Living in the “In-Between”

Why God allows suffering is the hardest question to answer and for good reason – we don’t always know the reasons why, especially when people who follow Jesus suffer. We all want life to be free from disease, heartbreak and injustice because we were created for that — we were placed in the Garden with God, where those things had not yet penetrated our reality. But as the story goes, sin entered the world through disobedience, and we now live in a fallen state and a fallen world. The ultimate plan is redemption of it all, but until that day, we’re living in the “in-between” — things are not made fully right, yet.

From what I have learned, the best thing we can do as Christians when receiving such tragic news, is to “weep with those who weep.” (Romans 12:15 NET) It’s sometimes our knee jerk reaction to want to ‘fix’ the situation by offering such advice as: “And we know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose ,…” (Romans 8:28). Yes, there is a time and place for such encouragement but not immediately. What we should do at first is to just be there with the person who is suffering, listen to them, offer to help meet their physical needs (i.e. a meal, some chores, etc). And when the time comes, if it comes to you (God may use someone else), then you can talk about why God allows suffering. Yet, that needs to be offered with great discernment and prayer.

When sin entered the world, death entered. And with death, there is no age limit. Death can happen at any age or stage of life. Many of us want to live to a ripe old age, and die peacefully in our sleep, but from what I know, that is rare. Jesus told his disciples “…in this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) Church history shows that the majority of the Apostles did have trouble in their lives, and tradition states that many of them were martyred for their faith in Christ. But because they saw the Risen Jesus, they could face death faithfully. They knew life was short but eternity is long with God. And that is where our hearts need to find comfort in times of suffering — eternal life with Jesus is going to be a place where there is no more suffering or tears. (Rev. 21:4) We need to keep our eyes on eternity.

A good life example of a person who has held onto that hope is Joni Eareckson Tada, who at the age of 17, had a diving accident which left her paralyzed from her upper torso down. She wrote a book on her suffering called, When God Weeps, and shares her story of how she struggled to find peace with her disability. She is now 74 years old and has been used mightily by God despite her suffering. 

The world watches when Christians suffer – how are they reacting to it? Are they cursing God and wanting to die (Job 2:9)? Or are they giving God the benefit of the doubt, trusting that despite their circumstances, God is good and eternity awaits.

I think we should all pray for healing, just like Joni did, and hope that a miracle happens. It sometimes does! There is an entire book researched by Dr. Craig Keener called Miracles Today that documents medical healings, proving that God still heals today. But when He doesn’t, for reasons He may not reveal this side of heaven, we have a choice – to become bitter or better. Joni chose the better. In our trials, we should, too. 

That is one of the reasons to be plugged into a church body — how the Body of Christ can be helpful to those who suffer  — to help lift each other up when life becomes unbearable. Joni has had to do that. Each morning, when she awakes, she must wait for someone to come and get her out of bed. Daily, friends and her husband help her. Daily she must rely on the help of others. Daily she must wait. Daily she must hope. Daily she must trust God.

This is not a sufficient reason for why God allows suffering, even in the Book of Job, it is never explained exactly why, other than Satan targeting Job to test his faithfulness to God. Why God allowed Satan to do this is what theologians will be arguing about until Christ’s return. In the meantime, we need to be the Body of Christ and help one another keep the faith in the midst of our trials.

I know this article does not have all the answers, but you might find some articles I posted on suffering helpful, too: Think Divinely 

For those who are in the midst of ministering to those who are suffering, I pray the Lord uses you to help guide these people to a place that brings healing, both physically and spiritually. May the Lord be with your situation and give you great wisdom and tender care.

While we wait, remember we are living in the “in between,” and someday, God will make everything beautiful in its time (Ecc. 3:11).


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