is the greatest good!” - these or similar words are often heard from the mouths of people who are affected by diseases. A serious illness is certainly a difficult chapter in a person's life, especially if it is excruciatingly painful and incurable. And it becomes even more unbearable when the person is left alone in it, when relatives or friends withdraw because they have nothing with which they can support the other in need, because they notice that everything is encouraging (“It will be fine again! ”) are empty words.

We understand illnesses in general as a further consequence of the fall of man, that is, the fact that without God mankind has gone many wrong paths in the course of its history and abandoned the protection of God. God created mankind as a community where the individual should experience security in God, but also the care of others. Where this is absent, of course, it has negative repercussions, especially those who are in some way weaker than others, and not necessarily those who are more guilty.

Sin has destroyed a lot, both in terms of our environment, our living conditions, as well as the inner life of people, body and soul. In this respect, serious illnesses are part of the suffering caused by humans. There are diseases that are directly related to the lifestyle of the person concerned. There the question of why God allows this is out of place. But illnesses can also affect people who are not personally to blame for it.

The Bible tells us about a man named Job. He was righteous but very sick and did not understand the cause of his suffering. After a difficult inner struggle, he assumed that we humans have limits in seeing through the course of things and in understanding that we lack the overview that only God has. Job says:

I realized that you can do anything; no project is denied you. Who is it that obscures the advice without discernment? So I talked in ignorance about things that are too wonderful for me and incomprehensible. (Job 42: 2-3)

This knowledge helped Job to no longer be accusatory, but to find the consolation that God is in control, that he can entrust himself to him, and that one day he will see his Savior, who is just and will create justice (Job 19:25).

Even today it will not be useful for a person suffering from a serious illness to stop at the question of the cause of his or her suffering. It is much more important to want to understand what I should learn from my suffering and where God wants to lead me on this path. Each person will only be able to understand this deeper meaning of personal suffering through a sincere turn to God.

For this it is important to put your own life in God's light: Am I aware that my life is a precious gift? How important is the giver of life to me? How much am I looking for him? Did I thank him for my life and ask how I can express my gratitude to him? Or did I just have the natural expectation that I would enjoy a healthy, long life without major problems ...?

Health is a great good, but not the greatest. A disease can make a person very mature. It can show us how fragile we are, how ephemeral our earthly existence is. Illness can help us grow in compassion for our neighbors and learn to show mercy with those in need. Illness can lead us to find support in God instead of our own strength and what we do. An illness can help us understand that our worth does not depend on our productivity. Our value lies in the fact that God loves us, whether we are healthy or sick, and that He has made us close to him for eternal life. The invitation to eternal life is for everyone - and illness can also be helpful to understand that we should live towards this eternal life and look for the way there. Eternal life is the hope of all believers, and it also gives the necessary strength for the paths of suffering.

Brethren, we do not want to leave you in ignorance of the dead, so that you do not mourn like others who have no hope. When Jesus - and this is our faith - died and rose again, then God through Jesus will also lead the dead to glory with him. (Paul in 1 Thessalonians 4,13-14)

6 One more word on "disabilities"

In our society, where there is always a lot to do with performance, many people associate a disability with suffering. There is a view that the life of a person with z. B. Down syndrome is not worth living because such a person is always dependent on others. The cruel conclusion of this is that it is better to abort such people - abortion in such cases is unpunished until birth!

Nowadays we don't meet many people with Down syndrome or other impairments because examinations during pregnancy filter these people out and hardly any of them get the chance to live.But is the real suffering of the "survivors" not that where they are treated with disdain and incomprehension, where they are looked down on "pityingly" and indirectly conveyed to them that they are not normal people, that their life is not worth living and it would have been better they would never have seen the light of day ?!

We are very happy that there are physically or mentally impaired people who are accepted and cared for by their families or other environment and who can enjoy life despite their limitations.

