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Summary: When suffering, disease, pain comes into our lives we often deal with the feelings of frustratio, anger and questions for God. Several reasons for disease, illness, etc are provided: sin, our environment, the sin of others, as an opportunity to give glor

In Jesus Holy Name March 18, 2007

Text: James 5:7-12 Lent IV - Redeemer

“Where is God When I’m Hurting?”

Rev. John Stott in his book “The Cross of Christ” has a chapter entitled “Suffering and Glory”. The fact of suffering is the greatest challenge to the Christian faith and has been for every generation. (Its distribution and degree appear to be entirely random and therefore unjust. )

What happens when we are overtaken with sudden tragedy or painful illness? Rejection, divorce, death, depression, cancer, down-sized, firings, sorrows, difficulties, suffering could fill the shelves of the world’s largest universities. Wars, famines, disease, natural disasters, untimely deaths, are never easy. There are a million other sources of human suffering which produce questions which trouble the soul.

Why would God permit this to happen to me? I have discovered that most of the time God does not rush in to explain what he is doing. Is God obligated to explain? Remember David? God promised that he would be King of Israel but he was running and hiding from King Saul for 14 years.

Isaiah wrote the following about God, the creator of all things. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts neither are your ways my ways” declares the Lord.” We know that God loves us. “We are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care.” His great love for us led him to send his only begotten son as a sacrifice for our sins, that we might escape the punishment of his eternal wrath. He did so because He so loved the world.

Tragic events, unknown, incurable disease can cause the stoutest Christian to ask: “If God is all powerful and He knows all things why did he let this terrible thing happen to me?

I’m sure the families who lost their teens in the tornado in Arkansas a few weeks back asked that question. This past Thursday was the funeral of a dear friend. Her life was filled with tragic events that brought suffering into her life.

In 1955 her first husband died and left her with two small boys to raise. Not an easy task in the 1950’s when most wives did not work outside the home. She married again. She and her husband Les were granted a son. In his 7th grade year he was tragically shot and killed. In 1994 her second husband died. Two years later her oldest son was diagnosed with terminal cancer. He died a few weeks after his daughter’s wedding. How would you have dealt with those tragic events? She never blamed God. She never lost her faith.

Joseph Parker, a Pastor from 1874 until his death in 1902, wrote the following in his autobiography…Up until the age of 68 I never had a religious doubt. Then my beloved wife died. My faith collapsed. “In that dark hour, I almost became an atheist. For God had set his foot upon my prayers and treated my petitions with contempt. If I had seen a dog in such agony as mine, I would have pitied and helped the dumb beast. Yet God spat upon me and cast me out as an offense. Out into the waste wilderness and the night as black and starless.”

There are times when God does seem distant and disinterested. He has the power to heal but it often seems like he’s not lifting a finger to help. There is no indication that God ever explained to Joseph why he was sold into slavery, and then unjustly put into prison for years. He was expected to live his days out one at a time just like you and me. He learned to trust God even when it did not make sense.

First: According to the Bible, suffering is an alien intrusion into God’s good world and will have no part in his new heaven and earth. It is part of Satan’s destructive was against the Creator.

Second: Suffering is due to sin. Originally disease and death entered the world through sin. But I’m thinking of contemporary sin. Sometimes suffering is due to the sin of others, as when children suffer from unloving, irresponsible parents, the poor and hungry from economic injustice, refugees from the cruelties of war, death from drunken drivers.

Sometimes suffering can be the result of our own foolish sin. The reckless use of our freedom. But we must reject and repudiate the Hindu doctrine of “karma” which attributes all suffering to wrong doing in this life or in a previous existence.

Jesus himself dealt with that false theology. In John 9:1-4 we find the story of a man blind from birth and the disciples ask: “who sinned? This man or his parents?” Jesus answered. “Neither this man nor his parents sinned. But this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.”

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