Questions Sufferers Ask

A message from
Pastor Josh Laxton

John 11(NIV)


John 11(NIV)

The Death of Lazarus

1 Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 2 (This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair.) 3 So the sisters sent word to Jesus, "Lord, the one you love is sick."

4 When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” 5 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6 So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days, 7 and then he said to his disciples, "Let us go back to Judea."

8 “But Rabbi,” they said, “a short while ago the Jews there tried to stone you, and yet you are going back?”

9 Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Anyone who walks in the daytime will not stumble, for they see by this world’s light. 10 It is when a person walks at night that they stumble, for they have no light."

11 After he had said this, he went on to tell them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.”

12 His disciples replied, “Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.” 13 Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep. 14 So then he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, 15 and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him." 16 Then Thomas (also known as Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, Let us go to him, that we may die with him."

Jesus Comforts the Sister of Lazarus

17 On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. 18 Now Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem, 19 and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. 20 When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home. 21 “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask." 23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”

24 Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day." 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?" 27 “Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world. 28 After she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary aside. “The Teacher is here,” she said, “and is asking for you.” 29 When Mary heard this, she got up quickly, and went to him. 30 Now Jesus had not yet entered the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. 31 When the Jews who had been with Mary in the house, comforting her, noticed how quickly she got up and went out, they followed her, supposing she was going to the tomb to mourn there. 32 When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” 33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. 34 "Where have you laid him?" he asked.

“Come and see, Lord,” they replied 35 Jesus wept.

36 Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”

37 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”

Jesus Raises Lazarus From the Dead

38 Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. 39 "Take away the stone," he said.

“But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.” 40 Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”

41 So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me. 43 When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.

Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”

The Plot to Kill Jesus

45 Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him. 46 But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. 47 Then the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin.

“What are we accomplishing?” they asked. “Here is this man performing many signs. 48 If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our temple and our nation.

49 Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up, “You know nothing at all! 50 You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish."

51 He did not say this on his own, but as high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation, 52 and not only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one. 53 So from that day on they plotted to take his. life. 54 Therefore Jesus no longer moved about publicly among the people of Judea. Instead he withdrew to a region near the wilderness, to a village called Ephraim, where he stayed with his disciples.

55 When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, many went up from the country to Jerusalem for their ceremonial cleansing before the Passover. 56 They kept looking for Jesus, and as they stood in the temple courts they asked one another," What do you think? Isn't he coming to the festival at all? 57 But the chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that anyone who found out where Jesus was should report it so that they might arrest him.

Worship Focus

Today, we worship God for His compassion. He is patient with our questions and stands ready to heal our hurts and disappointments. Our awesome God loves us with a neverending love.

Digging Deeper

THIS WEEK'S Bible study


Transitions: Questions Sufferers Ask

Last week we observed how the Apostle Paul summarized his life with God. He had poured out his life as a drink offering, he had run the race, fought the good fight, and kept the faith. The way he lived his life meant he could face death without fear and be confident that he would transition into heaven. 

This week, we’ll cover another big subject – suffering. The questions we naturally ask when we suffer are also expressed by prominent Bible characters. We’ll come alongside some of them this week and see how they processed the suffering they faced.

How to Use This Guide 

Thank you for taking the time to do this Bible study. When we dig deeper into God’s word, He promises to bless us. We follow in the footsteps of King David, who wrote in Psalm 119:105: “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.

This guide will provide a weekly framework for spiritual conversations with friends or family. We encourage you to reach out to a friend or two, pick a time to get together each week, and work through this guide together. This Bible study can also be a good tool for families, perhaps coordinated with mealtimes.


This is the main question we ask when we suffer. An even deeper question is why does suffering exist? The short answer is that suffering exists because of sin. According to the Bible, God created the world and called everything He made good (Genesis 1:31). He even rested and enjoyed what He had made (Genesis 2:1-3). But, the human beings He made, Adam and Eve, disobeyed Him and broke their fellowship with God (Genesis 3:1-13). God pronounced curses on the two humans, but also on the serpent who had tempted them to sin (Genesis 3:14-19).  Adam and Eve were then barred from paradise (Genesis 3:22-24) to await the promised Redeemer who would crush the evil that had infiltrated God’s creation (Genesis 3:15). This was accomplished by Jesus Christ who was both God and therefore perfect and sinless, but also a human being who could live the life of perfect obedience that God had intended for all humanity. 

Most of us know the story of Adam and Eve and their failure. But, why does their mistake have to affect every person who followed after them? In other words, what does their sin have to do with you or me? We didn’t eat the forbidden fruit. It is acceptable to ask these why-questions. However, we can not know the full answer. Sometimes we can understand why a person who did wrong might suffer, but what about innocent people? Why do they have to suffer for something two people did so long ago? Let’s put this another way. Why would God leave us with such a conundrum where we can’t find a satisfying answer? Why is this such a puzzle? We want to put things together, but we simply do not have all the pieces. Let’s see what we can learn from some Bible characters who also asked, “Why?