7 Sufferings caused by natural disasters

Many people enjoy nature, and believers experience it as a powerful expression of the Creator's power, intelligence, creativity and love. On the other hand, the earth is not a place without danger. There are always earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, tsunamis, drought, floods, storms ... Such natural events turn into disasters where they have devastating effects on people and their way of life. This raises at least two questions: 1) Why did God not create this earth without all the dangers for man? 2) How did God's plan for man to deal with these dangers?

In order to answer the first question, it may be helpful to deal with the second question first. Let us take one example each from the Old and New Testaments.

First a text from the Old Testament, where God spoke through Moses to his people Israel shortly before they entered Canaan, the land that God wanted to give them as a place to live after they had moved out of slavery in Egypt:

... For the land you are moving into to take possession of is not like the land of Egypt from which you moved. There, when the seeds were sown, you had to artificially water the soil like in a vegetable garden. The land you are now going to cross to possess is a land of mountains and valleys, and it drinks the water that falls as rain from the sky. It is a land that the Lord your God cares for. The eyes of the Lord your God are always on him from the beginning of the year to the end of the year. And if you listen to my commandments, to which I commit you today, if you love the Lord your God and serve him with all your heart and with all your soul, then I will give your country its rain at the right time, the rain in the Autumn and the rain in spring, and you can harvest grain, must and oil, then I will give your cattle their grass in the field and you can eat and be satisfied. But be careful! Do not let your heart be seduced, do not deviate from the path, do not serve other gods and do not bow down before them! Otherwise the anger of the Lord will be kindled against you; he will close the sky, there will be no rain, the field will not produce any yield ...

God is love and seeks relationships with his creatures in order to show them his kindness. In this text from Deuteronomy 11 we can see that. Because here God tells his people that he will protect them and bless them with rain and yield if they love him and walk on his ways. But if you leave God, you will also leave his protection and will have to face the consequences of it.

In the New Testament, in Acts 11: 27-30, we find the following brief account of a famine under Emperor Klaudius (reigned AD 41-54):

In those days prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. One of them named Agabus appeared and prophesied by the Spirit that a great famine would come over the whole earth. She then broke out under Klaudius. It was decided that each of the disciples should send something to the brethren in Judea in support of what they could. So they did and sent their gifts to the elders through Barnabas and Saul.

Here we see an example of how God can warn of dangers to those who listen to him and live with him. For the believers, who were not so affected by hunger, it was natural to help others in this emergency situation. Thus, the love of Christians has curbed the negative effects of the famine.

This famine under Klaudius is not associated with human sin in the Bible. It is simply mentioned as a fact, just as it is a fact that we humans can come into difficult circumstances in our life on this earth. But we are allowed to walk through such situations by the hand of our Creator and are also challenged to stand by one another.

God wants us to understand how we should deal with the dangers of this earth and how we can help one another, provided that we ask him and let him guide us. From a global perspective, this will unfortunately not happen, because most people do not want to submit to God. Where people are guided by arrogance and lust for power and do not want to accept limits, they turn away from God and become unreasonable, reckless or blind to dangers. And when megacities are built in earthquake centers and more and more people move there regardless of the dangers, because they are looking for a career, success, prosperity ... the catastrophe is virtually preprogrammed by us humans.

When people are hit by a natural disaster, it does not show that they are more guilty than others. As a rule, therefore, such events cannot be seen as a direct punishment from God. But we should understand it as a call to a responsible approach to our life and nature and, above all, to conversion to God. Ultimately, it is about much more than prosperity and a carefree, safe life on earth. Because we will all stand before God one day, and then completely different things will count. Jesus shows that we should above all be concerned about our eternal life.

