Why does God allow people to suffer? People have been asking that question since the beginning of time. I address this issue at length over the course of both volumes of Take Every Thought to Prayer. However, for a quick read, here's what I learned during my long season of hardship.
God wants to be your only God
He is God. You and I are not. However, we like to think we are our own gods. We want to do whatever we want to do whenever we feel like doing it. Our lives are our own to live and we want no interference from God. He exists to give us whatever we want, the great Santa Claus in the sky. We doubt Him. We worry. We take things into our own hands because we don't think God can or will handle it. We value other things more than God (money, power, fame, pleasure, etc.,.). And guess what? We mess up our lives big time! God is in the business of setting things straight in our lives - He is God and we are not. This is His love for us. If we do things His way, we will be spiritually blessed. God may be at work in your life trying to get you to acknowledge that He is God and you are not.
He wants you to trust only Him
We put our trust in circumstances and conditions. "I am secure because...I have a stable job, a great career, a nice house, meaningful relationships, talents and skills, a network of connections, a good education, and a lot of money in the bank. Therefore, I need not worry about the future." God wants us to trust only Him. When we have placed our trust in these other things, He allows each of them to disappoint us, proving to us that they cannot protect us or provide for us like He can. God may allow trouble to come to our job, career, home, friendships, skills, connections, education, or bank account so that we learn only He can be trusted. God wants us to learn true contentment - that no matter how difficult life is, we know God is there for us and we will be fine.
He is building your character
God wants you to be loving, kind, generous, merciful, and compassionate. He wants you to be faithful and dependable. He wants you to be honest and truthful. He wants you to be patient and gentle. He wants you to be self-controlled. You can control your thoughts and feelings. You don't have to be a slave to whatever thought comes to mind. There is only one way to build these character traits - difficult times. Hardship. Adversity. Suffering. Like a boat caught in a storm, we must stay the course and persevere until the wind and the waves quiet and the sea returns to calm. When its all over, we will be stronger emotionally and spiritually. We didn't just survive the storm. We conquered it by God's strength. We have grown and matured. God is in the business of building your character. The more you resist the lessons He is trying to teach you, the longer the storm may last.
He wants you to comfort others
2 Corinthians 1:3-4 states that we receive comfort from God in our own suffering so that we can comfort others with the comfort He has given us. In other words, your suffering today is to prepare you to comfort someone tomorrow. The woman who is crying in this photo may be experiencing grief. She has just lost someone she loves. The woman with her arms around her lost someone she loved a few years before. She has been through all of the same feelings. She understands her friend's pain. Today she is present, listening and caring. Tomorrow, she will share her own story of God's compassion and it will be comforting. You may be suffering today because there are people God will be bringing into your life tomorrow who need comfort. God is preparing you for the privilege to help someone in need.