In the early hours of Monday February 6 th a massive earthquake, measuring 7.8 on the Richter Scale,
devastated South East Turkey and North West Syria. It was followed by at least 120 aftershocks. The
strength of the quake was compounded by the shallow depth of only 11 miles at which it occurred.
In moments whole towns were levelled. A death toll of more than 35 000 has been recorded but
many more bodies remain undiscovered. The World Health Organisation estimates that 23 million
people have been affected – died, injured, bereaved, homeless, all possessions lost, cold and hungry.
The degree of suffering cannot be imagined by us living in the safety of the United Kingdom.
And so, the questions rise to our lips:
If God is a God of love, then HOW COME He allowed this to happen and such suffering to take place?
Did God do this? Is this the punishment of a harsh God on a people who do not worship Him?
Or is this evidence of a God who just doesn’t care?
Or is this proof that there is no God!
This is the toughest question of all. Because I have to confess that my answer is this: I don’t know!
And I am no longer afraid to give this answer to anyone who asks.
We always want the answer to that question: WHY? WHY? WHY?

You may well be greatly disappointed that this is NOT going to be the focus of my discourse here.
Back on the 2 nd October 2022 Ernest spoke very cogently on what he termed the “Hard Question” of
“Why does God allow suffering?” – and I encourage you to look back over past YouTube broadcasts
to re-watch his message.
In his sermon Ernest reminded us that:
 Bad things happen – to “good” people as well as “bad” – none are exempt from suffering.
 God is the God of Love (see, for example 1 John 4: 16) – so God won’t want to see any of us
suffering – right?
 God is all-powerful (said many times – such as Genesis 17: 1 – El Shaddai) – so He is able to
do anything and so surely He is able to stop all suffering…right?
However, God clearly DOESN’T stop all suffering happening…and again we cry out “WHY?”
I want to simply cite Ernest’s use of the work of Sheldon Vanauten who (in my VERY concise
summary) says that one of the greatest principles of our loving God is His gift to us of “free will” –
absolutely necessary if we are to be honoured with an intimate relationship with Him rather than
live as emotionless automatons. Thus, if God, out of His Love and Power stops ONE suffering, then
He has to stop ALL suffering – no wars in Ukraine, no earthquakes in Turkey, no murder on a campus


in the USA, no theft on the streets of Johannesburg. When the bullet is fired God would have to turn
it away from its target; when the cancerous cells multiply God would have to destroy them; when
the car spins off the road, God would have to bring it back under control. There would have to be no
more death, no more suffering, no more pain, no more crying – NOW – not waiting for Heaven. No
longer would mankind enjoy Free Will – a gift that must allow for its abuse by a Fallen Mankind.
There would be no more sin – so no need for a Saviour. There would be no point to anything!
“Why?” is SOOOO the wrong question! In the Bible a whole Book – Job – was written on the
question of suffering. We are given an insight into the work of Satan in the suffering of Job…but Job
is never given that information. Read the Book of Job and you will see that God NEVER ANSWERS
Job’s constant plea to find out why this was happening to him. Instead God shows him that he can
never understand – where was he, God asks, when He created the universe? What God asks Job to
do is to trust in Him.
“Why?” is SOOOO the wrong question! I am being increasingly led to not worry too much about the
“why?” but to spend my energy asking how I am going to RESPOND to the inevitable suffering we all
experience. I am being led to consider two key words when it comes to suffering: React and
A “reaction” is an automatic, unthinking, consequence. A “response” is a choice made as to how I am
going to go forward with any circumstance in my life.
So: when a balloon is burst, I REACT by jumping; but I RESPOND by telling the culprit off.
When copper is mixed with 12% tin it REACTS and turns into bronze; but I RESPOND by making a
beautiful sculpture out of this metal.
Thus, when I suffer, I REACT by crying out “Why? This is not fair!”; but I am called to RESPOND by
declaring that “I will not let this get me down – but by the Grace of God and the Power of the Holy
Spirit I will grow through this, draw closer to my Father God, and will become a stronger and a better
person. In fact, I will trust Him to help and guide me through all this”.
Jesus picks up on this theme at a time when the religious thinking of the Jews was that God, all-
powerful, must be the One behind all suffering and that as God is always Good, then that suffering
must be punishment for man being Bad:
Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood
Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices.  2  Jesus answered, ‘Do you think that these Galileans
were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way?  3  I tell you,
no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.  4  Or those eighteen who died when the
tower in Siloam fell on them – do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in
Jerusalem?  5  I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.’ (Luke 13: 1-5)
This passage shows us that there’s a lot more factors in play than simply that “God did this, or He
allowed this to happen”. Rather than asking “why?” it might be more beneficial to recognise the
influences that cause suffering to happen.

