All about IT
As long as I can remember, I have found myself slipping into depression easily and getting out of it with difficulty.
In early 2012, as I wrapped up my senior year of high school, I was diagnosed with clinical depression, and it was labeled to be chronic; my depression likely was and will be life-long.
In 2010, I came to Christ, and up until that point I was back and forth between atheism and deism. I grew up in a Christian home, but like many people, I had various doubts about the Bible that were quite complex.
The main question that was always on my mind was the same one that practically every atheist will declare to be their primary dilemma with Christianity and religion in general; “If God is loving, then why would He allow suffering?”
There are libraries of books written on this subject from practically every viewpoint that you could imagine; literature that pre-dates the Egyptians all the way to dissertations by modern scholars.
Often times, I found myself frustrated as I struggled with depression and so much of the responses to the subject were merely written from a scholarly perspective. While it is a very intellectual subject that has many philosophical implications, scholarly essays often do little to comfort someone dealing with suffering first-hand.
Anyone who has ever sat with a friend going through a tough circumstance can testify to the fact that there are no easy answers to someone’s pain. Therefore, I am not writing this as a Biblical scholar or theologian. Rather, I am writing this as a young Christian who has struggled with severe depression and, as a result, has done a large amount of reflection on what Scripture has to say on the matter.
The truth is that with any “Why would God” type of questions, we have to be very cautious in our approach.
It’s difficult for anyone to determine why others think the way they do and arrive at the conclusions that they do at the end of their thinking processes. Take the complexity of human beings and bring it to an exponential level, and you begin to draw close to the complexity of God. The Bible states it this way:
“For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
Simply put, we as human beings can’t ever hope to fully understand God, but we can infer why He does certain things by looking at the big picture in scripture.
With any “Why would God” type of question, we have to really ask the big question, “Why does God do anything?” If we can give a basic answer to that question, then we can proceed with the more specific question, “Why would God allow suffering?”
The answer that my pastor in high school always gave is that God is a God who chooses to do things in order to reveal Himself to us so that we can know Him better and, as a result, be able to draw closer in to a deeper relationship with our God.
Such an explanation allowed me to understand so much of the Bible. God does things in order to reveal Himself. If God didn’t do or allow certain things, then we wouldn’t be able to know Him as well as we do. If God didn’t create, we wouldn’t know that He is creative. If God didn’t allow sin, then we never would have known how forgiving He is of mistakes; and the list goes on and on.
So how does this apply to the topic of suffering? Really, it’s the same train of thought as the reasoning with anything else that God does or allows. God allows suffering to reveal Himself.
Now this doesn’t sit well with many people. How could suffering possibly reveal God? We look at the existence of evil and pain, and we see it to be in conflict with a loving God who could wipe away all of it if He desired to do so. So how could suffering reveal a loving God?
Just like we wouldn’t know God’s forgiveness if He didn’t allow sin, there are many great characteristics of God that we wouldn’t know if He didn’t allow suffering. Here’s the main one that jumped out at me when I read the Old Testament and God spoke to the prophet Isaiah about the coming of Jesus:
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
The key phrase there in the case of suffering is “Wonderful Counselor.” Suffering exists because God is a Wonderful Counselor. While there are various reasons why God would allow certain things to happen, all of them trace back to our necessity as human beings to rely on God. God is a Wonderful Counselor. Not only that, He is a God who relates to us since He came as the man, Jesus Christ, and experienced the same sufferings that we have experienced:
“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.”
As a Christian who wrestles with depression, it’s very comforting to know that Jesus is a God who understands our sufferings and can comfort us in them since He is a Wonderful Counselor.
Just as I, and many others, have gone to a counselor for my struggles, we are to follow Jesus because He is the Counselor who is far greater than anyone else that we can put our trust in.
In addition, everyone who is experiencing extreme pain loves a counselor who has gone through something similar and can relate. The Bible says that since Jesus took all the wrath of God that we deserve, He has experienced all the same types of suffering we have.
Jesus relates to us and can comfort us in our suffering. Suffering exists to bring us near to the God of comfort:
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort”
2 Corinthians 1:3
Most importantly, not only does Jesus relate to us in our sufferings because of His crucifixion, but He proved something amazing. Jesus’ death on the cross demonstrates that suffering and a loving God can coexist.