When bad things happen to good people, as they say, too often the good people begin to doubt God's love. Sometimes even our "comforting friends" begin to doubt God's love for us, begin to suspect God's opposition (or just as bad, God's indifference) behind a dark streak of misfortune running through our lives. In our minds, we have an assumption that my sociology professor used to call the "just world hypothesis": we suppose the world is fair, that actions and results tie together, that good things happen to good people and bad things happen to bad people. It works often enough for us to use it as a working premise. When things are going well this is a comfort to us because it strengthens our assumptions that we're good people and that the world makes sense. But when things are going badly this distresses us because we search for the cause of it in our lives. Seeing no plausible reason brings out the cry of "Why?"
When we suffer, it is too easy to doubt God's love. We wonder if we have been abandoned. We wonder if God cares about our troubles. We wonder if God has set himself against us. In our short-sightedness, we are tempted to think that those who suffer are cursed.
"Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted." (Matthew 5:4) Jesus sets this against all of our empty and fearful thoughts. Suffering and sadness are not a curse. In fact, God promises to bless those who mourn. We will be comforted. He does not promise that we will be wiser, though possibly we may. He does not promise that we will not have trouble or sorrows; in fact he reminds us that in this world we will have troubles. But he urges us to take heart; he has overcome the world. (John 16:33)
"Brothers, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. As you know, we consider blessed those who have persevered." (James 5:10-11) We look at those who have suffered in the faith. We know that those who had little to endure are not considered as blessed, because the power of God was not shown as much in their lives. Those we see as the greatest examples of the past are not those who had the easiest lives, but those who had the hardest.
Some of God's most beloved servants suffered terribly. The darker the sorrow that we endure, the more those around us will be startled by the light. Christ lives in us powerfully when we suffer, especially when we suffer in fellowship with him. His grace is plainest in our weakness. If the light inside us is nothing but a smoldering wick, he will not snuff it out.