Why does God allow suffering? I discuss this here. In that study, I speak about both Christians and non-Christians. However, for this post, I want to focus on Christians.
As I say in the study, there are many reasons why God allows (or causes: see below) Christians to suffer and face trials. Here are a few: to bring people to repentance and submission, to deepen our faith, to help us know Him in a better and more intimate way, to get us to lean on Him more, to make us stronger, to give us more joy and peace as we see Him work in our trials, to use us to help others with similar trials, and more...
All of these things are certainly true, and we can find many examples in the Bible. However, I feel like God has shown me something regarding this. When do we most often turn to God? Isn't it when we face trials, have problems, or need something from Him? On the flip side of this, when do we least often to turn to God? Isn't it when things are going well, when we aren't sick, or when we don't really need anything?
In 2015, I had one of the worst years of my life. My dad died, my mother was in the hospital for 30 days and almost died, my favorite aunt died, and her son (my cousin) committed suicide a few days later. My wife had shingles, I had chronic gout and was diagnosed with "fatty liver," one daughter had health issues and ended up in the E.R. 3 times, the other daughter moved over 600 miles away, another cousin was diagnosed with cancer (and died in 2016), and a few more. In the midst of these trials, I did see God work over and over, and I am forever thankful for it. These trials did do many of the positive things that I listed above.
However, in 2017 I had perhaps the best year of my life. What a great year! My family enjoyed good health, my ministry at jesusalive.cc had substantial growth, I made some new and wonderful friendships, primarily through the two Bible studies I teach (and I was privileged to baptize 3 people in one of them), and a third day of fellowship and study with a Christian brother one to one came to pass (perhaps more on this in a future blog). In addition to these, I got to spend more time praying, studying, and sharing God's Word than perhaps at any other time in my life.
I can say that while I did indeed draw closer to the Lord in 2015 as a result of seeing Him work through my trials, I ended 2017 feeling closer to the Lord than perhaps I ever have, even though I had few trials. Then, the thought came to me! "WHAT IF" in those times when things are going well we were to seek God, pray to Him, spend time with Him, and get into His word MORE than when we do when we are facing the bad times?
I often say this: "If God is in charge of all things, then one of two things must be true regarding trials, God either causes the trial we face, or He allows the trial we face" (there are examples of both in the Bible). As I mentioned above, the point of many of these trials is to draw us closer to Him in some way. However, if we would draw closer to Him, and seek Him as much (or more) in the good times as in the bad, isn't it possible that God may not need to use as many trials to get our attention? Just a thought...