Friday, March 30, 2007

Question #1: Why does my child have to suffer?

Prior to answering this question, I need to quickly mention a couple of things. First, scripture (not experience) will be the authority. Second, I will try to keep an eternal perspective in all this.

So, why does Bobby, my only son of 8 years, have to suffer? If I can step back for a moment, this seems like quite a self-focused question. As if somehow it would be OK for others to suffer, but not for my child. A better question may be, "Why does anyone have to suffer?"

Three answers spring to mind. First, suffering exists because sin exists. I cannot recall any suffering in the Garden of Eden. Nor will there be any suffering in heaven. However, during this time a great deal of suffering exists. Just watch the national news any night.

Adam sinned; therefore we all sin. Romans 5:12 tells us, "Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned." Suffering happens because sin happens.

Second, we know that Jesus Christ suffered. For those of us who are Christians, we cherish His suffering because it brings us life. Isaiah 53:3-5 says, "He is despised and rejected by men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed." As if this was not enough, II Cor. 5:21 says, "For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." If our Lord, our Savior, and our Example suffered, why should we not do the same? I Peter 2:21 simply states, "For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps."

Third, suffering is a gift from God. What? Now that flies in the face of comfortable Christianity. It is true. It is biblical. In Phil. 1:29, Paul writes, "For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake." The wording in the original language makes it clear that both belief in Christ and suffering for Christ are gifts. What good does this do? Romans 5:3-5 informs us that tribulations produce hope. Phil. 3:4-14 lets us know that suffering for Christ draws us closer to Him. So even though it may be difficult for us to see or even admit, suffering is a gift of God.

I realize that the immediate context of many of the above passages is one of suffering directly for the cause of Christ. However, I believe the principles taught can apply to a wider range of suffering, including illness.

So when I want to ask why my child has to suffer, I must remember that suffering exists because sin exists, that Christ suffered so we should expect the same, and that suffering is ultimately a gift from God.

One last thing to keep in mind: God does not have to answer the "Why?" question. When God answered Job in chapter 38:1-3, the text says, "Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said, "Who is this who darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Now prepare yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer Me."

I have to admit that I still do not like it that Bobby has to suffer. I can't stand watching him be in pain. However, I cannot let my experience supersede what the Bible says. Let's all stand on the scriptures.


Janet said...

I came here via Dave Black's web page. Our very dear friend Joshua (12) was diagnosed with Burkitt's on July 4th and has made a miraculous recovery. His treatment went very well with little complication. If you are interested in learning a few things my friends did to help during treatment you can email me at It sounds like the type of cancer your son has is somewhat similar to Joshes. Any way, I know I'm a complete stranger to you but I or my friend would love to encourage you during this time. God Bless little Bobby. (I wrote about this on my blog. It's in the archives starting in July) Sincerely Janet.

Laura said...

Good post. I came over here from Dave Black's blog. Two of our children have an incurable (though most likely, not fatal) liver disease. It is indeed true that watching our children suffer is incredibly difficult! Your sweet Bobby will be in our family's prayers.

Eric said...

Laura, thank you very much for your prayers. My wife (Alice) and I greatly appreciate it. I'm sure you feel the same we do in that we wish we could take the pain instead of our child having to deal with it. We praise God that He is so faithful and good. He always does what is right. I hope your two children with the liver disease are doing well.

Eric said...

Janet, Considering that Burkitt's is a relatively rare disorder in the USA, it is amazing how many different people we have heard from who have been touched by it in some way. Praise the Lord that Joshua is doing well. And yes, we would love the encouragement. Thank you for caring enough to write to me, a complete stranger.

Heather said...

I came here from Alan's blog ... thank you for hsaring and for being so honest. I will be praying for you and your family and your precious son!


Eric said...

Heather, thank you so much for praying for Bobby. The Lord is good and has already answered so many prayers for us. We pray that He will use this to His glory.

Alan is my good friend, and always has insights that challenge what I think about church. He really is a great guy.

Thanks again. God bless you.