Summary: Trust Christ to bring purpose to your pain.
In his book, The Case for Christ, author Lee Strobel introduces readers to the puzzling life of Charles Templeton. You’ve probably never heard of him, but Templeton was a contemporary of Billy Graham. In fact, they were both behind evangelistic crusades in the 1940s through Europe. A short time later Charles Templeton pastored a church which soon overflowed its 1,200 seat auditorium. Not many years afterward, however, his faith was dramatically different from that of the 1940s and 50s. Templeton described himself as an agnostic. He abandoned his previous faith due to doubt in God’s existence.
What prompted Charles Templeton to leave the Christian faith? In his own words: “It was a photograph in Life magazine. It was a picture of a black woman in Northern Africa. They were experiencing a devastating drought. And she was holding her dead baby in her arms and looking up to heaven with the most forlorn expression. I looked at it and thought, ‘Is it possible to believe that there is a loving or caring Creator when all this woman needed was rain.’ How could a loving God do this to that woman? Who runs the rain? I don’t; you don’t. He does – or that’s what I thought. But when I saw that photograph, I immediately knew it is not possible for this to happen and for there to be a loving God. There was no way. Who else but a fiend could destroy a baby and virtually kill its mother with agony – when all that was needed was rain?”
How would you explain suffering to Charles Templeton? Not just the photograph, but while you’re at it explain to him why he’s losing his bodily functions to Alzheimer’s Disease. What if you were face to face with that mother in Africa? How would you tell her about a loving God while she’s grieving over her dead child? How do you come to terms with suffering and pain in your own life? If God loves you so much why does He put you through it? Is it even possible to hold onto faith when the pain you’re experiencing doesn’t make sense?
How do you make sense of suffering? Surveys tell us that this is the number one question people would like to ask God. It’s the number one reason for rejecting the existence of a loving God. This is the question we’ll tackle this morning.
I believe that our origin is the key to making sense of suffering. The choice made by the first man and woman opened the door for pain, tragedy, and death. I want to share two things with you this morning. First, I want to equip you with an understanding of the origin of suffering, so that when someone asks you to make sense of it you can. Second, I want to encourage you face inevitable suffering with faith. If you will learn to trust Christ He will bring purpose to your pain.
Let’s jump right into it by looking at the sources of suffering:
As we go through these ideas I want you to keep in mind that the world we live in is not the way God originally intended it to be. If you remember from a couple of Sundays ago, He created the garden, put the man and woman in it, and then began training them to subdue the world and rule it in His place and in His way. God’s intent was that the man and woman faithfully extend the garden to the rest of the world. It was to be a place free of pain and suffering where the Lord God dwelt in the midst of His people.