This article is an excerpt from a newsletter sent out by dear friends, Heap and Jennifer Him, a husband-and-wife team who co-founded Lina’s Hope in Cambodia and are still heavily involved in its day-to-day operations. This couple and their children now find themselves grappling with a stage IV cancer diagnosis for the husband/father. Permission was obtained to republish the section of the newsletter dealing with suffering in hopes that the article and the Scriptures included might be an encouragement to those facing their own dark moments and wondering, “Where is God in the midst of it all?”
We are well aware that there are no easy answers when one allows his mind to enter the Pandora’s box of why God allows disease and suffering. One answer can never fit all situations. God and His ways are far beyond our human understanding. He cannot be put in a box, neither can human beings whom He created uniquely different be put into a box. But we see in Scripture that there are many different times that God allows suffering or disease for different reasons.
Sometimes God allows sickness in order to get our attention—to show us sin in our lives and bring us to confession. In this case, the disease is God’s grace to bring us back to a right relationship with Him. (James 5:6, 14-16) So, we have been taking time to be still with God, ask Him to search our hearts and show us any sin that we need to confess to Him. (Psalm 139:23-24)
At other times, God allows us to experience sickness or other forms of suffering because He wants us to experience a new, fresh dependence upon Him so that we can experience His love and provision in greater ways than before. (Matthew 11:28-30, John 14:27, Isaiah 40:29, I Corinthians 10:13, II Corinthians 2:9) So, we are throwing ourselves into God’s arms in complete dependence upon Him, just like our new baby grandson is completely dependent upon his mama for survival.
Still other times, God allows us to suffer so that in the future, He may be able to use us to help and bless others who are suffering. (II Corinthians 1:3-5) Sometimes God allows us to suffer in order for us to be an example to others to draw other people to Jesus because every human being will suffer at some point in his or her life, and as people see how Jesus is helping us in our suffering, they can be drawn to Jesus because they see that He can help them in their struggles as well. (Book of Job, II Corinthians 2:3-5, Philippians 1:12-14) So, we are asking God to use us in this season to draw people to Him, and to guide us to those people whom He wants us to connect to.
But we also know that sometimes God allows disease, sickness or suffering to come into our lives so that He may do something wonderful and show His power and glory. (John 9:3) So, we have daily been asking God to use this cancer and uncertainty and homelessness and struggle for His glory. And of course, there are other reasons for suffering that we cannot even begin to guess that only God knows, but we do know that all of creation is groaning under the weight of suffering and death, waiting for Jesus to redeem the earth back to Himself, but that in the process, God promises to those of us who love Him and are called by Him that He will turn ashes into beauty and make something that is both good for us and glorifying to God out of the difficult things that look bad (Romans 8).
And even in death, God does not leave us, and we can never be separated from His love, for, indeed, to die is to be with Him forever. (Romans 8, II Corinthians 5:1-10, Philippians 1:20-24) Every person will die someday. The question is when. So, we are trying to remain completely submissive to God’s plans for us, whatever those are.
We are reminded that this world is temporary, and it is only a quick blink of an eye compared with all eternity and all that God has prepared for us. Even in buying a house, we do not see ourselves as buying a permanent home, but rather, that we are just paying our rent ahead for the rest of our earthly life, because eventually we will leave this house and earth behind to someone else so that we can go to our eternal home. We do not assume to know God’s mind or will for us right now in regard to His timing and purposes, but we are continually reminded that His ways are higher than our ways and His thoughts higher than our thoughts. We are asking the Holy Spirit to help us pray according to God’s will. (Romans 8:26-27)
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For more information about Heap and Jennifer, their work at Lina’s Hope, and the children they serve, please visit linashope.org.