Summary: Paul was a great sufferer of all kinds of unjust pain, and it was not because of sin, but because he was a servant of Christ.
One of the good things to come out of suffering is this: It forces
those who cannot see any sense in it to grapple with the mystery, and
strive to squeeze some meaning out of it. Almost everyone who writes
on suffering does so out of their own personal encounter with this
mysterious monster. In the book When It Hurts Too Much To Cry,
Jerry Fallwell begins with this account. He tells of Clifford who left his
good paying job to come to Lynchberg to study for the ministry. He
had a wife and two small sons. He was an excellent student, and
Fallwell was proud to have such a caliber of man in his school.
One Saturday night just after Cliff had finished with family
devotions someone fired a shotgun through the living room window
and Cliff was killed instantly. Fallwell arrived in a few minutes to see
the most senseless thing he had ever witnessed, and he could not help
but question God, and wonder why He would allow such a terrible
thing to happen. He gave it a great deal of thought, and the only
conclusion he could come to was that it is an unsolvable mystery with
no sense whatever on any level known to man. In the light of this
tragedy he rebukes those who deal with suffering superficially. He
writes, "I think Christian leaders often do their people a disservice
when they spout glib and shallow cliches to people going through some
of these dark experiences!"
There are many people who do this. He has had others in this same
category. One of their fine students was going home and picked up a
hitchhiker. The student was killed and dragged into the woods where
his body was found. He has other horror stories as well, but the point
is, you cannot look at the victims of serious suffering and not ask the
question why? The disciples of Jesus could not help but wonder when
they saw a man who had been blind from birth-why? Why would any
man have to enter the world never to see it? Why is there such
meaningless suffering? It is the most simple question to ask, but
unfortunately, the answer is not so simple.
The disciples see no profound complexity in the situation. They are
confident they have narrowed down the answer to one of two
alternatives. Who sinned, this man or his parents that he was born
blind? Jesus could have taken either, and they would have been
satisfied, but instead, he took neither, and said it was not personal or
parental sin that caused this suffering. Jesus through a monkey
wrench of complexity into their simple solution to the problem of
suffering, and by so doing he taught them, and teaches us, one of the
most important principles we can learn on the subject of suffering.
The principle is this:
I. SIMPLE SOLUTIONS TO SUFFERING ARE SUPERFICIAL.
Show me a simple solution to the problem of suffering, and I will
show you a heresy that will fit neither the revelation of God, nor the
experience of man. Simple solutions are none the less the most popular
and widely held by the intelligent and ignorant alike. Here
are the disciples of Christ who are hand picked by the Master
Himself, and they view suffering with the same old worn out theory
held by the friends of Job. They assume that such a terrible fate as
being born blind had to be the result of somebody's sin. It was so
logical and obvious to them that they did not even see the cruelty of it.
They are asking, who is guilty for such an awful thing: His parents or
himself. In other words, who do we blame when this horrible reality.
What kind of parents must they have been to give birth to such a
monstrosity as a blind baby? Or what kind of a low life scoundrel
must he be that God would punish him at birth for the sins he foresaw
that he would commit?
I hope the disciples at least asked their question out of ear shot of
this poor blind man, for there are very few things more cruel than to
make suffering people feel guilty for their own suffering. Both the Old
Testament and the New Testament reject this theory to account for
suffering, and it is superficial, but it is still often promoted. Fallwell
tells of his personal friends Dr. and Mrs. Rudy Holland who
discovered their young son had a brain tumor. Surgery removed it,
but 11 months later it returned. This time it was much larger and
inoperable. They were told their son had less than a year to live. They
heard of a new technique developed at Boston Children's Hospital,