Summary: How does suffering fit into God’s good plan for my life?
When Life Gets Rough
“Suffering” When God calls us to suffer
Life ought to come with a list of side effects. There should be a tag on every newborn baby saying life can be full of fun and adventure and excitement and joy, but there are side effects. There’s illness . . abuse . . . broken relationships. . . betrayal . . . sorrow . . . loss . . . injuries. . . disappointment . . . heartache . . . crime . . .and death.
Actually, life did come with a warning. Jesus said in John 16:33 that in this life, there will be trouble. But why? Why these side effects? Why is there suffering and evil and pain?
That “why” question goes back thousands of years. It was asked in the Old Testament by Job and the writers of the Psalms, and it was especially relevant during the 20th century, where we witnessed two World Wars, the Holocaust, devastating famines in Africa, the killing fields of Cambodia, the emergence of AIDS, the genocide in Rwanda, the ethnic cleansing of Kosovo, and the attacks of 9/11. Why all of this if there’s a loving and powerful God? Why do bad things happen to good people?
I commissioned a national survey and asked people what question they’d ask if they could only ask God one thing. The Number One response was: “Why is there suffering in the world?” Interesting, I found statistical quirk: people who are married were much more likely to want to know why there’s so much suffering. (Lee Strobel- Sermon Why Suffering)
I am no expert on this subject. The little mocking and being made fun of I have endured is so small compared to others. To be honest I think in American Christianity we think following God is the way to avoid the pains of life. We even have gotten to the place we think God’s purpose is to make our lives carefree and void of any kind of suffering or discomfort. There is some truth in that if we follow God’s path we can avoid a lot of sin’s consequences and punishment. However, it is just a true that becoming a Christian will a call to suffering. Jesus took up the cross and suffered in our place for our sins, but at times we must also take up the cross and suffer for the kingdom of God on earth in his place. American Christians, myself included have avoided Bible scriptures on suffering. This week I discovered “The Life Application Bible” has one of the longest sections in the back on topics on suffering.
Billy Graham comments: “Nowhere does the Bible teach that Christians are exempt from the tribulations and natural disasters that come upon the world. Scripture does teach that the Christian can face tribulation, crisis, calamity, and personal suffering with a supernatural power that is not available to the person outside of Christ.”
The End of the Spear has come out, but not in Zanesville, Go see it if you can in pickerington or Columbus. It is the true story of 5 men who were killed as they landed their plane to tell savages that God loved them. Their families not only forgave the natives, but went back with the gospel to the same exact place. “Through Gates of Splendor” Jim Elliots wife’s account.
Nate Saint, one of five missionaries killed in 1956 by a notoriously murderous tribe they were trying to reach with the Gospel. The compelling story doesn’t end there, the film shows, as relatives of the slain men continued the seemingly impossible venture, leading to the tribe’s remarkable transformation.
“In all fairness, if we ask the ‘Why me?’ question in regard to our burdens, we should also ask it in regard to our blessings.
“We take for granted 100 days of perfect health, and then grumble about one day of aches and pains.
“We drive the freeway hundreds of times without incident, and then ask, ‘Why me?’ the one time we have a flat tire or engine trouble.
“We casually accept the fact when our family is together for the holidays, but when we are separated, we dwell on our loneliness.
“How often do we say, ‘Why me?’ as we count our blessings?
“Rather than feeling sad about what we don’t have, doesn’t it make more sense to feel a kind of rollicking rejoicing over everything we do have?”
Dr. Dale Turner, quoted in MSC Health Action News, Vol. XVII, No. 11, Nov./Dec., 1997, p. 1
Our problems can be used by God to expose (reveal) and energize (reinforce) our faith.
Perhaps we do all we can to avoid suffering. That may not be a bad idea, but when God permits trouble, we should realize that we need it.