A young woman had given birth to her first child, but shortly after the baby was delivered, it died. The young woman was devastated. I was the pastor of a small church a few towns over from the hospital and I was asked to meet her and try to be a help. Deb and I jumped in the car immediately and headed to the hospital. When we got there it was evident that this woman had experienced the trial of her life. Her baby was gone and her heart was broken. I tried to be a comfort and told her that God would get her through this horrible time, but it didn’t seem to help. It seemed that there was nothing Deb or I could say that would help. Finally, the young mother broke down in tears again and asked, “Why did God take my baby?” I will never forget it. I stood there helpless. I couldn’t answer because I didn’t know why God allowed this.
The fact is none of us have an answer to suffering. Sure, God uses it to chastise His own. He uses suffering to grow us into maturity. Suffering could be used by God to harden a heart like He did Pharaoh’s. In the case of Job, God could use suffering to prove to Satan that God’s people will still love Him even if he takes away everything precious to him. Of course these are only a few reasons. There’s many more reasons for suffering, and at some time or another, everyone will suffer emotionally and physically. But, no one really knows for sure why another has to suffer.
It is all too common for Christians to have pat answers as to why certain people suffer. Job’s three friends were certain Job was sinning and that God was punishing Job for his evil, but they were wrong. People have plenty to say, but when we speak presumptuously we ourselves are sinning against God, who alone has the answer to suffering. In the case of the young woman who lost her baby, it was probably a good thing I didn't have an answer for her. Or, perhaps, “I don’t know” is a good answer. There is nothing wrong with plain old fashioned honesty, when a question like hers is asked. That day, both my wife and I, felt burdened for her. We didn't know what she was going through; we only knew she was hurting, and in some very small way, we hurt with her. All we really could do was "weep with those that weep".
The question of suffering is difficult, maybe near impossible to answer, but I learned this. Suffering is God’s will for at least this one reason. If there was no suffering in this world, none of us would know the love of God. Jesus had to suffer in order for us to know that God loves us. It is impossible to know God’s love any other way. The other John 3:16 say this,
“Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us:” I John 3:16
For this reason alone Christians can be thankful for suffering.