Diabetes, Suffering, and Six Helpful Reminders


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I was so captivated by the story of suffering I was reading on my phone in the kitchen a few weeks ago that I nearly burnt my children’s grilled cheese sandwiches. This was unlike any story I had ever read before. It was actually hard to read. But the more I read, the more I felt compelled to continue.

I found the link to this story in a social media post from January 27, which I have since learned is Holocaust Remembrance Day. Several diabetes-related groups were posting about this man who survived the Holocaust while having type 1 diabetes. (Can you even imagine?)

Ernest Sterzer, born in 1925 in Vienna, had been taking insulin for diabetes since he was three years old. In his memoir, he starts by saying, “To the best of my knowledge, I am the only diabetic who survived years of imprisonment in German concentration camps.” I won’t spoil it, but he goes on to tell an indescribable story of suffering and survival.

In case you’d like to read more, Diabetes UK did a piece on it a few years ago HERE. His 11-page memoir can be viewed in full HERE. (Grab the tissues first.) 

After I finished reading the full memoir, I found myself asking why he (or anyone else who was there) would be forced to experience such inhumane cruelty. Of course, I don’t have a clear answer to that question. We may never fully understand why people are faced with horribly awful circumstances to endure, but it’s been happening for thousands of years. 


Take, for example, Job of the Old Testament. Satan attacks Job to the point that he loses his family, his friends, his animals, his health… basically everything short of life itself. 

What about Joseph? He was hated by all his brothers who sold him to be a slave in Egypt and told his father he was dead. His master’s wife accused him of something he didn’t do, and he was imprisoned for years because of it.

And how about the Apostle Paul? He was beaten multiple times, stoned and left for dead, thrown in jail, shipwrecked, placed under house arrest, faced multiple assassination plots, and ultimately martyred for his faith.

It’s absolutely heartbreaking to read these stories of suffering. It makes me ask why. Why does God allow suffering? I know others who struggle with that question too. I will admit, I don’t have an amazing answer or some lofty theological solution to offer you full understanding of suffering. But it’s good to wrestle through and remind myself of what I do know and what I can do about it.


1. God did not create suffering.

Let’s start here. I know God’s original creation was good. He said so Himself in Genesis 1:31. It wasn’t until Genesis 3 that sin entered the world He had created. The crafty work of Satan and the sin of humanity created suffering. We all live in a fallen and broken world, but we need to remind ourselves that was not a part of God’s original creation. The good news is that, even though there is sin and suffering in this world, God is in the business of redeeming His people! (Stay tuned for point #4 below.)

2. We cannot fully understand.

We may not completely grasp how such a loving and good Heavenly Father can allow suffering, but that’s ok. If you and I could fully understand all the ways God works, God wouldn’t be a very powerful and amazing God, would He? So instead of trying to resolve all our unanswered questions, we would be better served to embrace the mysteries of how God works and what He allows and how He redeems. Being frustrated that we can’t understand, or allowing uncertainty to roadblock our faith, doesn’t do us any good. After all, if we fully understood everything, would that really be faith? As children of God, we should be saying something more like, “I don’t fully understand, but God, I trust that You do, and I trust You.”

3. God welcomes our questions.

Maybe this doesn’t seem like a great answer, and you still feel like you have questions. That’s ok too. God allows and can handle our questions. In Psalm 13:1, David, who was often very honest with God about his emotions, asked, “How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?” God may or may not provide an answer, or the answer you have in mind, but he welcomes your questions and the emotion that comes with them. He wants us to approach Him with honesty.

4. God can use it for good.

God can use our suffering for our good and the good of those around us. This doesn’t necessarily eliminate or negate the suffering itself, but thank God suffering isn’t just for the sake of suffering and that He can bring good from the hardship! The good I have personally seen come from suffering has resulted in things like a closer relationship with God, a stronger witness for Him to others, and a healthier overall outlook. But even more than that, God can weave together different parts of different people’s stories to have an even greater impact than we can imagine. And once we see it come together, we realize He was working all along. Like I said before, we can’t fully understand what is ahead as He sees it. But He is at work, and he works for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28).

5. God is near. 

One of the best outcomes of your suffering is that you would realize how close God is. Our suffering can sometimes make us think or feel that God has abandoned us, but Deuteronomy 31:6 reminds us, “for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” One of my husband’s favorite verses to share with those who are suffering is Psalm 34:18: “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” God doesn’t promise to make our lives better on this side of heaven, but His most common promise is that He will be with us – which He ultimately proved through Jesus, Immanuel, “God with us” (Matthew 1:23).

6. We can help.

Although we struggle to see people suffer, or we struggle through suffering ourselves, there are still things we can do. We can ask God to help us understand what we need to know. We can pray for those who are suffering. We can be patient. (Oh that’s so difficult!) And we can remind ourselves and others that God can use bad things for good. He can shape us and mold us and teach us and guide us through all the challenges in this life.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. 

Ephesians 3:20-21

How have you seen God work through suffering?

How can you show God’s love by helping someone struggling through a hard time right now?

Heavenly Father, You are so good. Although suffering entered into the perfect world You created, You, in all Your love and power, find ways to use it for the good of those who love You. Thank You for bringing good out of my struggles and hardships. Help me to see the good You provide. God, I pray today You would help me to understand what I should, to trust in You fully, to feel your presence, and to see how I can help others who are suffering. Amen.

For Further Reading: 2 Corinthians 1:3-4, Job 1:22, Genesis 50:20, Philippians 4:11-13





Kaycee - Devotions on Diabetes


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