Monday, 11 February 2013

Why Does God Allow Suffering?

This combination of two posts answers a key question that Christians are often asked to answer: Why Does God Allow Suffering? I thought I would share it and hopefully it will help you to have a slightly clearer answer! {HTB / Nicky Gumbel: Bible in a Year Daily Devotional – click to read the whole passage: part 1 / part 2}
A young New Yorker named Glenn Chambers had a lifelong dream to work for God, in Ecuador.  At the airport on the day of departure, he wanted to send a note to his mother but he didn’t have time to buy a card.  He noticed a piece of paper on the terminal floor and picked it up.  It turned out to be an advertisement with ‘Why?’ spread across it.  He scribbled his note around the word ‘Why?’ and put it in the post box.  That night his aeroplane exploded into the fourteen thousand foot Colombian peak El Tablazo.  When his mother received the note after the news of his death the question burned up at her from the page … ‘Why?’
Why does God allow such suffering?  We are constantly confronted by suffering.  It bewilders and outrages us.  It is the single greatest challenge to the Christian faith.  The amount of suffering and its distribution seem to be random and unfair.
Theologians and philosophers have wrestled for centuries with the mystery of undeserved suffering and no one has ever come up with a simple and complete solution.  Today and tomorrow’s passages are only part of the answer, but each of them gives us some insight.
In today’s passages we see that although suffering is never good in itself, God is able to use it for good in a number of ways.  God loves us.  Our suffering is also God’s suffering.  He suffers alongside of us.  Yet he does not simply remove suffering from our lives.  He often uses bad things to bring about his good purposes. 
1.  God uses suffering to transform us
2.  God uses suffering to save us
3.  God uses suffering for his good purposes
4.  See the suffering of this life in the context of eternity
5.  Understand the relationship between human freedom and suffering
6.  Always respond to suffering with compassion

The promise of the New Testament is that God will use everything that happens to us for good.  As we face trials, temptation, struggles and difficulty, the New Testament assures us that ‘in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose’ (Romans 8:28).

A one-year-old boy shattered his back falling down a flight of stairs.  He spent his childhood and youth in and out of hospital.  Gavin Read, the former Bishop of Maidstone, interviewed him in church.  The boy remarked, ‘God is fair.’  Gavin stopped him and asked, ‘How old are you?’  ‘Seventeen,’ the boy replied.  ‘How many years have you spent in hospital?’  The boy answered, ‘Thirteen years.’  He was asked, ‘Do you think that is fair?’  He replied, ‘God has got all of eternity to make it up to me.’
We live in a world of instant gratification which has almost entirely lost its eternal perspective.  The New Testament is full of wonderful promises about the future.  All creation will be restored.  Jesus will return to establish ‘a new heaven and a new earth’ (Revelation 21:1).  There will be no more crying, for there will be no more pain and suffering.  We will change our frail, decaying mortal bodies for a body like that of Jesus’ glorious resurrected body. 
Suffering is not part of God’s original created order (see Genesis 1–2).  There was no suffering in the world before rebellion against God.  There will be no suffering when God creates a new heaven and a new earth (Revelation 21:3–4).  It is ‘an alien intrusion into God’s world’.
A great deal of suffering can be explained as being the result of the fact that we live in a fallen world: a world where all creation has been affected by not only the sin of human beings, but even before that, Satan’s sin.  The serpent existed before Adam and Eve sinned.  As a result of Adam and Eve’s sin, ‘thorns and thistles’ entered the world (Genesis 3:18).  Ever since that time ‘the creation was subjected to frustration’ (Romans 8:20).  ‘Natural’ disasters are a result of this disorder in creation. 

Satan was allowed to bring several major tragedies into the life of a man who was blameless and upright, who feared God and shunned evil (Job 1:1).  Job suffered loss in the areas of money, material possessions (1:13–17), family life (1:18–19), personal health (2:1–10) and even eventually the support of his friends.

When we face unexplained suffering it can be very easy to blame God.  Yet, although Job did not know why he was suffering, he responded by continuing to trust in God.  He resolved to trust and worship God in his suffering, just as he had in his good fortune (1:21,2:10).  The writer tells us admiringly, ‘In all this, Job did not sin in what he said’ (v.10b).  He remained faithful in the most difficult of circumstances.

This was not the end of Job’s story.  In the end, God restored his fortunes and gave him twice as much as he had before.  Now we know that, through Jesus, God has all eternity to more than compensate for all our sufferings in this life.


Ronell x

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