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Dealing with Sorrow - Why Does God Allow Suffering?

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Matthew 27:46

Have you ever been able to relate to this verse at one time or another in your life? Maybe you have even encountered a person who ultimately uses it as an excuse for rejecting God. I mean, why would they ever want to follow a God who forsakes them in the first place? This thinking, however, comes from a lack of knowledge about the true nature of God. 

Life is full of pain and trials. But how do we deal with it? Many of us draw inward and become depressed, others become angry or bitter, and still others turn to pain-numbing "solutions" like drugs, alcohol, or other harmful addictions. The problem with these temporary "solutions" is that they never, ever make things better. They only make the situation worse by adding more sorrow into our lives and into the lives of the people around us.

The best way to respond to sorrow is to face it head on. the Bible has the only true and perfect solution to get us through these times of hardship. This verse in Matthew 27 was uttered by Jesus while He was hanging on the cross. That was the ultimate sorrow.

How did God the Son handle it? He cried out to God the Father. 

This is the same reaction that we need to have. Our deepest hurts need to be turned over to God. When we cry out to Him we can admit that it was God who allowed it—notice that Jesus asks God “why." This is perfectly fine to ask. But we never have the excuse to accuse God as if He had done something wrong. God is the only source of good. We are not. He sees the entire picture. We do not. 

We can admit to God that we feel anger or resentment. After all, He already knows. But we can’t believe that we are justified in these emotions. Even though we have them, it doesn’t mean they are correct. When we cry out to God, He is always there to help. Many times He will direct us to the perfect place in the Bible to let us know that He hears us. God has filled His Word with people who have been through some of the most horrific situations. These help us to handle what is going on in our own lives. So, let’s take a look at one of my favorites—John the Baptist.

John the Baptist was a relative of Jesus and six months older. His birth was also miraculous as he was born to parents who were past the age of being able to have children. You can find this story in chapter one of the gospel of Luke. 

John grew up to be a preacher and a baptizer of those who wanted to repent of their sins. He was also the first to proclaim to everyone that Jesus was the Messiah and the One who would take away the sins of the world. You can find what he says about Jesus in chapter one of the gospel of John (not the same John). 

John the Baptist was on fire for God! So much so that it landed him in prison. This was not like any prison that we know today. There were no libraries or work-out places. It was most likely a nasty dungeon. This was also not a temporary situation. John was there until the ruler known as Herod could find a way to execute him and get away with it. 

This was probably a very discouraging development in John’s life. He’s outspoken for God, people were repenting in droves from his preaching, and this is what he gets for it. I’m sure John was most likely aware that a lot of the prophets (people of Israel who spoke for God) got the same treatment. But what happens after he is arrested seems to be the catalyst that sends John into a tailspin of doubt. 

When Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, he withdrew to Galilee. Matthew 4:12 NIV

Whoa! What? Jesus just leaves while John is unjustly in prison? If we are surprised by this reaction, imagine what John must have been feeling. Since Jesus is the Messiah as John had claimed, then Jesus certainly had the power to release John. But no. Jesus doesn’t do this. It’s probably very likely that John was feeling forsaken indeed. The Bible tells us that John begins to doubt who Jesus really is. 

Now when John, while imprisoned, heard of the works of Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to Him, “Are You the Expected One, or shall we look for someone else?” Matthew 11:2-3 NASB

John is clearly doubting what he had earlier proclaimed. This reaction is so common when we go through hard trials. We begin to doubt who God is and His power. We can also doubt His love and care for us. I am very sure that’s why these episodes are written down. They let us know that God is aware of what we are going through. But they also show us that God has His reasons even if we don’t understand them at the time. 

Here is what Jesus tells the disciples to say to John:

Jesus replied, "Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me." Matthew 11:4-6 NIV

Jesus is explaining to everyone that God has a bigger plan and that John who is a part of it will be blessed if he doesn’t stumble in his belief in Jesus. You see, God allowed John to die for that plan.

This one story is what has gotten me through some of the hardest times of my life. It lets me know for certain that what we are going through is for a divine purpose! God will get us through it. Yes, it may be hard, even seemingly unbearable, but we will get through it if we hold on to Jesus and our eternal hope and destination. 

The best way I have found to deal with sorrow is to never sugar coat it. When I come face to face with the fact that God allows trials in my life and even brings them in, I know it’s for my eternal good and may even be used for the good of others. The temporary suffering will end even if it doesn’t feel like it

For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison… 2 Corinthians 4:17 ESV


However, as it is written: “What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived” — the things God has prepared for those who love him— 1 Corinthians 2:9 NIV

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