This is not just a philosophical question; it is a practical question.
Many people have been set up by modern “feel-good Christianity” to be destroyed when suffering comes into their lives.
Hardship, trials, and the seeming silence of God either develops your faith or destroys your faith. The truth that God is sovereign helps us to come to terms with suffering.
When you are in the middle of a trial, pain, suffering, hardship, God is with you! He is walking alongside you.
The story of Ruth occurs when the judges rule, during a time when everyone did what was right in their own eyes.
A famine hits the land of Israel and a man named Elimelech, seeking to protect his family, disobeys God by going to Moab with his wife Naomi and his kids Mahlon and Chilion.
Soon after they arrive in Moab, Naomi’s husband and children die. She is in a foreign land and left with two young daughters-in-law. She probable asked herself the question, “Why is this happening to me?”
Understanding a Theology of Suffering
- We live in a fallen world.
God created a world that was perfect and good. Humankind rebelled against God and that brought a curse. The world does not work right.
Most of the objections about suffering are based upon the belief that human beings deserve only good things. The Bible has a different point of view.
The Bible says, because of our rebellion to a holy God, all we really deserve is death. Any good thing we have is simply called grace.
Jesus said in John 16:33, “These things I have spoken to you so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation but take courage; I have overcome the world.”
- At times, our suffering is consequences.
We make sinful choices that lead to brokenness. Many “trials” in our lives are the natural consequences of our actions.
God will make it clear when your suffering is the consequence of your action. You should repent, seek counsel, and engage in your community.
- The Lord uses suffering for His redemptive purposes.
God will use your suffering for your good, His glory, and other people’s good.
Ruth 1:6-8 says, “Then she arose with her daughters-in-law to return from the land of Moab, because she had heard in the land of Moab that the Lord had visited His people by giving them food. So, she departed from the place where she was, and her two daughters-in-law with her; and they went on the way to return to the land of Judah. But Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go, return each of you to your mother’s house. May the Lord deal kindly with you as you have dealt with the dead and with me.”
Naomi is showing kindness to her daughters in law. It seems like this is not the first time she has talked to them about Israel’s covenant God. She tells them to go home to their families. Naomi has nothing to offer them. Orphah chooses to go home but Ruth makes a different decision.
Ruth says, “Do not plead with me to leave you or to turn back from following you; for where you go, I will go, and where you sleep, I will sleep. Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God. Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord do so to me, and worse, if anything but death separates me from you.”
How can we apply this passage today?
Two Principles to Process Suffering
- The Lord never wastes a hurt.
God is always good, He always has a promise, He always has a purpose.
When we look at Naomi’s life, we can see God’s purpose in her suffering. Ruth goes from watching what the Lord was doing in Naomi’s life to a recipient of God’s love. Ruth watched Naomi navigate suffering, and it compelled Ruth to want Naomi’s God to be her God.
Sometimes we do not get to see what God is doing. Only a Sovereign God can take the disobedience of Elimelech, the pain and suffering that Naomi went through and save Ruth, one of the few women named in the genealogy of Jesus.
God always has a purpose, and that purpose is primarily His glory.
- The Lord uses his church to help.
The Lord uses His church to put grace into your life when you are suffering. One of God’s promises during pain, is that you do not have to go through pain alone.
You were made for community. However, connecting with your community takes effort, you must invest time to be engaged in your community.
Some might be praying for guidance and wisdom; the Lord wants to answer that prayer through community. The local church is part of God’s grace to you.
Pastor Chris Williams
To learn more about Pastor Chris and his teaching, visit us on the web at fcfamily.org and make sure you subscribe to receive these weekly encouragements in your inbox.