Why does God allow suffering? The cry burst forth from every heart who has known or seen great tragedy. Suffering is all around us, behind the most courageous smiles, the jokesters, as well as the quiet, the judgmental, the irritable. Even pondering the question of suffering can cause pain for it questions the very goodness of God. Why God, why all the death and appalling hatred and destruction, the agonies of the innocent cross human time?
As Christians we often hear the answer to this question as: "sin."
Sin desires hopeless, despairing suffering. The force some call Satan, desires the utter destruction of God's creation. This mad ceaseless, tireless, merciless force will never sleep until there is not one breath of life, one grain of sand, one distant star left in the universe and all is obliterated.
Jesus warns us against following this force of sin, for it is the very cause of the suffering we see. But Christ gave us an answer to how Christians can combat this force while we await His ultimate eradication of it.
Jesus did not tell us to fight suffering with fun, nor to defiantly stand and face down suffering. Jesus said, we fight sin by taking up our cross daily and following Him.
Christianity, rightly understood and lived through the power of Christ, does not seek to avoid the suffering, at least through means that will not draw us into holiness. But Christians seek to redeem this curse of suffering through transforming it. We wrest the power from the devil to hurt us and twist it upwards, giving it to Christ. We take what is meant to harm and use it to make us holy.
When we willingly take up our cross and follow Jesus, we understand where this is going. It is going to our own crucifixion, where we will transform the hate of the kingdom of Satan and turn our sorrows into joy. Through willingly bearing our cross, given us by Christ, Satan's power to harm us and rend us useless with pain and confusion, is forever broken. Christ gives us the power, not to ceaselessly avoid injustices and submerge ourselves in distractions as to not face life, but as King David 23 Psalms, to courageously walk through the valley of the shadow of death fearing no evil, because "Thou are with me."
Christ warned us that his followers' persecution and tragedy will not be lessened but indeed, they will become a target by the dark principalities for greater attacks. Our defense is not to fear these moments, but conquer the power of Satan by holding our arms out in fearless acceptance as Christ did on the cross. We will break the power of the dark forces by our faith that God will not just sustain us during these but with absolute trust in God, He will give us joy!
Imagine the miracle that we can face sufferings with joy. There is nothing the Devil fears more from us than that we will have the courage to walk through fire for Christ. The power of sin that controls us with fear and tragedy would be eliminated. And that fire, meant to destroy us, will turn into a consuming fire of holiness that gives us a freedom that we can never experience when we are enslaved to sin.
God's kingdom turns this world of sin upside down! Think of a life of peace and joy, without fear, not because we perfected the art of ignoring and numbing ourselves with alcohol, drugs, entertainment, or hedonism but because Christ gives us a transcendent life that glimpses eternity!
That is what Christianity is: a glimpse into the divine life of God. And it is worth walking through His Holy fire.