A Word to the Weary
Why Do the Righteous Suffer?

By Mary E. Stephens

Psalm 102:1 <<A Prayer of the afflicted, when he is overwhelmed, and poureth out his complaint before the LORD.>> Hear my prayer, O LORD, and let my cry come unto thee. 2 Hide not thy face from me in the day when I am in trouble; incline thine ear unto me: in the day when I call answer me speedily.

Have you ever been through one of those experiences in life where you just ask, "Why, Lord?" Maybe you are going through one right now or know someone who is. It is not that we necessarily doubt that the Lord is with us, we just can't see the reason for such trouble. Or, when we are tempted to doubt, it is because we can't see how this trouble is for our good (Rom. 8:28).

One of the most disturbing questions for mankind probably has always been "Why do the righteous suffer?" From the day that Cain slew Able this question has been a plague to the human race. Job was one of the classic examples in the Bible of suffering with no obvious cause - that is, he did not do anything "big" to deserve it. Ultimately he learned to not be self-righteous, but from a human standpoint that was a lot a trouble to learn something like that.

Every trial God gives us will teach us something, even though it seems hard at the time. We are assured of His promise that it will work for our good if we love Him. Romans 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. (And when God says all, He does mean all; hard as that may seem at times.)

Here is a point that many people overlook.

Hebrews 12:6 For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. 7 If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? 8 But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons.

A lot of people do not stop to notice that the Lord chastens every one of His children, not just the "bad ones." If you are going through something like this and are like the rest of us, I expect you have probably wondered if you have done something to deserve discipline from the Lord. Well, there are other reasons for suffering than just that a person has sinned against God. Though that is possible, it is not the only objective God has in mind for allowing suffering; whether physical, mental or emotional.

Psalm 103:13 Like as a father pitieth his children, so the LORD pitieth them that fear him. 14 For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust.

The Lord is your Father, if you are truly born again, and He will not give you more than you can handle. He knows just how much each of us can take.  He knows this better than we do ourselves, and He will not give more than we can bear.  After all, He is the strength of our life, so in Him we can bear it. Psalm 27:1 The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?

God chastens us as our Father for our good and so that we will become more like His dear Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. This is His goal in our lives. This is the end purpose of chastening, whether it is for rebelliousness or whether it is simply to rub off the rough edges and straighten up our manners, so to speak.

2 Peter 3:18 But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen.

Philippians 2:5 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:

1 John 3:2 Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. 3 And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.

Just as earthly fathers will discipline their children to make them behave the way they want them to, God disciplines us to make us more like our Lord Jesus Christ.

Hebrews 12:9 Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? 10 For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness.   

Think about the cutting and polishing of gems. When a gem is cut and polished it is to rub off the cloudy, rough and ugly outside layers. Sometimes there are flaws on the outside that need to be cut off, true. But some of the cutting and polishing is for no other reason than to make the stone beautiful.  As the song says,

"Let the beauty of Jesus be seen in me
All His wonderful passion and purity
Oh, Thou Spirit divine, all my nature refine
Till the beauty of Jesus be seen in me."

This reminds me of Philppians 2:12-13: Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. 13 For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure. Much of the chastening and "rubbing" that we get may be attributed to God working in us and desiring to see that inside work brought to the outside so that He might be glorified.

Here are some of the purposes that He has in allowing suffering for our good:

1. It is so that we might be partakers of His holiness.

Hebrews 12:10 For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness.

2. It exercises us to righteousness.

Hebrews 12:11 Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.

3. It makes us useful instruments to comfort others.

2 Corinthians 1:3 Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; 4 Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God. 5 For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ.

4. It is that we might be perfected, stablished, strengthened, and settled.

1 Peter 5:10 But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you.

5. It is so that we might have fellowship with our wonderful Saviour and attain unto the power of his resurrection.

Philippians 3:10 That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; 11 If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.

6. It is so that we might be glorified with Him.

Romans 8:17 And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.

7. It is so that we might reign with Him.

2 Timothy 2:12 If we suffer, we shall also reign with him...

8. It is so that we will look forward to heaven more.

Romans 8:18 For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.

So, dear sister, try to remember that what you are going through now will someday be a small, small thing, if you even remember it at all then! It will get better someday, even if you have to wait till you arrive in heaven. Hebrews 4:9 There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God. After all, if life on this earth were too good, we wouldn't look forward to going to our real Home!

In the mean time, keep Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds. Hebrews 12:2-3

Consider Jesus. He understands about pain, He understands about suffering, and He loves you more than it is possible for our poor feeble minds to comprehend! He will give you the strength to ...endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. 2 Timothy 2:3


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background and graphics by Mary E. Stephens
updated 2022