Written By Joshua Woo
Joshua Woo is the special officer to a Member of Parliament in Malaysia. He was formerly a Presbyterian pastor in Singapore.
At a recent political conference, I had the opportunity to meet individuals from different countries, many of whom were currently living amid political uncertainty.
Listening to the struggles they faced in their own countries, I was intrigued. Some had been imprisoned before. Some were living in exile. Some were being prosecuted by their governments. Many didn’t have the opportunity to study, work, or start a family.
The plight of other groups caught my attention as well—the Syrian and Rohingya refugees, and the victims of human trafficking. The former were forced to leave their countries and cross borders illegally in order to survive, while the latter were kidnapped, prostituted, and traded. I was also gripped by the accounts of those forced to live in terrible conditions. Some were even murdered, as the recent discovery of mass graves at the borders between Malaysia and Thailand proved.
As I mulled over their tragic stories, I had to wonder: Why do some people suffer so much more than others? And what does the Bible say about this?
Suffering is everywhere
Suffering is everywhere and inevitable. Even around our home, we can see families who can’t afford more than one meal a day, students pushed to their limits, workers put out of jobs, elderly folk abandoned by family members, and migrant workers exploited by employers.
Suffering is also a key theme in the Bible. It tells us of many instances where God allows or was even involved in suffering: God giving Satan the permission to inflict Job (Job 1.8-12), Joseph’s difficult time in Egypt (Genesis 50:20), Jesus’ suffering on the cross (1 Peter 2:24), and the persecution of the early Christians (2 Corinthians 1:6-7).
Scripture tells us that some people suffer because of divine punishment, some for their faith, and some to save others.
Today, the suffering we see around us may be due to one of the above reasons. But there may be other reasons that we don’t know or don’t understand. Just like in the past, God knows exactly why He allows some people to suffer more than others, but He may not always reveal the reasons to us.
God’s Goodness and Love
What we do know for sure, however, is that God is loving and good. We can stay strong in our hope in Him through such times, even when we do not have the answer to suffering.
It’s easy to feel a great sense of despair when we see so much injustice and discrimination around us. But I take comfort from what the psalmist wrote, “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever” (Psalm 107:1).
God’s goodness and love is clearly demonstrated through Jesus, whom He sent to redeem and save us from our sins when we were still God’s enemies. “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:6-8).
Jesus suffered the greatest injustice of all when He died for sinners like you and me. So, in moments when we’re suffering for no apparent reason and we cannot comprehend why, we need only to look at the cross. As German theologian Jurgen Moltmann once said, “It’s only for Christ’s sake that I believe in God.”
And God promises that our suffering will not be forever. He will “wipe every tear” in the coming eternity. “There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation 21:4).
Because of Christ, we can rest our faith in the good and loving God despite not knowing why some people suffer more than others. God is there for them—as He is here for us through Jesus.