God created man with the freedom to choose to obey or disobey.

Man disobeyed God and suffering of various kinds entered God’s creation.

Why does God allow suffering especially for His elect to experience it?

Nobody has solved the problem of suffering. It plays a part in the salvation of man.

People in Revelation 6:9-11 who had been killed because they belonged to the Lord Jesus and had lived lives according to God’s word cried out to the Lord, ”How long Sovereign Lord, holy and true until You judge the people of the earth and avenge our blood?" Each of them was given a white robe and were told to wait a little while until the full number of their fellow servants, their brothers and sisters were killed just as they had been. There was no answer from God.  It is taking place all over the world right now. We will know the answer only on the Final Day. The Day of Judgement.

Suffering is relevant for those who are experiencing old age and their bodies wearing out. Yet young people suffer from various illnesses and pass away.

Jesus came into our world and experienced suffering Himself and saw the results of the entrance of sin in the way people were governed, apparent accidents and climate varies.

Jesus was asked by His disciples why the man in John 9 was born blind. Was it due to his own sin or that of his parents. Jesus replied,” Neither, but that the works of God might be displayed in his life." It was through his blindness and healing that the man came to personal faith in Jesus.

Our daughter was born with deformities which caused her to be given up for adoption and resulted in her becoming our daughter and to faith in Jesus at a very early age. It resulted in her receiving a new Father, a new family, a new future, a new destiny.

I was the only person in my family to suffer from asthma. Once when I was struggling to stay alive, my mother promised God that if He allowed me to live, He could have me as His servant. I was the first person in my family and relatives to come to faith in Jesus. God called me to serve Him. The only one from our relatives. I suffered greatly from asthma in the Cape while I was at the Bible Institute until God healed me Lebanon. I have covered just examples of physical suffering but of course there is persecution for being a faithful follower of Jesus. It seems as though God uses suffering to accomplish His purposes in the lives of His chosen ones.

Jesus, a life planned before He was born into this world. Isaiah 49:1 'Before I was born the Lord called me; from my mother’s womb He has spoken my name.'

His appearance?  Nothing out of the ordinary. Looked like one of the people. Isaiah 53:2 'He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to Him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire Him.' (Not like any Western paintings of Him!) Isaiah 53:3: 'Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised and we held him in low esteem.'

Born sinless, lived a perfect life without sin according to the Scriptures. Isaiah 53:4-5 'When He suffered we thought he was being punished by God stricken by him and afflicted. Surely He took up our pain and bore our suffering. He was pierced for our transgressions , he was crushed for our iniquities, the punishment that brought us peace was on Him and by his wounds we are healed.'

Why did the arm of the Lord (AOL) suffer?  Isaiah 53:6 'All we like sheep have gone astray we turned every one to his own way and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.'

He lived out His life as foretold by the OT Scriptures. It was stated how He would teach, His anonymity at first, Isaiah 53:1 'To whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?  He grew up before Him like a tender plant and like a root out of dry ground.'

He suffered hostility by those He had created.

He experienced constant opposition from the religious leaders of His day. Isaiah 53:7 ' He was oppressed and afflicted yet he did not open his mouth. He was led as a lamb to the slaughter and as a sheep before  its shearers  is silent so he did not open his mouth.' (He did not defend Himself)

Eventually He was crucified according to the Scriptures. Isaiah 53:8 .He was cut off from the land of the living, for the transgression of my people he was punished.'

Jesus was foretold what He would do at His death. Isaiah 53:12 'He poured out his life unto death and was numbered with the transgressors (two thieves are either side, also crucified) and made intercession for the transgressors.' (Father forgive them, they know not what the do).

Jesus was buried according to the Scriptures: Isaiah 53:9-10 'He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though He had done no violence nor was any deceit in His mouth, yet it was the Lord’s will to crush Him and cause Him to suffer.' (Joseph of Arimathea buried Jesus in his own tomb which he prepared from himself)

Jesus rose again according to the Scriptures. Isaiah 53:10-11 'And though the Lord makes His life an offering for sin, he will see his offspring and prolong his days and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand. After he has suffered, He will see the light of life and be satisfied. By his knowledge my righteous  servant will justify many.'

He knows exactly what we are going through. He was tested in every point as we are yet was without sin.  He was never ill, but suffered abuse, pain and constant hostility.

In our world the wicked seem to prosper and they think that happens because God is pleased with them. It appears that good people suffer  while the wicked seem to prosper and live healthy lives in which every problem can be solved by money!

Kierkegaard, a Danish theologian, taught that man should live his life according to the way it unfolds. There is no reason for the life we live  and no explanation for suffering. Thus accept whatever happens as your lot in life.