One of the first sufferers who reached out to God in the Bible was Rebekah, the wife of Isaac, Abraham’s son. Rebekah was suffering during her pregnancy. You can read about this in Genesis 25:20-28. What was happening within Rebekah’s womb, according to Genesis 25:26? Of course, Rebekah couldn’t just get a sonogram and have a doctor tell her what was going on. Who did Rebekah go to for an answer? What did the Lord say to her? Do you think this made her pregnancy any easier? 

Rebekah is one of the first human beings to approach God and ask why she was suffering. Can you imagine suffering in this way, from something within your own body? Rebekah had had trouble conceiving a child. Now that she was pregnant, it was as if there was a war going on inside of her. God explained the physical struggle within was a sign of something bigger. God helped her see that there was a purpose behind this struggle. God then gave her a prophecy about her twins and their future. Without knowing God’s plan, Rebekah and Isaac would naturally have given preference to their older son, Esau. Because Rebekah believed God’s words to her, Rebekah gave special treatment to Jacob, the twin born second (see Genesis 25:28). On the other hand, Isaac loved his first-born twin Esau, but for the wrong reason - Esau enjoyed hunting and Isaac enjoyed eating. 

Because she believed God’s words to her during her difficult pregnancy, Rebekah fought for Jacob to have what God had promised him. This is a story of having the right motive, but the wrong strategy. Instead of trusting God to work out His plan, Rebekah and eventually Jacob too, deceived Isaac and manipulated the circumstances to get what was promised to Jacob. Instead of trusting God, they took control of the situation and made things happen themselves. Their actions resulted in more suffering as both Rebekah and Jacob had to deal with the repercussions of their wrong choices. 

So, what can we learn from Rebekah and her suffering? We can learn that it is okay to ask God why we are suffering. It is good to seek His will and discern whether there might be a bigger perspective than we would not be able to come up with on our own. But, if God reveals something to us, we would also do well to believe Him as Rebekah did, but also trust Him to work out His plan. God will likely use all involved to work out His will, but He will never ask us to sin. Suffering may lead us to ask why, but knowing more also brings with it responsibility that must be lived out in trust and faith. 


Next, we’ll look at Moses, who asked God why He was allowing the Israelites to suffer at the hands of the the Egyptians. You can read about this in Exodus 5, especially in verse 22. Moses had obeyed God’s call to help deliver the Israelites from their slavery to the Egyptians, but this did not happen over night. The conditions worsened, so much so that the Israelites even turned against Moses and his brother Aaron. So, Moses asked God why. What is God’s answer to Moses question in Exodus 6:1-8. God’s words overflow with I-statements in these verses. What does God say He will do? What does God say that He has already done? Look at Exodus 6:7 for the reasons behind God’s actions and timing. God has two “I will” statements in this verse and then one “you will” promise for Israel. What is the difference between what God can do and what He will do for Israel?

Everything God was going to do between the time he sent Moses to the time Israel crossed the Red Sea and exited Egypt was designed to show that He was Israel’s God. Why was this necessary? The primary reason is that people in ancient times worshiped many gods. There were gods in charge of agriculture, fertility, the weather, and war. People usually worshiped multiple gods, depending on what they thought they needed. But God, through His powerful acts, intended to show that He was God over all other gods, all things, and all people. In this case, God sent a series of plagues. During the time of their suffering, Israel was to know that God was their God. He was the one who would free them from their slavery. He had chosen Israel to be in a special relationship with Him as His people. At the end, when they left Egypt, they were sure that God was who He said He was and that they were His people.

From this story, we learn another aspect of why we suffer. Sometimes we suffer so that God will do a miracle in our life and others will know He is the real God. God may heal us of a disease in a way that all who see or hear about it realize that God is all-powerful. God can also do other miracles in our suffering. Sometimes the miracle is that we continue to trust and have faith in God even as we suffer. Others see this and marvel. They begin to realize that God is real. 


Moses again asked God why in Numbers 11:11-12. When faced with a multitude of people who were complaining about the lack in variety of their food, Moses had to endure people from every family in Israel wailing at the entrance of their tents. God was angry and Moses was “troubled.” What did Moses ask God in Numbers 11:11-12? Moses was suffering to such an extent that he wanted to die (see Numbers 11:15). What was God’s answer to Moses prayer in Numbers 11:16-32? 

Can you relate to Moses’ suffering at this point? Perhaps you are a parent who is weary with your children’s complaining. You might be a teacher overwhelmed with unruly students. Do you have to work under an overbearing boss? Feeling overwhelmed with others’ negativity can lead you to ask God, why. You might be asking, “Why do things have to be so hard? It’s more than I can handle.” Notice how God answered Moses’ question. When Moses turned to God, God sent him help. God acknowledged that it was too much for one person. He then provided 70 people and equipped them with the same Spirit that Moses experienced. God showed Moses that He cared about his well being and sent him some help. 

