Summary: In times like these, when awareness of the inevitability of suffering gives rise to questions and doubts, mature Christians rely on the Word of God and reflect upon personal experiences of trusting God in and through it all.
MATURE CHRISTIANS VIEW SUFFERING AS INEVITABLE BUT REDEEMABLE
Talking to myself this past week, a question posed by many kept surfacing in my mind: “Why am I Suffering”? The answer I gave to myself was, “I am not suffering”. My motto could very well be that of the LG appliance manufacturer: “Life’s Good”.
This is not to suggest that suffering has never been experienced by me! On the other hand, that which some folks would call “suffering” as it pertained to me was usually linked to a serious situation involving a family member. After all, when a person we love suffers, we suffer. With God’s help, we cope with it. Coping, not conquering, is about the best we can hope for!
Oftentimes in the past I was drawn into the orbit of someone’s suffering in connection with my pastoral duties or my own family crises. But it never occurred to me that any of the suffering observed by me was due to specific sins on the part of the sufferers. Nor did I think that their suffering was outside the realm of God’s love and care. Jesus was (is) always there!
Yes, I am familiar with the term “karma” . . . bandied about by folks in all walks of life, as if all bad things that happen are deserved or else they would not have happened. But, in my way of thinking, nothing could be further from the truth.
Original sin is indeed the cause of all the bad that exists in the world, but that does not mean that bad things happen only to bad people. So many examples could be cited, but suffice it to say that bad things also happen to good people - with seemingly no explanation.
As I proposed in a previous session --- for making things better, now and forever, God’s way is sure - especially with regard to suffering endured by Christians, or non-Christians for that matter. Jesus showed us God’s way – John 9:1-5 . . .
These verses introduce the healing of a man who had been blind from birth.
Enemies of Jesus, startled by the miracle because it occurred on the sabbath, tried to use the healed man to help build their case against Jesus whom they despised. BUT, when they interrogated this poor guy, he simply stated an irrefutable fact: “One thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see.”
Why pharisaical people detest seeing good things happen to good people, and despise the One who makes such things happen for the better, is beyond me - as much so now as it was in the early days of my ministry . . . Even our Lord’s disciples got in on the act of assuming the worst!
The question they put to Jesus was filled with assumptions - which showed how slow they had been to learn from Jesus. The commonly-held idea for centuries had been that illness is always connected with the ill person’s sin, or, sins of his family – with no exceptions. Unfortunately, that idea persists in our day as well. Let it be said:
Specific sicknesses may be caused by specific sins . . . but, before accepting that assumption as a general principle applicable to all sicknesses certain information must be verified. “Before opening mouth, be sure brain is in gear.”
Jesus flat out denied that this man’s suffering was caused by sin. Rather, He chose to see the situation as an opportunity to heal in order to reveal God’s works.
Remember: God’s works are often revealed through adversity --- in one of two ways or both: (1) faithfulness to God in times of sorrow can be a compelling witness . . . as can: (2) faithfulness to God by helping others in their difficult situations.
Debating the cause of the suffering - either with His disciples or His antagonists – would have been useless. The fact was that the man was blind! The real concern was, and ought to be, what can be done about it. Jesus gave the man sight, and the man gave glory to God. Be happy about it. Praise God from whom all blessings flow!
Even so . . . Never forget there is a connection between sin and suffering - although not in this particular case and certainly not in every case. A quote to remember: “Not all suffering is caused by sin, but all sin causes suffering” --- of some kind ---
For example: When we sin, we hurt those closest to us, and we hurt ourselves as well. However, we must be careful about judging other people’s sins. “When you point a finger of accusation at someone else, there are three fingers pointing back at you.”
Thank you, Jesus, for clarifying this issue! Now, regarding the man who, before Jesus came and suffered, epitomized suffering of the worst kind: Job!