Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Why Suffering ~ PART FIVE

Why Suffering?    PART ONE      PART TWO      PART THREE      PART FOUR       PART FIVE

Dear Friends,

There is a well-loved children’s book called, “Alexander & the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day” and some of us have had bad days that make Alexander’s look like a walk in the park.

We understand now that because God has given us free will, there is evil and suffering in our world. It all started with the sin of Adam and Eve but we can’t really blame them – you and I would have been fighting over who would take the first bite out of that “apple.” But thank God that He has a plan. We’ve said that as soon as the apple touched the lips of Eve, the cross appeared on the horizon. We see God’s entire plan for our salvation laid out between those two events. From that original sin in the garden which ushered in evil and suffering, to redemption, to eternal life in the world to come.

God’s plan also includes a promise of hope when life’s circumstances take a turn for the worse. Romans 8:28 tells us that God can turn the most terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day into something for His good. “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them.”

That doesn’t say that everything that happens to us is good. It says that if we love God and we’re living our life according to His plans and purposes, then God will cause good to emerge out of even the worst of our circumstances. We may not see that right away. When we’re in the valley of despair, it can be impossible for us to believe that God can make something good out of our suffering, but we need to trust in the Good Shepherd. “That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. 17 For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! 18 So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.” 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (NLT)

As we draw this AMEN Corner study on evil and suffering to a close, the most important thing for us to remember is this: Not a word of what you have read so far is helpful for someone to hear when they are mired in “the dark night of the soul.” The columnist I mentioned in PART ONE, who was still grieving over his daughter’s death and blaming God, was not open to hearing a verse by verse examination of the theological underpinnings of man’s free will and how we have come to live in a fallen world.

When friends and loved ones are tearfully asking why God allowed something to happen, don’t hear that as a request for your scholarly explanation of doctrine. Hear that as a cry for help. When family and friends are suffering, they are looking for empathy, concern and a tangible expression of God’s love from you. When the bad things happen and people are crying out in pain, they don’t want to hear our theology, meaningless platitudes or insensitive scriptural quotes. When Lazarus died and Mary fell down at the feet of Jesus and wept, Jesus didn’t quote the scriptures to her. He didn’t tell her that God loves her and has a wonderful plan for her life. Jesus didn’t give her a mini- sermon on the doctrine of death. When Mary fell at His feet, Jesus groaned in His spirit and was troubled. And Jesus wept. John 11:32-35

When friends and loved ones are in pain and struggling in the darkness, the best thing we can do is to ask: “How can I help you get through this?” And sometimes the only thing to do is what Jesus would do. Put your arms around them and weep with them. You’ll have plenty of time later to talk theology. For now, just show them God’s love, and when you do, you become their image of the Good Shepherd. Then with Jesus walking on one side of them and you walking on the other, they will get through that valley of darkness. 
And for you and me.. When tragedy strikes, when suffering comes, when life is just downright painful.. We have the choice to run away from God or run into His arms. When you turn to Him, He will give you peace, strength, courage and the promise of hope for your future. “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love Him” 1 Cor 2:9 (NLT) 

You will have good days and you will have terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days and no matter what happens in life, when you love the Lord with all your heart, all is well with your soul.  Amen?

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