When I speak at high schools, one question I’m frequently asked is, “If God loves us, why do so many people suffer in the world?” In responding to my listeners, I challenge the idea that God best expresses His love to us by giving us things and simply making our lives easy. This inaccurate way of viewing how He operates exists and persists both inside and outside of the church.
So it was with Joseph’s brothers when they saw the favor shown to him by Jacob their father (Genesis 37:3-4). Unwisely, Jacob blatantly doted on his second-youngest son, and his other sons couldn’t help seeing he didn’t love them as much. Since they felt unloved, this brought out a hateful response from them towards the object of their father’s affection (Genesis 37:8).
As this bitterness took root, the men grew so discontented that they treated Joseph ruthlessly—throwing him into a large hole in the ground (Genesis 37:20,23-24). Then they callously sold him to some Midianite traders (Genesis 37:28). This seems shocking—almost impossible to believe. But consider the toxic thoughts and actions that can flow from our own hearts—especially when we begin to believe that others must be loved more by God as we view their lives of ease and blessing. An incorrect view of God’s love can make any one of us bitter toward Him and the perceived objects of His affection.
The key is in understanding that God has revealed the depth of His love for us not through material things, health, or favor, but in Jesus’ sacrifice: “God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners” (Romans 5:8). In Jesus’ suffering, we find purpose for our own pain and we experience the fullness of God’s love revealed.
NLT 365-day reading plan passage for today: Luke 12:49-59
Read 1 John 4:7-11 and consider again God’s ultimate sacrifice of love for us.
How has your faith been swayed by the pain or hardship you’ve faced? How has God’s love for you changed your view of suffering?