Summary: The editor-in-chief of Bible Study magazine addresses the topic of suffering and God’s place in it and through it.
I was in a room close to 7:00 AM playing Jazz with my High School Jazz Band. We had band practice at 6:00 AM Monday to Friday mornings. (What kind of deranged person came up with that idea?) As I was sitting there at the drum set playing along half-asleep, the intercom began to come on and off. It seemed as though someone wished to say something, but no one could; they were hesitating. Then someone came in the room and said something that made us all silent. With a confused look on his face, he said, "Someone flew a plane into the World Trade Center. Thousands are dying or going to die." The date was September 11, as all of you know. We all stopped and sat there in shock as this person blankly stared us down. No one knew what to say.
It is days like September 11 or D-Day, or the day that Hiroshima was bombed, that we all say, "Where is God in a world full of so much pain? Why is there so much suffering in the world?" It is days like these that many people say (at least to themselves), "Who would want to bring a child into this world?"
We ask again and again: Where is God? Does He hear our cries? Why would a good God allow for so much pain in the world He created?
We all at one point or another have endured pain and suffering. I mean, who hasn’t been hurt by a friend, girlfriend, boyfriend, husband, wife, colleague, boss, or mentor? We all know what pain is like. We have all experienced it. Unfortunately, some of us have experienced it more than others.
It seems that in the midst of our own personal pain, just as in the midst of the pain in our world, we ask: Where is God? Here I am hurting, suffering (I feel like I am dying here, all alone), and no one is here with me. Where is God?
I cannot answer all of the deepest questions of your heart and of humanity. But, I believe that there is a God. And I believe that God cares. And I believe He made Himself known in a man named Jesus. I believe Jesus can be trusted with our hearts, our love, and our entire beings. In spite of all the pain in the world and in our own lives, Jesus can be trusted.
Tonight it is my aim to show you why I trust in Christ. It is my aim to show you why I place my faith in Him in the midst of when I suffer and when I am joyous. I also want to discuss what we all can do to help alleviate suffering in our world. I believe that Christ has done miraculous things for us so that we may work towards ending the unnecessary pain that others endure.
Often times, God seems distant. He seems far away. Most people have heard others say, "Do not pray here, God does not live here anymore; He has abandoned this place." Is God really that distant?
Well, it may seem that God is distant, but He is really not that far away at all. Take the book of Exodus, when God’s people, the Hebrews, are enslaved in Egypt. The people begin to cry out to God in the midst of their suffering. So God acts. He calls a man named Moses to help the Hebrews. Listen to what God has to say to Moses. [Read Exodus 3]
Moses is afraid. It is no wonder he is afraid of God. The presence of God is a scary thing. And it is not everyday that a burning bush is on fire, but not being consumed, calls out your name. Imagine, "John, John." How do you react to that? But Moses is not just afraid, he makes a mistake. He is called to alleviate suffering, but he cowers down, at least for a moment. That is how it is. God calls us to do something, primarily to help end suffering, and then we say "Ummm ... I don’t know God, are you sure? I am not sure you know what you are talking about." This is what Moses did and this is what we do.
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 don’t know about you, but I find this comforting. God "sees" my pain, before I even "cry" out.