Summary: This sermon addressed the suffering people experienced following the 9-11-01 terrorist attack in New York and Washington, DC.
“How Can A Loving God Allow the Suffering of Good People?”
This past week has been a time of suffering for many people in America. Evil hearts resulted in killing friends and family members in San Francisco and Sacramento. Evil hearts planned for months to strike at the heart of America in New York and Washington DC. Thousands lost their lives. This past week thousands in America have suffered for freedom in America.
Many of us have thought that terrorism of this magnitude would not happen in our lifetime. The visual pictures of airplanes flying into the World Trade Center is etched into our minds and caused our hearts to skip a beat. September 11th, 2001 will be remembered in all history books.
The question is on the minds and hearts of many: “How can A Loving God Allow the Suffering of Good People?”
Suffering. It’s not a pleasant subject to discuss, but a necessary one.
A dictionary defines suffering as the state of anguish or pain of one who suffers; the bearing of pain, injury or loss (The New International Webster’s Comprehensive Dictionary).
Suffering plagues our world. In its many forms it affects us physically, psychologically and emotionally. Whatever its manifestation, extended suffering can crush the body and spirit.
Suffering falls on the just and the unjust. It afflicts innocent victims. This uncomfortable fact makes it difficult for us to reconcile such obvious unfairness with the existence or fairness of a loving God.
What is the answer? Why is suffering so indiscriminate? Why isn’t it meted out only to those who deserve it? Why do the innocent suffer from actions and events over which they have no control and often cannot foresee?
Why doesn’t God stop suffering? Where is God in situations of tragedy? Doesn’t God care?
Only in God’s Word do we find answers to these questions.
I. Suffering Is Part of A Fallen World.
Sin and rebellion changed a world-like paradise into a world of evil and suffering. Jesus said that in this world there would be tribulation and suffering.
Suffering strikes rich and poor, religious and irreligious, small and great. In this life virtually everyone will experience it. Disease and health problems seem to strike most people at some time or other.
In centuries past common diseases caused immense suffering. But in spite of advances in medical science that have greatly lengthened the average life span, we know we will still die. Rather than having our lives cut short by the killer diseases of earlier years, now many of us will expire at an older age from such debilitating afflictions as cancer or heart disease. Many will lose their mental faculties long before their bodies wear out.
Many assume God angrily intervenes to punish us whenever we step out of line, when in reality He generally allows us to suffer the consequences of our own selfish, shortsighted behavior. Jeremiah 2:19: “Your wickedness will punish you; your backsliding will rebuke you. Consider then and realize how evil and bitter it is for you when you forsake the Lord your God and have no awe for me, declares the Lord the Lord Almighty.”
Most people fail to recognize that God doesn’t have to directly intervene every time we sin; the laws He set in motion are self-enforcing, bringing their own punishment when we break them.
We reap what we sow
The conclusion should be obvious. Much of the suffering is caused by wrong choices. The Bible offers guidance as to how we should live. Yet as far back as Adam and Eve people have repeatedly spurned God’s instruction and brought enormous pain and sorrow on themselves.
God reveals that suffering carries with it a noble purpose: It should help us to grow in brotherly love. “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ,” writes Paul (Galatians 6:2).
II. God Has A Purpose in Suffering
When our concern flows out toward others, suffering, as undesirable and painful as it is, can be a profitable experience. We learn the reality that “no discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:11, NIV).
Pain has an important purpose
A year ago eight of us from the Willow Vale Church visited Hong Kong and China on a mission trip. One of our side trips was to a Leprosy Village in China led by Free Methodist Missionary Nurse Ruth Winslow. Leprosy is a dreaded disease. The disease takes away pain wherever the disease is located. Without pain a people can burn their hand without knowing it.
Philip Yancey in his book, Where is God When It Hurts? Tells about the medical work of Dr. Brand. Dr. Brand worked for years treating leprosy patients in India and America. During his labors he arrived at an astonishing conclusion concerning the pathology of leprosy.