That night you asked at the dining table: “Why does God allow Pastor X to have cancer?” In the same breath, I heard you ask: “Why does God allow His people to suffer and go through difficult situations?”
I suggest we take time to consider Romans 8:18-30, which talks about “groaning”. It refers to one letting out a long and mournful sound that conveys deep pain and anguish.
1. Creation is groaning (Romans 8:20-22)
“Creation” encompasses all created things, including the physical, botanical, animal and human world. Romans 8:20-21 says that God subjected all creation to suffer decay because of sin. When Adam and Eve sinned at the Garden of Eden, the created world bore the consequence of their sin. Death and decay happens now to every created thing and should lead us to recognize that something is awfully wrong in this world, something bad has happened to it, and it is called sin.
We who are believers in Christ are part of this creation. God has appointed all men (and this includes believers in Christ) to experience physical death (Hebrews 9:27). This means our bodies will likewise suffer breakdown and decay. We are not immune to disease and death whilst on earth. Similarly, Pastor X will not be spared from this universal experience though he is faithful and godly.
Yet creation groans with eager hope! There will be a day when God will eradicate the presence and consequence of sin so that there will be no more pain and death.
2. Believers in Christ are groaning (Romans 8:23)
Not only do believers groan as part of this fallen creation that experiences decay and death; we also groan as God’s redeemed people who have tasted His goodness whilst on Earth. As believers, we experience each day the fruits of new life in Christ. As we taste of His goodness, we long for more in our lives without disruption, and also for heaven.
However this foretaste of heaven conflicts with our negative experiences of sin in and around us (e.g. bitterness, selfishness, pride, envy, murder, abuse) and also the consequence of sin being played out in creation (decay and death).
So we groan for the day when our physical bodies will be fully redeemed, i.e. when we will be resurrected to receive a new body that will no longer suffer decay (see 1 Corinthians 15:35-44). We also groan for the day when we will be fully adopted as His children, whereby we will enjoy Him forever!
This day will arrive when Christ returns for His people again. It will be the day when we received total relational and physical healing, in which the fulfilment of Isaiah 53:5 – “…with His wounds we are healed” will take place.
3. The Holy Spirit in us is groaning (Romans 8:26-27)
As believers in Christ groan for the day of Christ’s return, we are not left to bear the consequence of sin on earth alone. In our weakness, we are unable to behold God’s will in many things in life. We cannot understand why this or that happens. We struggle to make sense of our suffering and trials.
However we thank God that, in moments like these, we can find solace in the fact that the Holy Spirit prays for us with groaning too deep for words. He groans because He identifies with our pain as He prays for us. He is not giving token prayers. He prays with profound understanding of what we are going through and how we are feeling. Yet He knows the will of the Father and prays for us according to His will. And God’s will for us is clearly stated in Romans 8:29 – that we will ultimately become like His Son, Jesus Christ.
So, in times when you are going through pain and need, I suggest we spend time crying out to Him with a strong awareness that the Holy Spirit is praying for us. Be comforted that we are not alone in your sorrow and grief, He identifies with us deep inside. Seek also to understand how this trial we are going through will help us grow towards being Christ-like.
We are shortsighted sinful beings who are unable to grasp the full wisdom of our sovereign God. Let us trust in His steadfast love which is fully displayed at the Cross at Calvary: Romans 8:32“He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things?”
By Rick Toh, Lead Pastor/Elder (YCKC Bulletin 5&6 August 2017)