Summary: Is there a purpose in suffering? The earthquake and subsequent tsunami make us ask many questions especially if we have not trusted Jesus. Suffering reveals the good that we ignore before disaster. Suffeing calls us to examine the shortness of our life
Intro: Just three weeks ago we began the suffering portion of this study called incarnate. Today as we draw to a close on our teaching of suffering it is in the face of large scale disaster in Japan that will cause an extended period of suffering for many. If you remember we talked about the non-theistic worldview did not have satisfactory or comforting answer for suffering and evil. Also remember that we talked about the honesty of the Bible on suffering, evil, and pain. The Bible barely opens and the bully of suffering, pain, and death is invited into our world by none other than man. Because of rebellion of God’s will and rejection of His good, man entered into a world of suffering, pain and death.
Remember as well that suffering and extreme pain are use to indicate to us something is broken, something is wrong. The relationship between creator and creation was and in many is still broken. Sin is the wedge that separated God and man. Suffering is the painful result of this separation. We also learned the difference between moral evil and natural evil. Moral evil involves man rebellion against God’s will. This rebellion opened the door for natural evil. Natural disasters like the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. Because of Adam’s dominion of the earth, his stewardship, when Adam rebelled all that was under his authority fell with him. Everything was broken. Now many people in Japan are suffering today not because of direct sin but because of the reality of natural evil. Some will suffer in the weeks and months to come because of moral evil. When people horde food, or elevate prices to make enormous profits off of others suffering. But the earthquake and tsunami were results of natural evil operating in this broken sinful world.
We are looking at suffering in relationship to incarnate. If God’s life is going to be incarnated in us then we need to surrender our will and plans to God’s Holy Spirit so His life will be ours. Listen to the powerful words of Oswald Chambers.
“The purpose of Pentecost was not to teach the disciples something, but to make them the incarnation of what they preached so that they would literally become God’s message in the flesh. “. . you shall be witnesses to Me.” (Acts 1.8). So we are not saved to be simply instruments of God but sons and daughters who carry the likeness of Jesus!
So also suffering has a purpose. Let’s examine together sufferings purpose.
I. Suffering reveals the good we ignore
Many whether atheist, agnostic or just plain angry people bring up the question if God is so good and all powerful why did the earthquake in Japan happen? First it happened because of natural evil. The world is not as God meant for it to be. He meant for it to be totally good. However because of man’s rebellion we have disease and disaster.
Job 36.15 “But by means of their suffering, he rescues those who suffer. For he gets their attention through adversity.”
If there is not God then there is no evil. Evil is just nature at work. Non-personal un-rational nature taking its course the strong survive and the weak do not. Again in this worldview there is no comfort for the sick or the dying. There is no comfort for those whose family was washed away in the tsunami or crushed beneath the debree of the earthquake.
The question of evil is almost always raised. Why is the question of good almost never raised?
Augustine summarized it very well, “If there is no God, why is there so much good? If there is a God, why is there so much evil?”
If the norm and natural of experience is evil then why aren’t all babies stillborn? Why doesn’t disease always end in death? Why does anyone survive a car, train, or shipwreck? Why is a sunrise good? Why are beautiful sunsets good? How can we feel gratitude when we narrowly miss death, when the doctor comes in and says your clear?
Doesn’t evil, suffering and disaster grab our attention because it is not the standard and norm of everyday life? When a disaster like Katrina, the earthquake in Haiti, New Zealand or Japan happens a majority of the world remains unharmed.
CS Lewis said it like this in The Problem of Pain, “If the universe is so bad, or even half so bad, how on earth did human beings ever come to attribute it to the activity of a wise and good Creator? Men are fools, perhaps; but hardly so foolish as that.”
There are certain times and instances where suffering is the norm. But there seems a remarkable ability to see the good that is in this world.