When it comes to the postulates of deep-thinking philosophers, most people are willing to tolerate a little mystery and incoherence. For some of life's questions, there just aren't clear cut answers.
However, on the issue of personal suffering, not nearly as much grace is extended. We want answers - why my friend had to die in that car wreck, why cancer took my husband, why my wife lost our child - we want to make sense of the suffering.
Thankfully, the Bible sheds some light on this important, heart-wrenching reality. All of the suffering and tragedy in the world come from three sources:
1) The choices of human beings. Without question, the vast majority of human suffering has been inflicted by human beings, choosing reject the Creator's blueprint for life. This rejection causes hurt both in oneself and in others.
2) The consequences of living in a fallen world. God made the world perfect, but since the "fall" of mankind into evil, death has permeated our existence. God never intended for this evil to occur, but because we were given a choice whether or not to follow Him, we now are reaping the consequences of walking the wrong way.
3) The circumstances that God wants to use to bring meaning, cleansing, and truth to our lives. On rare occasion, God will allow or even inflict suffering purposefully, in order to fulfill a greater good that only He understands.
To be sure, the first two of these options account for the vast majority of the pain in this world, and all three causes should drive us to a greater trust and love for the Creator.
When suffering is the result of human choices, we should take notice of the fact that God's ways are always best for our lives. When hurt comes as a result of living in a sin-cursed, fallen world, we see the horrors of what it means to live without God, and we place our faith in Him. And, on those special occasions when God uses or brings about pain for a divine purpose, we trust God, knowing that it is only because He cares about us that He would allow such things to occur.
Challenge: Have I unjustly blamed God for my problems, when in fact it is I or other human beings who have caused them? Am I willing to have faith in God, that His way is best, His plan is perfect, and that He really is trustworthy?
Meditation: Romans 5:1-5, 6:23