Sometimes things can happen in life which instantly change everything forever. Sometimes they are good things - like the birth of a child or the acquisition of a long-awaited job. Sometimes they feel devastating - like the death of a loved one or relational losses or even a job loss. Eventually, I tend to take the good changes that happen in my life for granted. I find painful change hard to shake off. I was thinking about that as I have been praying often for a family who lost two children in a tragic accident recently. They may never know me, but my God knows them.
In times of tragedy and loss I ask God to do something supernatural to help ease the pain for people. The thing is this world we live in is full of evil and painful times are going to come. I know a few people who live what appears to be charmed lives and have faced minor bumps in the road, but never deep suffering. I like it when people like that praise God - because all good things come from Him! But sometimes I wonder why some people seem to be buffered from painful circumstances while others are buffeted by them. I have heard speculation that some people are essentially "bad" people and that is why they suffer difficult circumstances. I disagree.
Of course, I know people can bring their suffering on themselves through life-choices and bad decisions, or even by making tragic mistakes. But I believe nobody is perfect, and everyone makes mistakes and we are ALL sinners and I am convinced God views all sin the same. So - to assume some people’s sins are worse than others, or they must be "bad" people and that is why they suffer more? I just can’t buy it. I don’t think God is in the business of ranking our sins, or in ranking people. Sure, consequences on Earth can be vastly different, but in God’s eyes we are the same. And He loves us equally with unconditional, unfailing love - something nobody on this planet can begin to comprehend.
There is a parable in the Bible in Matthew 25. Jesus is teaching about people receiving “talents” which in the case of the parable, is money. He discusses how people use their talents - some use them well and they multiply while others hide them and end up losing them. In verse 21- to a servant who used and multiplied his talents - the master says, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’” Okay, that’s a pretty condensed version of what happens, but my point is Jesus is telling the disciples to use what they are given and if they use it well they will be blessed. I used to think it was a litmus test for discerning blessings - if you have many things, you are clearly using what God has given you so He can trust you with more and therefore you have many blessings (material, of course). But I have found life is not always that cut and dried and that is not always true in this world. I have had seasons of material blessings and seasons without - I don’t think God is giving and taking constantly. What I do think is God responds to how we react to life.
So why do some people seem to suffer huge tragedies and pain while others don’t? There are a lot of pat answers out there people use to try to comfort in the face of tragedy. They say things like, “God takes the best ones first!” Or, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” Easy sentiments to voice, but they really don’t help when facing life-changing circumstances and wondering how to get through the next ten minutes, not to mention the next ten years. I think they soothe the comforter more than helping the sufferer.
Setting consequences aside, I don’t know exactly why some people suffer more than others. I have this glimmer of an idea it has to do with how we respond to suffering. Some of the strongest Christian leaders I know and admire have suffered through incredible tragedy and pain. Because of their refusal to be derailed from following God’s purpose for their lives, they have been able to have a huge impact on the world and are beautiful examples of how faith brings us through even the worst of times.
Having said that, I will follow by saying I don’t think God puts suffering into anyone’s life plan. I firmly believe all good things come from Him. The battles and struggles we face are not because of God, they are in spite of God. Sin and death entered the world all those years ago and from that moment on, everything changed. Things began to disintegrate and deteriorate in the world. The perfect setting God had created was gone. And let’s face it, it is often easier to make the wrong choice or no choice at all than it is to choose to always do what is right. If sin is sin is sin, then even our small indiscretions lend themselves to erosion of the moral fabric of humanity. I think our lives are woven together with the lives of the people we encounter and we create a fabric of life which can be Holy or hole-y, depending on the choices we make and how we respond to our circumstances.
What I do affects you and what you do affects me physically, spiritually, emotionally, mentally - and it affects this world. I guess bad things happen because bad things are in the world and we live in it, and sometimes we cause them. Ultimately, it’s not my job to try to discern why people are suffering, it is my job to be there for them, to pray for them and to face my own suffering with faith and unwavering hope to allow God to work through me despite the circumstances I face. I suppose I may never know the answers to all my “why” questions. I do know my God is good, my God is faithful, my God is stronger than anything this world can throw at me. I might sink to my knees for a bit, but I will get up again - forever changed maybe, but with my faith intact.