John Mark Comer (and many others) conclude that there are 5 factors at play in any suffering that
takes place:



  1. God – the Almighty – certainly I suffer when I have done wrong – told a lie or said something
    hurtful. My “conscience” pricks me. I feel guilty. Well…that’s the Holy Spirit poking me – so it
    could be said that He is the cause of my suffering. On a bigger scale it was God who caused
    the suffering of Pharaoh and the Egyptians who, as we saw in our last session, refused to
    obey God’s command to let His people go from slavery. But…hang on here! Can we REALLY
    blame God for this suffering???
  2. The second factor is ME! God has given us this wonderful gift of free will – because He wants
    relationship and not automatons. And when I misuse my free will – and steal, and lie, and
    cheat and kill – then I cause others to suffer (not just them, but their family and their friends
    and their nations).
  3. And when YOU misuse your free will – and act against me, then you cause me to suffer. Let’s
    not blame God for the war in Ukraine. It’s Putin’s fault! Yes, God COULD stop it with a wave
    of His hand…but then He will be removing His free gift of free will from us – and this He will
    not do!
  4. The fourth factor is Satan and the “powers” – he IS real and not an abstract concept. He IS a
    spiritual being in league with other spiritual beings who are at war with God. A huge chunk
    of the world is today under his control. He is prowling around the world like a roaring lion
    looking for whom he can devour. He brings anger, hate, jealousy, bitterness, pain and grief
    to this world.
  5. Then there’s “chaos” – God created a perfect universe – but we (OH DEAR! OUR FAULT
    AGAIN!) brought sin, rebellion, evil, into this universe. And this sin has infected the whole of
    creation. So, earthquakes happen in Turkey and northern Syria. This is not suffering brought
    on by God to punish a Moslem nation – Christians as well as Moslems are suffering, and why
    Turkey and not Iran if it is God’s punishment on false religion? No! Earthquakes, volcanic
    eruptions, floods, tornadoes, drought – these cause suffering because of the chaos that has
    come into the universe.

John Mark Comer (in teaching that I have summarised in a separate document) concludes with
saying that Romans 8: 18-28 is crucial in our understanding of suffering – particularly v. 28:
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been
called according to his purpose
He declares:
‘Whatever our suffering now, we have a true hope for the future. It is NOT that nothing bad
will happen to us. Jesus promises us that in this life we will have tribulation. It does not say
that God has a plan in all that happens to us. It says that WHATEVER HAPPENS Jesus is King
and His Kingdom is coming and God is with you, you are not alone and if you turn over all
your broken pieces of your life to Jesus then He will turn it into something beautiful – good
for us…don’t ask “Why am I suffering?” instead ask “What does God want to do for me
through all this suffering?” What is God going to do in the end? A day is coming when God


will put all things right. In the meantime this life is temporary – a blip in comparison to
eternal life. “What is God going to do through my suffering in the meantime?” – in Judo we
use our opponent’s weight against them – Jesus will do the same thing. “What is God trying
to do with me right now?” – the hard-knocks of life are a crucible to refine us. Suffering will
either break you or make you.’
At last year’s “Spring Harvest” we attended an event led by Patrick Regan who now heads up an
organisation called “Kintsugi Hope” which is dedicated to helping those who are broken through
suffering. Life is compared to pottery – beautiful, but so easily broken. Rather than throw the broken
vessel away, it is recognised that a precious pot is worth saving – with a process that makes it
stronger and more beautiful than ever before. Their website explains:
“Kintsugi’ (金継ぎ) is a Japanese technique for repairing pottery with seams of gold. The
word means ‘golden joinery’ in Japanese. This repairs the brokenness in a way that makes
the object more beautiful, and even more unique than it was prior to being broken. Instead
of hiding the scars it makes a feature of them.”
Suffering may break us, but God wants to make us stronger, and more beautiful, through it.
A good summary of this section might again be the words of Jamie Owens who sung:
“Now don’t you fret now child, don’t you worry; the rain’s to help you grow, so don’t try to
hurry the storm along – the hard times make you strong”.
Paul writes on this in Romans 5: 3-4, saying:
Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces
perseverance;  4  perseverance, character; and character, hope
Our attitude is key to how we manage suffering. As I have gone through life, I have noticed that
some seem to “smile” through adversity while others “suffer” over the slightest thing. The former
generally seem to be those who have a closer relationship with their Father in Heaven.
If there is one thing I have learnt through life it is that ALL of us suffer at one time or the other. We
take care of our health, we save our money for that “rainy day”, we inoculate and vaccinate, we take
no chances, avoid all risks, wrap ourselves in cotton wool. But all these things simply stave off the
suffering which is common to all of us.
I DO NOT UNDERSTAND most of the suffering that affects me, my loved ones or the world. But I do
follow the One who DOES understand.
This is possibly the crucial point in our understanding of suffering. Suffering comes to ALL of us –
good and bad, old and young, black and white, male and female, Christian and non-Christian. I do
not begin to understand WHY we suffer. I THINK that each circumstance must be looked at
individually – and that maybe there might be understanding; but I KNOW that when we go to
Heaven we shall understand – all shall make sense to us then. BUT BUT BUT – God wants us to know
HOLD OF HIM IN OUR DARKEST HOURS. For He has experienced the worst of suffering – and He did
it because He loves us. This is what it says on this in Isaiah:
“His appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any human being and his form marred
beyond human likeness” (52: 14)


