The Problem of Suffering in the World

28 Sep

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Axioms we have heard:

“When the going gets tough, the tough get going.”

“When the world gives you a lemon, make lemonade.”

“If God sends us on stony paths, he provides strong shoes.” — Corrie Ten Boom.

“Great crises produce great men and great deeds of courage” —-John F. Kennedy, Profiles in Courage

sufferingYou know it’s going to be a bad day when:

* You call suicide prevention and they put you on hold.

* You see a 60 Minutes news team waiting in your office.

* Your birthday cake collapses from the weight of the candles.

* Your twin sister forgets your birthday.

Let’s make it clear: we’re NOT talking about “a bad day” when we hear some of the pleas offered in the midst of pain and suffering. While it is true that a crisis helps to make a person, it is also true that a crisis helps to reveal what a person is made of.

Life is filled with a variety of difficulties (Job 14:1-2)

“”Man born of woman is of few days and full of trouble. {2} He springs up like a flower and withers away; like a fleeting shadow, he does not endure.”….but God’s grace is sufficient (see “manifold” or “poikilos” in 1 Peter 1:6 and 4:10).

All we need to think of is Joseph, David, Daniel, Elijah, and Stephen. Jesus told us they would come:

(John 16:1-3) “”All this I have told you so that you will not go astray. {2} They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering a service to God. {3} They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me…. (32) “”But a time is coming, and has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me. {33} “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.””

Paul said in 2 Timothy 3:12 : “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”

We occasionally sing a song which offers some powerful words for us:

“Come, ye disconsolate, where’er ye languish Come to the Mercyseat, fervently kneel. Here bring your wounded heart, here tell your anguish; Earth has no sorrow that Heav’n cannot heal.”

Paul reminds us in 1 Cor. 10:13 that God will limit their impact upon us. They cannot make our service to God in vain: (1 Cor 15:58) “Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”

(2 Tim 4:6-8) “For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. {7} I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. {8} Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day–and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.”

suffer-for-christ-e1344552240663“Are you going through a hard time? Maybe these words from a song called The Fire will help get us through them: “I’ve been through a fire that has deepened my desire, to know the living God more and more. It hasn’t been much fun, but the work that it has done in my life has been worth the hurt. You see sometimes we need the hard times to bring us to our knees, otherwise we do as we please and never heed him. For he always knows what’s best and it’s when we are distressed that we really come to know God as he is.”

There are things man cannot know…God knows all (chapters 38-41). We MUST avoid the warning of Job 40:8!

(Job 38:2) “”Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge?”

(Job 40:8) “”Would you discredit my justice? Would you condemn me to justify yourself?”

We know that sin and suffering are not linked; they are not proof of sin or guilt (reminded of Luke 13:1-5). Let those circumstances bring you to repentance. We will suffer (like many other Christians) when it is not deserved.

“The Sequoia trees of California tower as much as 300 feet above the ground. Strangely, these giants have unusually shallow root systems that reach out in all directions to capture the greatest amount of surface moisture. Seldom will you see a redwood standing alone, because high winds would quickly uproot it. That’s why they grow in clusters. Their intertwining roots provide support for one another against the storms.

“Suffering comes to all of us, and no one can suffer for us. Even so, just like those giant Sequoia trees, we can be supported in those difficult times by the prayers and understanding of loved ones and friends. It’s when we are too proud to admit our needs to others that we are in the greatest danger.”

We can benefit from the process.Hard times keep this world from becoming too attractive.

“Our citizenship is in heaven…we’re pilgrims passing through this life and we don’t need to let our roots get too deep.”

Suffering brings out our best and allows to development deep bonds.

Those we count as our closest and dearest friends are those who have gone through hard times in life with us.

Suffering makes us appreciative.

Words of ‘cheerful’ minister despite a hard time in his life: “I make the right use of my eyes. I look up to Heaven and realize that is where I am going. Next, I look down upon the earth and realize how small a place I shall occupy when I am dead and buried. Finally, I look around and see the many who are in some respects much worse than I am. This brings me to three conclusions: First, I learn where true happiness lies; Second, I realize where all our cares end; third, I realize how little reason I have to complain.”

God’s attributes can be displayed: (2 Cor 12:9-10) “But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. {10} That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

We can develop a valuable attribute: (Phil 4:11-12) “I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. {12} I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.”

What did Jesus learn from his suffering? (Heb 5:8-9) “Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered {9} and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him”

* Story of the man who helped a crysalis burst through the cocoon…didn’t have the strength needed to fly.

It will provide opportunities to make us sympathetic and to reach out to others: 2 Cor 1:3-6: that ‘comfort circle’ we’ve discussed before.

It will force us to depend upon God and to give thanks in all things. (Prov 3:5-6) “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; {6} in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”

(2 Cor 1:8-11) “We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. {9} Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. {10} He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, {11} as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.”

Teaches us to pray and that prayer works when nothing else will.

Use the events to glorify God (story of man born blind which Jesus used to glorify God…John 9:1-5).

“I asked God for strength that I might achieve, I was made weak, that I might learn humbly to obey.

I asked for health, that I might do greater things, I was given infirmity that I might do better things.

I asked for riches, that I might be happy, I was given poverty, that I might be wise.

I asked for power, that I might have the praise of men, I was given weakness, that I might feel the need of God.

I asked for all things, that I might enjoy life, I was given life, that I might enjoy all things.

I got nothing that I asked for — but everything I had hoped for.

Almost despite myself, my unspoken prayers were answered. I am among all men, most richly blessed.” ¨ From Max Cleland, Strong at the Broken Places.

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Posted by on September 28, 2015 in counsel


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