Be careful, beware of any kind of greed. Because the meaning of life is not that a person lives in abundance because of his great fortune. And he (Jesus) gave them the following example: There was a good harvest in a rich man's fields. Then he thought back and forth: What should I do? I don't know where to put my harvest. Finally he said: This is how I will do it: I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones; there I will put all my grain and supplies. Then I can say to myself: Now you have a large supply that will last for many years. Rest, eat and drink and enjoy life! Then God said to him, You fool! Your life will be reclaimed from you tonight. Then who will own all that you've accumulated? This is the case with everyone who only collects treasures for himself, but is not rich before God. (Luke 12: 15-21)

But the Bible also shows us very clearly that God's concern and goodness are not only for those who love him. Life on earth is accompanied by dangers in which God cannot protect those who have turned away from him as they should. Nevertheless, in his love he gives so much good to all people, of which many are not aware and for which they do not thank him. Jesus says:

But I say to you: love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may become sons of your Father who is in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the wicked and the good, and he makes rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. (Matthew 5: 44-45)

Perhaps that is precisely why God did not create the earth as a place without any dangers, so that we can experience his protection and help in the midst of these dangers, so that we remain aware of our Creator and our dependence on him and do not become arrogant and self-confident because we think to have everything in hand. In this we can see an answer to the first question.

8 How Jesus endured suffering and how he wants to help us in it ...

With his coming into this world, Jesus placed himself completely in our destroyed situation. Although he has helped many who suffer, he has personally felt the consequences of human wickedness. He took it upon himself to be tortured and even crucified to show us humans what our real problem is and what we need to change.

Jesus called people to put God first in their lives again. His message and his life were a mirror for people's conscience. It helped them understand where they sin and what separates them from God. The religious leaders whose hypocrisy Jesus exposed hated him. Many others remained indifferent and unfortunately did not answer his call to turn away from their sins. Therefore, Jesus, who never did anything bad, was unjustly executed like a criminal. How did he endure that?

On the night before his crucifixion, he said the following to the disciples:

The hour is coming and it is already here, in which you will be scattered, each in his own house, and you will leave me alone. But I am not alone because the father is with me. I said this to you so that you might have peace in me. You are in distress in the world; but have courage: I have conquered the world. (John 16: 32-33)

For Jesus, the most important thing was always to do the will of the Father. So he remained fully connected with God. That gave him the strength to endure the unjust suffering without embittering, without hating, without rebelling against his situation. He continued to confide in his father and still loved people. His earthly life was forcibly ended, but eternal life could not be stolen from him.

Paul describes how he and other Christians also received from Jesus the strength to bear heavy things and not to despair in suffering, but to preserve inner joy out of the hope of eternal life:

We carry this treasure in fragile vessels; thus it becomes clear that the excess of power comes from God and not from us. We are cornered from all sides and still find space; we neither know nor in and yet we do not despair; we are rushed and yet we are not abandoned; we are struck down and yet not destroyed (...) For we know that he who raised the Lord Jesus, will also raise us with Jesus and will stand us together with you (before his face). We do everything for your sake, so that more and more people can multiply thanks thanks to grace that has become abundant, to the glory of God. That is why we do not get tired; even if our outer man is worn out, the inner man is renewed day by day. For the small burden of our present misery creates an eternal weight of glory for us in immeasurable excess, us who do not stare at the visible, but look to the invisible; for the visible is perishable, the invisible is eternal. (2 Corinthians 4: 7-18)

Even if we are now powerless to face some suffering, we can be sure that God sees and knows everything. Justice prevails in the invisible eternal world because God creates justice by repaying everyone for their deeds. Those who have enjoyed injustice or who have remained indifferent to unjust actions will have no part in the joy of eternal life.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth have passed away, and the sea is no more either. I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven; she was ready like a bride adorned for her husband. Then I heard a loud voice calling from the throne: Look, God's dwelling among men! He will dwell in their midst, and they will be his people; and he, God, will be with them. He will wipe all tears from her eyes: there will be no more death, no sorrow, no lament, no hardship. Because what was before has passed. (Revelation 21: 1-4)

Even now, Jesus wants to help us to experience God's closeness and to live by his power. When we answer his love with gratitude and let him guide us in our actions, we receive peace, joy and hope that cannot be destroyed by external circumstances. Jesus speaks about this in Matthew 11: 27-30:

Everything was given to me by my father; nobody knows the son, only the father, and nobody knows the father, only the son and him to whom the son wants to reveal it. Come to me all who toil and have to bear heavy burdens. I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me; for I am good and humble in heart; so you will find rest for your soul. Because my yoke does not pinch and my burden is light.

