Sorrow, Suffering, and Sickness: Why?
-By E.L. Bynum
We live in a world of sorrow, suffering, sickness, and affliction. We have heard people ask over and over again, “WHY?” As we look upon the face of a dear loved one that is going through sickness and suffering, we ask, “WHY?” When we touch the fevered brow of one of God’s choicest saints and behold that frail, emaciated body writhing in pain, we ask. “WHY?” When we see a mother working night and day trying to nurse her baby back to health, only to see it wither and die, we ask, “WHY?” We look upon an invalid, frail, weak and helpless. and we ask, “WHY?” We see one greatly loved, but whose mind has become as a little child, and we ask, “WHY?”
In vain we look to science and philosophy. There is only one place we can find the answer to our often-repeated question. We will find the answer in the BIBLE, or we will not find it at all.
Sin Came Before Sorrow
Until sin entered into the world, Adam and Eve knew nothing about sorrow and suffering. After they sinned, it was not long before they knew the meaning of sorrow. “Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy SORROW...” Genesis 3:16a. “And unto Adam he laid, “because thou… hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of It: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in SORROW shalt thou eat of It all the days of thy life.” Genesis 3:17. Sin resulted in SORROW for Adam and Eve. Since Adam was the federal head of the human race, SIN and SORROW has been transmitted to us all.
We do not mean to teach that each member of the human race will share an equal amount of suffering, sorrow and affliction. We know that some suffer a great deal more than others. To find out WHY, we must look deeper into the Word of God.
I. SATAN BRINGS SORROW AND SUFFERING
We know that it was Satan that tempted Eve to eat the forbidden fruit. However, according to the Scriptures. Satan is still bringing sorrow and suffering. “And, behold, there was a woman which had a spirit of infirmity eighteen years, and was bowed together, and could in no wise lift up herself.” And the Lord said, “Ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom SATAN hath BOUND, low, these eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the sabbath day?” Luke 13:11,16. Jesus said that this poor woman was bound by Satan. God only knows how much sorrow and suffering has been caused by Satan. It will be a wonderful day when he is cast into the lake of fire. “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were OPPRESSED of the devil.” Acts 10:38. The Bible gives us many case histories of men and women who suffered untold agony because of the work of Satan and his demons. Read Mark 5:1-20 and Mark 9:14·19.
Satan Brings Sorrow and Suffering to Christians
Job was a wealthy man with a large family. “This man was the greatest of all the men of the east.” Job 1:3·b. “And the Lord said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil?” Job 1:8. Satan was just itching to get his hands upon this great child of God. God permitted Satan to interfere in the life of Job. Soon his oxen, sheep, camels, servants and children were all gone. This still did not cause Job to forsake God. Job said, “Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord. In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly.” Job 1:21, 22. “So went Satan forth from the presence of the Lord, and smote Job with sore boils from the sole of his foot unto his crown.” Job 2:7. Even his wife urged him to “curse God, and die.” Of course in the end, “the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before.” Job 42:10b. But think of the sorrow and suffering that he went through, as the devil vainly afflicted him.
Even the Apostle Paul said, “there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me.” II Corinthians 12:7. We do not know for sure what this thorn in the flesh was, but we do know that Satan had something to do with it. Satan is ever busy harassing the people of God. We must remember and claim for ourselves God’s promise to Paul, “My grace is sufficient for thee.” II Cor. 12:9.
II. SOME SUFFER BECAUSE OF CHASTISEMENT
Elimelech and his wife Naomi, along with their two sons, left the promised land and went into the land of Moab to dwell. Naomi’s husband and two sons died in the land of Moab. Moab was the wrong place for them. When at long last Naomi returned to Bethlehem, the people said, “Is this Naomi?” Ruth 1:19. She had changed so much that they hardly knew her. Naomi said, “the Almighty hath afflicted me.” Ruth 1:21.
The Christian should judge himself, confess his sin to the Lord and get forgiveness. “For If we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world.” I Corinthians 11:31,32. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9. If the Christian will not repent and confess his sin unto the Lord. he will soon suffer under the chastisement of the Lord. “For whom the Lord loveth he scourgeth every son whom he recelveth.” Hebrews 12:6. To “chasten” means “to instruct, to train up.” Youngs Concordance. According to the dictionary, to “chasten” means to punish for the sake of moral improvement. God does not punish the Christian because He hates him but because He loves him. God loves His children too much to let them get by with sin. It is a poor parent that lets his child do whatever he wants to do. This would not be love. But rather it would be neglect. “For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth.” Read Hebrews 12:1-11.
