Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Why Suffering? PART FOUR

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

Dear Friends,

When we stumble over a pothole on the road of life or smack full-speed into a wall, do we cry, “Why ME Lord?” or is our response, “Well, why not me?” Some preachers promise God’s hand of favor, prosperity and victory over health problems. But Jesus promised us hardship and tribulation. “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 Another version says you will have “many trials and tribulations”. So a mature theology says that there will be hardship. In Jesus we will find peace, but there is still hardship. God does have a wonderful plan for your life but that plan includes an occasional walk through the valley of despair.

And not only does God allow you to walk through that valley of despair, He even permits extended stays and allows you to experience the full menu of trials and tribulations that Jesus promised would take place. You can rest assured that God’s not on the phone with the travel agent making reservations and planning your next trip in the valley, but... life happens. Sudden loss, hardship and suffering inject a joy-killing venom into our life and we find ourselves walking in that dark dismal place that Spanish poet and mystic Saint John of the Cross called the “dark night of the soul.” But always know that in your darkest moments, God will be right there in the valley with you. He says, “Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10

God does not create evil but He created mankind with free will and, in doing so, created the potential for us to do evil deeds. God didn't have to do that. He could have created us as robotic humanoids programmed to do only good and who would be incapable of doing the horrendous things that we humans do to each other. But God created us with free will and we therefore can choose to love God or reject God. We can love our neighbor or inflict great pain and suffering upon our neighbor. God is constantly warning us throughout the Old and New Testaments to not do bad things to other people and, whether you read ancient history or this morning’s newspaper, you can easily see to what extent it is that we have consistently ignored God's warnings.  

In fact, the cause of much suffering in the world is us humans. Wars, genocide, human trafficking, murders, torture, rape, racial atrocities and the abusive things we do to family members are the result of our having free will. The cause of evil in this fallen world is not God. The cause of evil is us humans working in partnership with the devil. 

It all started with a handshake deal between Adam and Eve and the serpent over the forbidden fruit. And that very moment changed the entire relationship between God and His creation. But as soon as that apple touched the lips of Eve, a cross appeared on the horizon. And from out of the cross, shines the hope for our future. The Apostle Paul said that “whatever we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory that He will reveal to us later.” Romans 8:18

But why would a loving God sometimes allow us to walk through that valley of despair? As I look back on every one of the hardships in my own life, I see each time where God gave me the opportunity to wallow in it or walk out of it. The German philosopher, Nietzsche, once said “That which does not kill you will make you stronger.” Every hardship has made me spiritually stronger. I hated it at the time but it brought me closer to God. Every tribulation has reformed or refined my theology and my understanding of Him. Even during those times when I was wallowing in the pit and angry at God, He lifted me out, set my feet back on solid ground and turned my bitterness into a deeper and more trusting love of Him than I’d ever had before. 

When we are wallowing in the pit of despair, it is difficult, if not impossible, to see that suffering can have redemptive purposes. It’s often not until we are on the other side of a bad situation that we can clearly see how God used our trials and tribulations to strengthen our Christian character. Romans 5:3-4 (NLT) As pastor Rick Warren has said, “God never wastes a hurt.
to be continued...       

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