9 Summing Up Thoughts

God created us humans with freedom of responsibility. This means that on the one hand we have the freedom to make moral decisions, but on the other hand we are also responsible for the consequences of our actions. That is the most essential difference between man and the rest of creation. Our human dignity lies in the fact that we can freely choose what is good, to love God and people, to have mercy, to be honest, to be faithful, etc. And because this moral freedom belongs very deeply to the essence of man, God does not simply take it away from us even when we abuse it, when we become indifferent, selfish, merciless ... and thereby harm ourselves or become the cause of the suffering of other people become. The cause of the suffering of innocent people does not lie with God, but rather in the fact that people do not use their freedom and their good gifts in the spirit of God.

We all experience in our lives that wrong decisions have bad consequences. Humans should learn from this how to make the right decisions that have good effects. It is the same with the consequences of sin. We cannot expect that loveless, selfish, or indifferent behavior will not have bad consequences. The suffering caused by sin is supposed to show man that the path without God leads to nothing good. He should leave this wrong path as quickly as possible so that he no longer causes suffering and can live in peace with God and people.

Often times, people doubt the existence or love of God when they experience suffering. On the other hand, they have no problem with injustice or crime if it benefits them. One example is abortion. In 2014, there were an estimated 56 million abortions worldwide, or 153,425 per day2. It is incredible how many people are involved in this global crime. And God does not intervene, e.g. B. lets the doctor die of a heart attack as soon as he starts the abortion. God fights in other ways to ensure that man does not sin, e.g. For example, through distress of conscience or through the fact that people are confronted with the consequences of sin in different ways and thereby begin to think. In Jesus' parable of the prodigal son, God's attitude towards us becomes clear (Luke 15: 11-24):

Jesus also said: A man had two sons. The younger of them said to his father: Father, give me the inheritance that is due to me. Then the father divided up the property. After a few days, the younger son packed everything up and moved to a distant country. There he led an unrestrained life and squandered his fortune. When he was through with everything, there was a great famine in the country and he was very badly off. So he went to a citizen of the country and forced himself on him; he sent him to the field to tend pigs. He would have liked to satisfy his hunger with the pods that the pigs ate; but no one gave it to him. Then he went to himself and said: How many day laborers of my father have more than enough to eat and I am starving here. I will go and go to my father and say to him, Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy of being your son; make me one of your day laborers. Then he left and went to his father. The father saw him coming from afar and he felt sorry for him. He ran to meet the son, fell on his neck and kissed him. Then the son said, Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you; I'm no longer worthy of being your son But the father said to his servants: Get the best robe quickly and put it on him, put a ring on his hand and put on his shoes. Bring the fattened calf and kill it; we want to eat and be happy. For my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and has been found again. And they began to celebrate a happy feast.

God does not want to force us humans to think this way because he is love. He woos man's love, he patiently waits for us to open to the voice of God. God wants a real relationship with us that can only be based on freedom, not coercion. On the basis of this relationship he can and wants to give us his help, his strength, his protection in all dangers and difficulties of life on this earth and above all the joy of eternal life with him.

***

We don't know why you read this article.Have you experienced suffering yourself? Or have you wondered where all this suffering in the world comes from and what you can do about it? We are glad that we find clear answers to important questions in Jesus and in the Bible and we want to help others to find God, who can purify and change the heart of every person and thus enable us to love. If you have the desire to get to know God or to live with him and to love others, or if you have thoughts or questions about the text, we would be happy to hear from you.

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  1. All Bible passages in this article are quoted from the standard translation ↩
  2. Guttmacher Institute: Induced Abortions Worldwide; The Lancet: Abortion incidence… ↩