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[This post is part of a series on faith and suffering.]

How should a believer respond to suffering? This has been indirectly addressed in many of the posts already. As believers, we need to keep a perspective of hope by remembering God’s eschatological plan and the “already, but not yet” aspect of our salvation. We need to trust in God’s sovereignty. We need to look to Christ who suffered for us, and whose suffering brought redemption for humankind.

However, this does not necessarily make our present suffering any easier! We need to remember that it is also okay to cry, lament, and doubt. Too often in Christian circles, these things are frowned upon. We just want people to put on happy faces all the time. Indeed, my experiences in some church “small group” settings have been that the sharing of doubts, grief, or frustration is clearly not acceptable. It makes people uncomfortable, and it seems that we should just pretend that we have it all together. Why are so many Christians such pretenders??? (This really frustrates me. But I have already blogged on this in my posts on Christian fellowship.)

The Scriptures are filled with examples of those who cried out in anguish because of their suffering. Did you know that laments make up more than one-third of the Psalms? [1]  They do! Some of these laments are emotionally raw and deeply honest as the Psalmists cried out in pain.

The Old Testament figure Job frankly expressed his doubts as he questioned God about the suffering he was enduring. Job got pretty impertinent and awfully close to stepping over the line. The prophet Habakkuk was perplexed, and cried out to God wondering why God was using immensely sinful Babylon to punish Israel. Jesus himself, in the garden of Gethsemane, cried out in anguish to the Father, even questioning if his suffering could be taken from him.

Of course, we don’t want to forget the hope and joy that we have in Christ. But it is clearly okay to be honest with God (and with each other) as we go through difficult times.

Yet, the attitude behind our cries and questions is important too. Are we crying out from a heart of faith? The Psalmists, Job, and Habakkuk believed in God, and were simply expressing their pain and uncertainty about life. There is a critical difference between this, and someone who cries out from a heart of disbelief, looking for any excuse to reject God.

We also need to accept that God may never answer our questions about why exactly some suffering has come upon us. Life can be an enigma. Job’s questions for God were never really answered. Instead of answering Job’s questions, God revealed himself to Job in all his majesty. Randy Alcorn says that whenever he needs an attitude adjustment, he reads the last five chapters of Job. Alcorn states that:

 “God’s powerful self revelation to this man who endured such suffering offers great perspective. At the end of the book the focus shifts from Job’s suffering to God’s majesty. I never read those chapters without feeling that God has been put in his proper place and I’ve been put in mine.”[2]

Job’s response to God’s self revelation was that he was reduced to speechless silence (Job 40:3) and he repented of his pride (Job 42:1-6). When Job finally reached this point, it was then he found comfort. He had seen God, and that was enough.

[1] Randy Alcorn, If God is Good (Colorado Springs: Multnomah, 2009), 469.

[2] Ibid., 342.