III. SOME SUFFER FOR THE GLORY OF GOD
“All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” 2 Timothy 3:12. “Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness sake.” Matthew 5:10. “For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully… when ye do well, and suffer for it… this is acceptable with God.” I Peter 2:19,20. If we serve God daily, we will suffer some form of persecution. No matter how great the suffering, the Christian should never get angry and bitter.
Jesus suffered, and so will His true followers. “Forasmuch as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin.” 1 Peter 4:1. “If any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed.” 1 Peter 4:16. There is a very real sense in which God uses suffering to purge, purify, and cleanse His people. “I will… purely purge away thy dross, and take away all thy tin.” Isaiah 1:25.
"If through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie, My grace all sufficient shall be thy supply, The flame will not hurt thee. I only design, Thy dross to consume, and thy gold to refine."
God allows us to go through suffering and sorrow that we might better know how to comfort others.
“Blessed be… the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in trouble.” 2 Corinthians 1:3,4. We have seen a number of people who had gone through great sorrow and suffering, who seemed to have a special talent for comforting others in sorrow. God gave that ministry and work, but they had to be prepared for it in the school of suffering.
“If we suffer, we shall reign with him…” 2 Timothy 2:12. “…If so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.” Romans 8:17b. In the midst of suffering the child of God needs to be reminded and comforted with the promise of his future glorification and reign.
Some Are Not Worthy to Suffer for Jesus
Not every Christian is worthy to suffer for the name of Jesus. The New Testament Christians counted it an honor to suffer for Him. “And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name.” Acts 5:41. The apostles had just been beaten and commanded not to speak in the name of Jesus anymore. Their backs are wet with blood, but they leave “rejoicing.” WHY? Because they “were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name.”
In the midst of suffering, the Christian should always cling to the promise of God. “For we KNOW that ALL things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28.
IV. SOME SUFFER THAT OTHERS MIGHT BE SAVED
Christ, of course, suffered as no one else has ever suffered. On the cross, “He bore our sins in His own body on the tree.” He did this, that guilty sinners might be saved. “Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by? behold and see if there be any SORROW like unto my SORROW, which is done unto me, wherewith the Lord hath afflicted me in the day of his fierce anger.” Lamentations 1:12. “He is despised and rejected of men; a man of SORROWS, and acquainted with grief… Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our SORROWS… But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities… All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.” Isaiah 53:3-6. Yes, Jesus suffered; He took my place, He became my substitute. Through Him, the vilest sinner can be made clean.
Some Christians Suffer to Bring Others to Christ
We certainly do not mean that a Christian can atone for the lost sinner. Jesus paid the purchase price once. But we do know that God can, and does, use the suffering and sorrow of Christians to point sinners to the Lamb of God.
Few, if any, families were any closer to Christ than the family of Lazarus. It seems that Jesus spent much time in their home. Lazarus, Martha and Mary were greatly loved by Jesus. “…Lazarus was sick. Therefore his sisters sent unto him, saying, Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest is sick. When Jesus heard that, he said, this sickness is not unto death, but for the GLORY OF GOD, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby.” John 11:2-4. Jesus deliberately delayed His trip to Bethany while Lazarus suffered and died. Lazarus was buried, while Martha and Mary wept in great sorrow. Remember. these people were saved and were greatly loved by Jesus. It would have been no problem for Jesus to have healed him, even while separated by distance. But instead, there was suffering. death and sorrow. Sometimes the Christian does not understand the meaning of suffering and sorrow when they are in the midst of it. Martha and Mary did not understand.
HE MAKETH NO MISTAKE My Father’s way may twist and tum, My heart may throb and ache, But in my soul, I’m glad I know, He maketh no mistake. My cherished plans may go astray. My hopes may fade away. But still I’ll trust my Lord to lead, For He doth know the way. Tho’ night be dark and it may seem That day will never break; I’ll pin by faith, my all in Him, He maketh no mistake. There’s so much now I cannot see, My eyesight’s far too dim; But come what may, I’ll simply trust And leave it all to Him. For by and by the mist will lift And plain it all He’ll make. Through all the way. tho’ dart to me, He made not one mistake. ~A. M. Overton
When Lazarus had been dead four days, Jesus raised Him from the dead. (He will one day do this for all of His family.) Now. Lazarus could see how this sickness was “for the glory of God.” He did not see it till after his resurrection, and many other Christians will not see how their suffering was for the glory of God, until after their resurrection. “Farther along we will know all about it, farther along we will understand why.” Here was the reason; “Then many of the Jews, which came to Mary, and had seen the things which Jesus did, believed on him.” John 11:45. “Much people of the Jews… came not for Jesus’ sake only, but that they might see Lazarus also, whom he had raised from the dead. But the chief priests consulted that they might put Lazarus to death; Because that by reason of him MANY OF THE JEWS went away and BELIEVED ON JESUS.” John 12:9-11.
