Summary: If God really is there and loves me, why do I still hurt?
Why is my pain unceasing, my wound incurable, refusing to be healed? Jeremiah 15:18a
It’s always helpful at the start of a journey to know where you’re headed! Let me share some of the “roadmap” for our series on ‘WHY’ – the questions people ask.
The well-known artist and songwriter Bill Gaither wrote a song entitled “Songs That Answer Questions”. The first few verses will give you a hint as to what we hope to accomplish as we study the “why” questions:
I don’t want to spend my life writing songs to answer questions that nobody’s even asking anyhow.
When the house is burning to the ground,
there’s just no time to stand around
arranging all the pictures on the wall.
The second verse is the guiding light for our series roadmap:
I don’t want to spend my life preaching sermons that give answers to the questions no one’s asking anywhere.
When there’s so much pain and hurting, there’s no time to be searching for the needles in the haystacks that aren’t there.
Now, I have always thought that God’s answers to life’s questions are better than mine. For that reason I made a commitment this year to help us plunge into finding Godly answers to our most common questions. This is better than looking for spiritual needles in Lectionary haystacks. In a search through the Scriptures for the “why” questions, I found there are 261 of them! The majority of the questions are what people ask. Some of the questions are what God asks of us. I decided to center on the questions that we ask, and the most prevalent one always centers on human pain and suffering – why does God allow it?
One “side road” – In looking over my sermon files from the past 30 years I found that I have preached on the specific topic of “pain and suffering” some 17 times; that’s about 1½%. When I examined the files a little closer for sermons that contain some element of counsel on pain or suffering, I found I’d preached 391 times – nearly 35%. Fully 10 years of sermons on the human problem of pain and suffering! I concluded that we all consider our pain, be it emotional, physical, psychological or spiritual, an important issue!
Let’s begin our journey in “why” with Job; his story forms the basis of the primary human questions of existence – why am I here, and, if God really loves me, why do I hurt?
Even people who do not know the story of Job have heard of him and his patience. The story so often centers around the first chapter, and how this really good man got a raw deal, while God just looked-on and let the Devil destroy the man and his family.
But it really is worth reading the next 36 chapters to watch Job’s friends first attempt to comfort Job...but eventually wind-up missing the mark on the compassion scale. They do more harm than comfort, suggesting that Job was a bad guy, and that’s why bad stuff came his way; but, in reality, Job was a good man in the midst of a really rotten circumstance!
For the first thirty-seven chapters, Job asks the angry question – God, why me? As the 38th chapter begins God finally ends his silence. Job, tell me…when I was mapping out the universe and laying the foundations upon which you now stand…just where were you? God never answered Job’s question the way Job wanted…He simply pointed out that Job didn’t have a clue, and he’d better think twice before parading his goodness in front of his Creator.
After God spoke Job cringed…it works that way! Job had to humble himself and eat a little dust. He apologized to God, and things went better for him afterward.
Now, the reality of trouble and suffering in the human family is not in question here – we all know people who suffer; we have all had our share of suffering. Job even stated the reality that we are born into having trouble as certainly as the sparks fly upward from a fire.  The real question we all have is, If God is good, and God is kind…WHY do we suffer? We want to know why God thought it necessary to put us through suffering in this life.
A number of years ago I had pain in my right foot – constant pain. It was the kind of pain that made you wonder if you are descended from Job. The pain was every minute of every day; it was my companion for every step I took in a day. For good measure it throbbed all night. Extra Strength Tylenol by the truckload didn’t help; Cortisone injections didn’t touch it a bit.
Finally the doctor said the “s” word – surgery! I’m not a surgery freak, but by that time I would have allowed him to cut off both arms and do a frontal lobotomy if he said it would help.