He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.
4  Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God,
stricken by him, and afflicted. 5  But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for
our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are
healed. (53: 3-5)
He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the
slaughter (53: 7)
He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death,
though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth.
10  Yet it was the LORD’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though
the LORD makes his life an offering for sin, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and
the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand. 11  After he has suffered, he will see the light of
life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will
bear their iniquities. (53: 9-11)
That is why I call us all – me most of all – to remember that we must…
Trust in the Lord with all [our] heart and lean not on [our} own understanding (Proverbs 3: 5)
Our attitude must be one of crying out to God in our suffering, admitting that we do not understand
why this suffering is taking place, and then trusting Him to help us through our suffering and that of
others – being with us, supporting us, comforting us – especially during those times when the
suffering makes no sense at all.
So let our attitude not be one of accusing God because of the suffering, but let our attitude be one
of holding on to God IN our suffering. For the truth is that of Psalm 23:
The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
2      He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
3      he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
    for his name’s sake.
4  Even though I walk
    through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
    for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.
5  You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.
6  Surely your goodness and love will follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD
    for ever.


There are times when I am lying down in peace in “green pastures”. There are times when I am
“walk[ing] through the darkest valley”. But whether times are good or times are bad, whether I am
in peace or suffering, He is my Shepherd, He will guide me, He will be with me, He will bless me and
love me, and I will dwell with Him in Paradise for ever.


(Cited by John Stott: “The Cross of Christ” 1966 p. 336-337 and Nicky Gumbel: “Searching Issues”

1997 edition p. 23-24)

At the end of time, billions of people were scattered on a great plain before God’s throne.
Most shrank back from the brilliant light before them. But some groups near the front talked
heatedly – not with cringing shame, but with belligerence.
“Can God judge us? How can he know about suffering?” snapped a young brunette. She ripped open
a sleeve to reveal a tattooed number from a Nazi concentration camp. “We endured
In another group a young man lowered his collar. “What about this?” he demanded, showing an ugly
rope burn. “Lynched…for no crime but being black!”
In another crowd, a pregnant schoolgirl with sullen eyes. “Why should I suffer?” she murmured. “It
wasn’t my fault.”
Far out across the plain there were hundreds of such groups. Each had a complaint against God for
the evil and suffering he permitted in his world. How lucky God was to live in heaven where all was
sweetness and light, where there was no weeping or fear, no hunger or hatred. What did God know
of all that man had been forced to endure in this world? For God leads a pretty sheltered life, they
So each of these groups sent forth their leader, chosen because he had suffered the most. A Jew, a
young black man, a person from Hiroshima, a horribly deformed arthritic, a thalidomide child. In the
centre of the plain they consulted with each other. At last they were ready to present their case. It
was rather clever.
Before God could be qualified to be their judge, he must endure what they had endured. Their
decision was that God should be sentenced to live on earth – as a man!
“Let him be born a Jew. Let the legitimacy of his birth be doubted. Give him a work so difficult that
even his family will think him out of his mind when he tries to do it. Let him be betrayed by his
closest friends. Let him face false charges, be tried by a prejudiced jury and convicted by a cowardly
judge. Let him be tortured.
“At the last, let him see what it means to be terribly alone. Then let him die. Let him die so that
there can be do doubt that he died. Let there be a great host of witnesses to verify it.”
As each leader announced his portion of the sentence, loud murmurs of approval went up from the
throng of people assembled.


And when the last had finished pronouncing sentence, there was a long silence. No-one uttered
another word. No-one moved. For suddenly all knew that God had already served his sentence.