Bible Studies for Life

with Beth S. Bowman

Sunday,  January 26

Why Am I Suffering?

Job 11:13-16; 23:8-12; John 9:1-3

Have you ever had seemingly well-meaning friends who advised you incorrectly? At times, well-meaning friends may try to “work out” their own theology at the expense of trying to help a friend who is suffering determine, “Why did God let this happen?” Any friend who expresses a genuine love and compassion should surely have the best interests of the friend at heart, right? In Job 11:13-16, we see Job’s friend Zophar offer advice to Job in the midst of his suffering. Zophar assumes that Job has sinned and is adamant that sin has caused his friend’s horrible situation. Zophar was correct in that sin does have consequences for all of us; in this case, though he was wrong. Nowhere in Scripture do we see that godliness always equals complete health and that sin always equals sickness. Perhaps the best encouragement we can provide someone who is suffering is to persevere and assure them that God is with them during their suffering. British evangelist Charles Spurgeon tells us, “We seem to lie all broken in pieces, with our thoughts like a case of knives cutting into our spirit; and we say to ourselves, ‘We never shall forget this terrible experience.’ And yet, by-and-by, God turns towards us the palm of his hand, and we see that it is full of mercy, we are restored to health, or uplifted from depression of spirit, and we wonder that we ever made so much of our former suffering or depression.”

In Job 23:8-9, Job is addressing another “friend” named Eliphaz, and here he confesses his lack of understanding and his search for where God is at work. Job references north, south, east, and west, expressing to Eliphaz that he does not want to leave any option unturned as he searches for God. Job was relentless in his desire to find God and thus the meaning behind his suffering and pain. Job’s confessing that he has left no stone unturned as he searched for God’s purpose for his suffering is indicative of believers who go the extra mile in their search for God in the midst of pain. Somehow in the midst of this search, Job concludes in verse 10, “Yet, He knows the way I have taken; when He has tested me, I will emerge as pure gold” (NIV). Job knew he had been faithful by keeping God’s words and following God’s path. It wasn’t sin that was prompting the suffering.

The New Testament affirms the truth that all suffering is not a result of sin. In John 9:1-3, the disciples wrestled with the question about a blind man by asking Jesus, “Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” The Scottish theologian Marcus Dods suggested possible reasons behind their question: Some of the Jews of that time believed in the pre-existence of souls and those pre-existent souls could sin. Other Jews believed in some kind of reincarnation and perhaps man sinned in a previous existence. Some believed that a baby might sin in the womb or that the punishment was for a sin the individual would commit later. When John wrote his Gospel, it was widely held that suffering, especially a disability such as blindness, was due to sin. Jesus corrected them by saying, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, this came about so that God’s works might be displayed in him.” (John 9:3 NIV). God will get the glory in this story, and in ALL stories. In 2 Corinthians 12:10 Paul wrote “That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

God can be honored in all of our circumstances as we look to Him and trust in His ultimate healing.

Bowman is a conference speaker, Lifeway contract writer and member of West Carthage Church, Carthage.