Suffering and the Human Condition: Where Was God?
Sermon shared by John Barry
Summary: The editor-in-chief of Bible Study magazine addresses the topic of suffering and Godís place in it and through it.
Audience: General adults
God appeared distant to the enslaved Hebrews, but He was actually working on their behalf. But what is most important is the way in which He works on their behalf. First God "sees" their affliction. Then they "cry" to Him. Then He "hears" them. In return He "knows" their suffering. Finally, and most importantly, He does not remain idle or distant, but He does what? He "delivers" them.
I find it really interesting that before anything, God "sees". He has a foreknowledge of our pain, and our suffering, before we even know it or feel it. While you and I are still numb to it, God is already "seeing." He "sees" before we "cry." I donít know about you, but I find this comforting. God "sees" my pain, before I even "cry" out.
God hears my cry. This is very interesting because the Hebrew word for hearing also has a connotation of knowing and obeying something. Hearing and obeying are closely connected. If you hear, you obey, if you obey, you know--you know truth. Since God is all obedient to His good nature, He always knows, because He always hears. But, God still makes it clear when He says "I know." Simply, "I know". Moses, donít worry, "I know." John, donít worry "I know." Billy-Bob, Bobby-Sue, donít worry, "I know."
With all this in Moses mind, God makes the finally part very clear to Moses I will "deliver". He specifically says, "I have come down to deliver them from the Egyptians" (Exodus 3:7).
The beauty of the Exodus story is that it is our story. God does the same for us. He sees, He hears, He knows, and He delivers. He comes down to deliver. God has four action items on His agenda: seeing, hearing, knowing and delivering.
But did you catch something there, the crying is a crucial part of it all. Suffering was never Godís intention for the world, but He is able to use something even as horrible as suffering to show who He is and furthermore teach people why they must place their trust in Him.
God did not remain idle during the Hebrewsí enslavement and He does not remain idle during ours either. But did you take note of something that happened in the Exodus story. God sent Moses--a man who could not speak well. God uses people to do His work in the world. He wants people to realize two things: (1) I care. (2) I am going to use people (even people) to show how much I care. And what happens then is that people realize what they can do when they are aligned with God. God believes in people. God wants to use people like me and you.
Many people are under the impression that God does not want to hear about our suffering. Maybe you are under that impression. You may be thinking that somehow faith means never questioning God about the state of humanity, or about the pain we are enduring. A lot people seem to believe that asking God to intervene is somehow wrong. There could be nothing further from the truth.
The book of Psalms contains countless heart-pounding, gut-wrenching cries to God. Each of which expresses either one personís or a group of peopleís painful state. These cries are honest and real.
One psalm even relates suffering to drowning when it says, "Save me, O God! For the waters
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