Theodicy God is working out His purpose in history. It is His story!  He is in control. We cannot understand suffering now but God will explain how He accomplished His gathering in of the elect  taking into account  that all will experience suffering of some kind.

Job is an example of the mystery of suffering. The Bible teaches that Job acted to deal with his own sin and the sins of his family. He was a righteous man who pleased  God so much that God could say to Satan “Have you considered my servant Job . There is no one on earth like him. He is blameless and upright  a man who fears God and shuns evil.”

To that Satan replied that Job was who he was because he was prosperous. Take his prosperity away and he will curse you. So God allowed Satan freedom to cause Job to lose his possessions and family members and the esteem of his friends who came to the conclusion that Job was suffering because of his sin. Job defended himself and God seemed to agree with him as He did not find fault with Job  but with his friends, Job’s comforters. Through suffering and Job’s dealing directly with God, he came to a deeper relationship  with God. He told God that he knew He could do all things and that no purpose of His could be thwarted. He admitted to God that his ears had heard about Him but through his suffering he saw God as holy, righteous, mysterious in His ways, whose ways are so different to than of man, whose thoughts are so unlike that of man,  Job was filled with awe. He knew he was in a realm of things too wonderful for him to understand.

God told Job’s “friends” that Job would pray for them and his prayer would be effective. After Job prayed for his friends, note not himself, God restored his fortunes.

Why did Job suffer?  That is God’s domain. We must change our question. Not ask God  why He allowed certain things to happen to cause suffering but rather to ask Him what His purpose was to teach about  Himself, His ways, and bring His servant closer to Himself. Easy to write this. A time will come for us all to leave the problem of suffering in our lives with God and accept His ordering with praise.

A good example of this is the life of Saul of Tarsus who was called by the Lord Jesus to serve Him.  Jesus told Ananias that Saul was His chosen one to proclaim Jesus  to the Gentiles and would be shown how much he would suffer for being the servant of  Jesus. That in fact happened but note his response. He suffered stoning, beating, hostility, shipwrecked, hunger, rejection by his own people, a  prisoner of Rome resulting in restriction of his movement . Yet he could write to the churches and tell them to rejoice. Once when in prison after a beating, he praised God, another time when warned of captivity, he was not put off. He was able to say,” I have run the race, fought the fight. There is a crown of righteousness waiting for me.

All those that follow Jesus closely will suffer persecution.

I repeat suffering is not always due to sin. Because of sin,  sickness and death came into creation.

Persecution and suffering for being a follower of Jesus is due to the majority of the world living without reference to God except on their own terms. Anyone who lives a life holy and acceptable to God will experience suffering as they will be different and their actions and way of life make them to be misunderstood by  others aware of their lives without God.

Sin entered the world by one man and death passed on to all men for all have sinned. Ageing started. Sickness, disease, invisible viruses. Man was warned by God that if he sinned he would die. He failed to believe what God said so he did what was forbidden and eventually died.

The enemy of our souls was allowed by the Holy Creator to sow seeds of fear, pride in self, jealousy, greed, and unbelief in the Word and character of the only God.

The way we live and what we eat  and drink could result in suffering. Over eating, consumption of alcohol, drugs  could result in necessary suffering.

James 5:13-15 'Is any among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is any among you sick?  Let them call them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord and the prayer in faith offered up in the name of the Lord, will make the sick person well.'

1 Corinthians 11:29-30 'Those who eat and drink without discerning the body and blood of Christ eat and drink judgement on themselves.  That is why many of you are weak and sick and a number of you have fallen asleep.'

Suffering happens to all. All young people will get older. Strength will be replaced by weakness. All will one day die. All experience common grace  Matthew 5:45 'The sun shines on both good and sinners and so does the rain.' Jesus never suffered from illness but at the hands of men torture and abuse. He never retaliated.

1 Peter 2:19-23 'It is commendable if one bears up under unjust suffering because they are conscious of God... If you suffer for doing good this is commendable before God. For this you were called. Because Christ suffered for you leaving you an example that you should follow in His steps.  He committed no sin, no deceit was found in His mouth. When they hurled insults at Him he did not retaliate, when he suffered He made no threats. Instead He entrusted Himself to him who judges justly.'

A follower of Jesus has double suffering: 2 Timothy 3:12 'Every one who lives a godly life in Christ will suffer persecution.' So normal suffering from growing older and living in a world of disease and viruses and suffering from being a follower of Jesus.  We should view problems of health and weakness and limitations of the body as God’s means of chastening us.

Paul was given a thorn in the flesh which God would not remove and it kept him humble, usable, teachable.

Hebrews 12:4-11 'In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. "My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline and do not lose heart when He rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those He loves and He chastens everyone He accepts as a son." Endure hardship as discipline, God is treating you as His children... We all had fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live. He disciplines us for our good. No discipline seems pleasant at the time but painful. Later it yields a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.'

