Summary: Suffering is part of the experience of everyone’s life. Consequently, the suffering question is one of the most profoundly disturbing factors today.
For the first eight years of my life, I lived on the south side of Dallas, TX. Across the street from us lived the Hicks family. They had four children, all of them older than we were, but we occasionally played with them, until they got too big for us and then we moved away. When I was in the seventh grade, just four years later, we joined Hampton Place Baptist Church. The Hicks family were members of our church. Their two oldest children were grown and married by this time, but Kenny and Jackie, the two youngest were still attending church with their parents. Kenny was a student a UTA majoring in Art. Jackie was still in High School, and she was still cordial to me, even though I was much younger. One summer, the Mr. & Mrs. Hicks and Jackie took a trip out to California where their oldest daughter lived. Somewhere in Arizona, their car went out of control, smashed into a concrete abutment, burst into flames and they were all three burned to death. My brother and I were pall bearers for Jackie.
Kenny, the youngest son, who had been a football player, and who I idolized, lost all heart for going to art school. He decided to become a Dallas Policeman. What a magnificent figure he made in his policeman’s uniform. He married a young lady in the church. And they started a wonderful life together.
Early one morning, around 2:00-3:00 a.m., Kenny was coming home across the Trinity River bridge when he noticed a car driving somewhat erratically. He followed the car into an apartment complex and when he got out to investigate, one of the men in the car shot him in the neck. When he was finally found, he was rushed to Parkland hospital. But, in spite of all the doctors could do, Kenny Hicks, age 23, was paralyzed from the neck down. I remember going to see him in the rehab hospital. He sounded upbeat, but later I learned from the guys in his Sunday School class who stood by him for seven years until his death, that he often wanted to die.
At his funeral, as our pastor spoke with choked rage and emotion, he told that the man who shot Kenny was already out on parole. Kenny’s relief came in the form of death. In a paralyzed body, as a young newly-wed, death seemed better than life.
For the first time in my life, I came face-to-face with the shattering enigma of human suffering. Sometimes it is our own suffering. Sometimes it is the suffering of others. But suffering of some kind is part of the experience of every life. Consequently, the suffering question is one of the most profoundly disturbing factors today.
Three thousand years earlier, the Psalmist also experienced the suffering question. What compounded the problem for him was his observation that the righteous seemed to suffer more than the unrighteous. He looked at the wicked and saw them basking in prosperity.
The Psalmist said in verse 4 they cursed God and, yet, seemed to receive His blessings. "There are no pains in their death," He declared in verse 7, "Their eye bulges from fatness."
In contrast, the Psalmist tried to live the righteous life, tried to do what God wanted him to do. Yet, he said in verse 2, it was as if the very foundation of his life had been swept out from under him.
All of us have been in the Psalmist’s shoes. Some are walking in them right now.
You live for God, follow His way and, then, suffering comes. Or you stroll along casually in life, minding your own business, and some disaster strikes. And like Thomas Huxley, we want to cry out against the "unfathomable injustice of the nature of things."
Notice several things in the 73rd Psalm about the suffering question.
First, notice the perplexity of suffering. In verses 10-12, the Living Bible has the Psalmist say, "And so God’s people are dismayed and confused, and drink it all in. ’Does God realize what is going on?" they ask. ’Look at these men of arrogance; they never have to lift a finger ... theirs is a life of ease; and all the time their riches multiply.’"
Written between the lines of these verses is the perplexing inquiry, "How can these things be? Why is there such human suffering for some and such blessing for others?" We do not have a completely adequate answer to that question, but some clues will help us understand why there is so much suffering in the world.
Some suffering comes because of THE DYNAMICS OF LIFE. That is, the factors of human life explain much of our suffering.
One factor is the constancy of the universe. Certain uniform principles govern the universe. An example is the law of gravity. If a person jumps out of the window of a high-rise office building, he will be smashed to death on the ground below, or if an airplane’s engine fails, the plane will crash. That law affects the righteous and unrighteous alike. But this same law of gravity gives the basis for an organized, rational world. If, for instance, we jumped into the air and sometimes the law of gravity was in effect and sometimes it was not, sometimes we went down and sometimes we went up, this would be a chaotic, unlivable world.