When we suffer under a heavy load, we can also ask God, why. Perhaps He will send you someone you can talk to and get advice from. These helpers may even take some of the load off your shoulders.


In the story of Job, the main character asks why at least 16 times in Job 1-37. Job’s life is a cautionary tale for how to handle suffering. After a mysterious opening where God and Satan spar over the righteousness of God’s servant Job, God allows Satan to take Job to the limit to find out whether or not he really trusted and believed in God. Job’s friends come and commiserate, but in the end, they do not have a satisfactory answer for why Job suffers. 

The whys end with the appearance of God in the story. In Job 38, God speaks to Job out of the storm. Read God’s answer to Job’s why in Job 38-40:2. God basically lets Job know that he has no right to question God and his actions. God backs up His statements with evidence of His power and wisdom. What is Job’s reply to God’s speech in Job 40:3-5? Notice Job has stopped asking why. What else does God have to say in Job 40:7-Job 41? How does Job respond to God this time in Job 42:2-6? 

Job has humbled himself before God and stopped asking why. He acknowledges God’s power and wisdom. There is another revelation in Job 42:5 when Job says, “My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you.” Before Job’s encounter with God, Job admits that he had only hear about God. After hearing from God, Job says that he has seen God with his own eyes. His response is to realize his sinfulness and repent in the face of his holy God. 

Sometimes our suffering can lead us to knowing God in a deeper and more accurate way. We may think we do not deserve to suffer, but God may allow it anyway. Our friends may make us feel like we have done something wrong to cause our suffering. God may have other plans for it. When we suffer and turn to God, even with our whys, He will reveal His true self to us. These can be life-changing experiences where we are forever changed for good. This happened to Job.

We do not know if everything in Job’s story actually happened. This book is in a genre called wisdom literature. Job, along with Proverbs and Ecclesiastes, are designed to teach us about wisdom and how to live rightly. You can watch a video about each of these books from our friends at the bible project. https://bibleproject.com/explore/video/wisdom-job/

We probably haven’t answered all your questions about suffering in this study. We join in with the whys of the Bible and continue to learn. We likely will not know the full story until we reach heaven. Until then, we can search the Bible for guidance and feel a kinship with the people therein. You might try your own search of some whys in the Psalms. Here, poets honestly wrote their questions about what they saw happening in their world and in their own lives as well as their questions about the whys of injustice done to others. At https://www.biblegateway.com/ search for the word “why” in the Psalms. As you read, pay attention to how the writers resolve or don’t resolve their question. Prayerfully, bring your own whys before the Lord of the Universe who cares for you.

Prayer: Lord, we worship You for Your great compassion. You are patient with our questions and stand ready to heal our hurts and disappointments. You are our awesome God who loves us with a never-ending love. Amen.

About This Sermon Series

Transitions, as we know, are part of life. We experience personal, familial, vocational, cultural, national, and even organizational transitions. In fact, Northland is a church in the midst of change and transition. We have called our new lead pastor, Dr. Josh Laxton. Interestingly, while we experience a myriad of transitions in a lifetime, there is a difference between change and transition. Change is situational whereas transition is psychological. In other words, transition involves processing the change.


Transitions, as we know, are part of life. We experience personal, familial, vocational, cultural, national, and even organizational transitions. In fact, Northland is a church in the midst of change and transition. We have called our new lead pastor, Dr. Josh Laxton. Interestingly, while we experience a myriad of transitions in a lifetime, there is a difference between change and transition. Change is situational whereas transition is psychological. In other words, transition involves processing the change.

After experiencing a change and transition, we can look back and see that we were changed—or better yet transformed. And who you became, the kind of transformation that occurred in that transition was the direct result of how you processed or didn’t process the change.

In this series, Transitions, we will take you on a journey through Scripture looking at various transitions in the life God’s people as well as various passages that deal with how we should process changes in our life. Our hope and prayer in this series is that you will learn how to process the various changes in life and allow the Holy Spirit to use transitions to conform you more into the image of Jesus.

Upcoming Weekends

» August 13-14
TRANSITIONS | Transitioning Church: Ready or Not |
Lead Pastor Josh Laxton

» August 20-21
MADE FOR MISSION | Imaging God |
Lead Pastor Josh Laxton

Upcoming Worship Services

» August 13-14
TRANSITIONS | Transitioning Church: Ready or Not |
Lead Pastor Josh Laxton

» August 20-21
MADE FOR MISSION | Imaging God |
Lead Pastor Josh Laxton

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Stewardship Update

Budget for Fiscal (7/1/21-6/30/22) : $7.5M
If you'd like to learn more or have questions related to finances at Northland, contact our finance team at FinanceTeam@NorthlandChurch.net.

Stewardship Update

Northland Tithes & Offerings
Need for Fiscal (7/1/20-6/30/21) $9.5M
As of 8/4/2022
If you'd like to learn more or have questions related to finances at Northland, contact our finance team at FinanceTeam@NorthlandChurch.net.