When we go through trials and suffering the Lord promises to be with us so that the waters and fires will not overwhelm us. The prophet Habakkuk saw much wickedness in his nation and spent many hours praying for the Lord to intervene. Eventually he questioned God why He seemed to be doing nothing. The Lord God replied that He had been planning to intervene and was sending the Babylonian army to punish the nation. This resulted in another problem for Habakkuk as how could a holy God use an unholy nation to punish his people.

God replied  that some things have to be left entirely to God, He agreed  that Babylon was a sinful nation that He would use. However  the person who is righteous in the sight of God would live by faith. There are some aspects of life that are beyond our understanding as God’s ways and thoughts are so much higher than ours. He was told to trust God that He knew what He was doing  and allow Him to sort out the problem or the means He uses to solve the issue..

1 Corinthians 1:21 'For since in the wisdom of God the world did not know God by wisdom, it pleased Him by the apparent foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.'

Faith exercised in God because of who God is and what He alone is able to do. We believe in His character, unchanging, faithful, God who keeps His promises. Who rewards those who diligently seek Him.

Jesus heard that Lazarus was ill. He waited until Lazarus died before going to the area of mourning. He gave time for those who were relatives from all over the country to be present when Jesus arrived. He told those grieving that He was the resurrection and the life. Jesus had told His disciples when He heard that Lazarus was ill that it would not end in death.

Yet when He arrived he had been dead four days. Jesus called the dead Lazarus to come out of the cave. When he did so many of those who saw what happened believed in Him. We have to leave the timing of God responding to needs entirely to Him. He is never late or early but always on time. Jesus came into our world according to God’s appointed time. The perfect time because the good news could spread throughout the Roman Empire using a common language of Koine Greek and secure travel conditions. God is always on time. His time!

My own life bears testimony to that. I was a clerk in the govt railways. The one who took over the office invited me to his church Easter camp resulting a closer walk with God. The same man invited me to hear a missionary. That day I played golf with a relative stranger who was my lift to the meeting. God called me to serve in Lebanon. A former student of the Bible Institute told me I had to go there to confirm that call. I did, opposed by family church and friends. My wife came in my second year. My father was given three promotions in one year and he offered to send me to university. Teachers were needed in Lebanon so I went completing a BA degree.

After training was completed we got married on nothing, followed by a year of work for both of us during which both were prepared for service in the Middle East. We could not have children so applied to adopt. Three times we were stopped from adopting.

We were given monetary gifts which enabled us to hire a lawyer for our Armenian daughter came into our home followed by her Lebanese brother  two years later. Both were legally adopted in Lebanon and South Africa.  1980 full support required. God did it. My part? Trust Him only. Same year back in Lebanon told to save in US $ only. Four years later rocket destroyed kitchen of our flat. None of us present, a miracle! Bought our house in SA for cash. Bond rate 25%. Twelve years of serving mission at home. Called to return. Bought house for daughter. God made it possible. Back in Beirut later joined by both our children who stayed with us. Daughter called to serve there and son met his USA wife there.

We have known the provision of all our needs by the Lord. We once lived seven years without known income. Now we have been retired and are waiting for God  to unfold His plans for our lives.

God has a way of getting our attention. For a while I was drifting spiritually. I was pursuing my own agenda. Using my time  to do what I like doing. Creating  and filling my life with that which gives me pleasure. Suffering has brought that to an end.  My body has weakened ..

I am unable to do what I used to do. I have been told that God acts on behalf of those that wait in faith for Him. Isaiah 64:4 It has been the theme of my life. Trials, weakness, have made me even more dependent on God. I am still stubborn, still go my own way, still not listening to the Lord and hearing His voice. He takes His time. I cannot win. He will have His way for no purpose of His can be thwarted.

This various series of studies has made me examine the truths of the Bible and that which is of lasting not transient value. God has once more got me to listen to Him. He wants to do me good in the end. I expect Him to do the unexpected and work out His own plan which He planned before Creation.

I am currently very weak. Yet required to play the role of a husband and father and servant of the Lord Jesus. Jesus became man for me. Though He was rich for my sake became poor that I through His poverty might become rich. He endured hostility and suffering leaving me an example. He understands what I am going through for He was also suffering and weak on the cross. His family did not understand Him, neither did mine at first.

He lived a lonely life and we have learned to do the same answerable to Him alone. I am learning to rejoice in sufferings like Paul who discovered that when he was weak then he was strong in the Lord relying on the Lord alone not  in his natural ability. How long this current trial will last?  As long as it takes God to get through to me to be obedient in details and submit all my decisions to Him and not go my own way relying on my own insight and understanding...

I do not question God, His ways or His love. He has always given me His best and wants nothing less than the best to be given Him.