Q&A: Why do God’s chosen suffer?

Question: If the Jews are God’s ‘chosen’ people, then why have they had to suffer so much?

Answer: It can be a bit confusing that the people whom God has specifically chosen have been the same ones who seem to suffer more than any others. But there is an assumption behind your question that I think is incorrect. Your question implies that if God has chosen you then you will not suffer. Perhaps, you might even think that if God has chosen you then you will only receive blessings and never receive troubles, but the biblical example is far from that. For instance, God specifically chooses David to be the next king of Israel after Saul (1 Sam. 16:1-13), but then for the next 30 or so years of David’s life he is continually persecuted by Saul. He lives in the wilderness always on the run and in fear for his life. Even though David habitually acts righteously, he suffers. Another example would be Jesus’ disciples. Jesus plainly states that he chose the disciples (John 15:16) and in the very same conversation tells them that they will be hated and persecuted (John 15:18 -16:4). So the question is not “Do God’s chosen people suffer?”, but “Why do God’s chosen people suffer?” I think there are several answers to that.

            First, we will stick with this passage in John regarding the disciples’ suffering. Jesus tells them that the reason the world hates them is because first the world hated him (John 15:18). When people hate God, they also hate anyone who represents God. The Jewish people have been chosen by God to be his representatives to the world. They were to be a kingdom of priests who would be mediators between the world and God (Ex. 19:5-6). Since the Bible is very clear that the world naturally hates God and his authority and rebels against it at every turn (Rom. 1:28-31), it is unsurprising that the world would also hate those whom God sends in his name to call the world to repentance.

            Next, God allows his people to endure suffering because he loves them. Hebrews teaches us that God disciplines the ones that he loves. In fact, it is this very discipline that proves he loves them (Heb. 12:6-11). When God chooses someone he loves them as they are, but refuses to let them remain as they are. His desire is to see them grow in holiness and to become more like his son, Jesus. To do this, he often uses suffering and painful circumstances to strip away sinfulness and to build righteousness. Using the example of a vine and a vinedresser, Jesus says that he cuts the vines he cares about so that they are able to bear even more fruit (John 15:2). God allows suffering to grow holiness.

            Lastly, the Jews endured much suffering even throughout biblical times and the Bible is very specific about why. God had given the Jews a great land and made them a great people. Yet, when he gave them his law they refused to follow it. They continuously chased after other gods and acted wickedly. So God punished them for their sin (Amos 2:4). He removed them from their land and sent them into exile for years in Babylon. They were meant to be God’s representatives to the world and they failed at that mission. God will always punish wickedness. Similarly, every human being has been made in God’s image (Gen. 1:27) and is meant to honor him with his or her life, yet we all have failed to do this and God will punish our sin as well.

God still has a plan for the people of Israel (Rom. 11), but he also has a new chosen people: the church. Jesus himself suffered for the sake of his church and now the church suffers for the sake of Jesus. Suffering for the sake of Jesus’ name doesn’t mean we are not chosen, but that we are (2 Peter 2:21-25).

Q&A: Why do God’s chosen suffer?