In sick rooms, in hospitals and in many other places, some of God’s choicest saints suffer and go through great sorrow that they might point sinners to Christ. By their humility, by their faith, by their patience and testimony they point people to the way of salvation. Just recently, I heard of a hardened sinner being saved through the sickness of a loved one who was dying of cancer. Such examples are found all around us, when we open our eyes to see. Never shall I forget Bro. and Sister J. S. McNeely. These two choice saints of God went through great suffering in their old age. Bro. McNeely became an invalid in the last years of his life when he was about 90. Everyone who came into his room heard about the saving grace of God. The milkman, the mailman, the delivery man, and the neighbors all heard the praise of God fall from the lips of this suffering saint. They could see in his life the faith that he taught.
How else could the wicked, vile Philippian Jailer ever have been reached with the gospel. He probably would never have attended a preaching service. But he was saved. Oh yes, Paul and Silas had to be stripped, whipped with “many stripes” and cast into prison, before he was saved. Two Christians went through great suffering and humiliation. Yet, we find. “Paul and Silas prayed. and sang praises unto God.” It was God that shook the prison. it was God that saved the jailer, but never forget that He used two suffering saints as instruments in His hand. Read Acts 16:22-34. No wonder Paul could say, “We glory in tribulations.” Romans 5:3. “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” 2 Corinthians 4:17.
Out of affliction comes blessing and victory. It was a BLIND Fanny Crosby who wrote so many of the great hymns that we sing. It was a BLIND John Milton that wrote Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained, two of the greatest pieces of literature in the English Language. While in the Bedford, England, jail from 1660-1672 for preaching the gospel, John Bunyan, a Baptist preacher, wrote Pilgrim’s Progress, one of the greatest pieces of literature to come from an uninspired pen. If you are suffering, cheer up, you are in good company. Jesus suffered as no other one has ever suffered. and He has allowed some of His greatest followers to go through great suffering and sorrow.
The Lord Does Care
It may seem at times that God does not care, but He does. He cares more than we will ever know this side of heaven. “In all their afflictions he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them: in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; and he bare them, and carried them all the days of old.” Isaiah 63:9.
V. SINNERS SOMETIMES SUFFER THAT THEY MIGHT LOOK TO JESUS
“…Blind Bartimaeus… sat by the highway side begging. And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out, and say, Jesus, thou son of David, have mercy on me.” Mark 10:46-47. Jesus supplied his need. He was healed, and best of all, he was saved. “And a certain woman, which had an issue of blood twelve years, And had suffered many things of many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was nothing bettered, but rather grew worse. When she had heard of Jesus… she said, If I may touch but his clothes, I shall be whole.” Mark 5:25-28. She was not disappointed. It is not always God’s will to heal the sick, but it is always God’s will to save the believing sinner. “…Him that cometh to me, I will in no wise cast out.” John 6:37. The miracles of Jesus were for a sign. These signs were given that sinners might believe. “And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: But these are written, THAT YE MIGHT BELIEVE that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.” John 20:30-31. Man is so proud that he will not look to God until he is forced to do so. On the hospital bed or in great sorrow, he will sometimes look up and listen to God.
While sin is the indirect cause of suffering. it does not always follow that those who are suffering are being punished for sin. “And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth. And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind? Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but THAT THE WORKS OF GOD should be made manifest in him.” John 9:1-3. Jesus did not mean that this man was not a sinner, but rather that he was not blind because of his sins. His blindness afforded Jesus the opportunity to manifest His power. The man worshipped and believed. “And he said, Lord, I believe…” John 9:38.
I plead with every unsaved person who may read this tract, look to the “Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world.” Take your place as a poor, lost sinner. look to Jesus who died to save sinners. and believe on His name to the saving of your soul. “He that believeth on him is not condemned; but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.” John 3:18,36.