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Suffering

This is an extremely difficult subject. In the light of the suffering of so many, any discussion is likely to appear shallow and insensitive. And indeed under the emotional impact of this nightmare it would be perfectly understandable to be angry with God and everything else in the world. For those touched by this tragedy rage seems to be the only understandable reaction. When grief strikes us, anger is one of the stages we must work through. The Bible records the reaction of many, men of faith, who experienced intense feelings. Our anger or doubts do not repulse God.

What two perspectives are expressed in regard to the problem of pain?

1. If God were good and all-powerful, He would eliminate all pain and suffering.

2. God’s ultimate plan is to perfect those, who choose to be perfected, in preparation for the age to come.

God, if He is to remain righteous, must deal with sin, The penalty for sin is death; physical death was imposed to prevent all that will from enduring the second death.

What are your views in regard to the first perspective?

I think this perspective is both simplistic and highly presumptuous. How can we possibly know this is true? Do we presume to have the mind of God? Is the mystery of life so simple? The remainder of this paper argues that there is good reason to think otherwise.

Does suffering have any useful purpose?

What, if any, are the positive aspects of death? We are all to aware of its negative aspects.

What is God’s perspective in regard to suffering?

 

Give some examples of those who God has called to suffer?

Job- lost his family, wealth, and health

Joseph- was sold into slavery by his brothers and falsely imprisoned

Paul the Apostle- after conversion endured a life of hardship and want; finally martyred

Jesus- gave up the glories of heaven, rejected by his own people, humiliated, and crucified for others

Does suffering necessarily indicate wrongdoing?

No, it does not although often we do suffer because of our own wrongdoing or that of others. Read the ninth chapter of the Gospel of John for an account of a man who was born blind and how Jesus used these circumstances to honor and glorify God.

Does this account indicate that God caused this man to be born blind so that He might be honored?

As we read Jesus’ comments we might come to that conclusion. Certainly His disciples believed the condition was the result of sin on the part of the man or his parents. But the record simply says, he was born blind, without any explanation then Jesus said that this occasion would demonstrate the power of God. I believe that God has an overall purpose, and that one of the consequences of that purpose is a tragic thing such as the birth of a blind child. More about this later.

Were the Jews on whom the tower of Siloam fell more evil than their compatriots were? Were the Galileeans who Pilate slaughtered at the temple in Jerusalem worst than other men?

No, they were not; sometimes accidents happen, sometimes people are simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. But we should understand that God does bring judgement on the wicked. We most often are not in a position to pass judgement on these events at the time.

Is suffering ever the result of making good choices?

Yes, those who follow Jesus will suffer. God has not promised us a rose garden. A few years ago, in this country, those who believed and those who did not generally had the same moral values and consequently there was not a great tension between the two groups. Times have changed. Christians, as they attempt to hold onto their values, find that the majority does not share these values. As the chasm increases we can expect to be ridiculed and derided. Our task is to walk with God as patiently, gently, but firmly as we can.

Phil 1: 29

Why has Christianity done so much harm? Why would a loving God champion the slaughter of the Muslims during the crusades? Why did the Catholic Church murder Jews during the inquisition in Spain? Why did the church, for the most part, look away during the holocaust in Nazi Germany?

First: I want to defend the foundational beliefs of Christianity. Christianity supports none of those atrocities; none proceeded from Christian principles. Any organization or movement is free to identify itself in any way it chooses; but Christianity is a relationship between the individual and God.

Why does God allow the senseless brutalities that individuals inflict on one another?

I believe that God has an eternal purpose for each one of us. That purpose is for each of us to enter into a relationship of love and fellowship with Him. That purpose inherently involves a degree of freedom to choose or to reject. Love can never be coerced. Sometimes this freedom of will is used in the wrong way and man does hurtful things one to another.

Is this freedom worth the terrible price that is sometimes paid?

But how about "natural disaster"? Why does God permit such calamities as famine, flood, and earthquakes?

Does the sovereignty of God indicate that He determines all that happens?

God is not responsible for all that takes place. For example, the Scriptures say that God does not sin neither does He tempt man to sin. Yet sin exists. It is a mistake to equate sovereignty with determinism. God has of His own choice granted man a certain degree of freedom to choose. This does not mean He is no longer sovereign. He is. He still calls the shots and has appointed a day in which man will be held accountable for the use of that freedom. But it does means that God has limited Himself to the extent that man has freedom

What is God’s solution to this present system of things?

"For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will, but because of Him who subjected it in hope that the creation itself will also be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now, and not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit. Even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption of sons, the redemption of our body. For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it." Romans 8: 18-25

"But according to His promise we are looking for a new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells." 2 Peter 3: 13

 

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Last Update   09/26/12