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Tuesday, October 23, 2018


Suffering And God's Children
by Pastor Mark Taylor

 “Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and not receive bad?”
Job 2:10
If you want to believe in God’s goodness and fairness, but find it hard because of the things that have happened to you and to people you care about, I want to write some thoughts as I ponder that same question and thoughts of others who have experienced  great loss.  And remember that God can handle your disappointments and anger.  He is still a loving God that wants to help you.  
I do not personally believe that bad things that happen to us always comes from God.  Many people do.  And I am sure you can find verses that would indicate that they might.  I am not a Bible scholar but based on my thoughts and experiences over 50 years of serving and walking with The Lord Jesus, I have some educated explanations.
 One of those explanations that is central to my understanding of God in my personal relationship with Him is that "God is love."  (1 John 4:8). Therefore I believe that most of the bad things that cause us suffering comes from another source.  I believe some of our suffering is due to poor choices we make.  Another source of our suffering comes from Satan.  My personal belief is based on one verse that our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ gave us:  "The thief (Satan) does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly." John 10::10.  And finally, there is some suffering for which there is no explainable answer this side of Heaven.
The great theme of the book of Job-- and the one for which it is world famous -- is its treatment of the reason for suffering in the Christian life. None of us have a problem when we are told that suffering is sent by God to punish wrongdoers. We have a long list of names that we could present to God of people who deserve this kind of thing. It is eminently just for God to punish wrongdoers with suffering, we think. People who hurt others and are vicious, cruel, and wicked ought to be made to suffer for what they do. Our whole system of justice is built upon that principle. That is why we put people in jail and fine them, because we are trying to carry out justice through punishing wrongdoing. That satisfies our sense of justice -- except when we happen to be the wrongdoers getting punished. Then, of course, it is all very unfair.
But what about the times we are living right and are close to God.  The book of Job teaches us something that should have been obvious to us from our reading of the Gospels, and that is the fact that Jesus suffered. Now, obviously, Jesus did not suffer because he was a wrongdoer, nor did he suffer because he needed to have his attention captured by God. He was always sensitively responsive to the Father's will, and always did that which was pleasing in his sight. Yet his life was filled with suffering from beginning to end -- rejection, misunderstanding, disappointment, cruelty, harsh words, and unjust treatment -- all the way through, so that he merited the description of the Old Testament, even before the cross, that he was "a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief," (Isaiah 53:3).

If we are going to suffer, then the question may arise about “why live a righteous life and follow Jesus?”  The reason is that Scripture speaks in numerous passages about "this slight momentary affliction preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison" (2 Corinthians 4:17), and of how "the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that will be revealed in us," (Romans 8:18). When that day breaks, the one thing for which we will be infinitely thankful, the one thing above all others that will thrill us and cheer us and cause us to glory, is the fact that out of all the created universe we were chosen to be the ones who bore the name of God in the hour of danger and affliction, problem and trial. There is no higher honor than that. That is what Jesus means when he says, "Blessed are you when men persecute you and say all manner of evil against you falsely for my name's sake. Rejoice and be exceeding glad, for great is your honor before the Father. For so persecuted they the prophets who were before you," (Matthew 5:11-12).  You may feel as I do, and that is that I don't want to suffer.  And I hope you and I are not called to suffer.  But, if and when we do, we need to have some understanding of why it is happening.
Finally, I want to say that there are some questions that we will never know the answer to until we get to Heaven.  Who can explain a natural disaster like a hurricane or tornado that sweeps across an area and good Christian people lose there lives or possessions?  Who can explain the evil events such as September 11, 2001 or shootings in elementary schools?  Who can explain why children get terrible diseases such as leukemia  or aids?  I certainly cannot and even though I have read countless books and heard many explanations, I have not found an answer.

There are some obvious explanations for some suffering.  When a person has poor health habits for many years such as excessive smoking of tobacco, use of drugs, or excessive drinking, medical science has told us what the consequences will be.  Law enforcement has told us the consequences for drinking and driving, distracted driving, and not wearing seat belts. Our parents and grandparents have told us of possible consequences for being with the "wrong crowd" and going to the "wrong places".  A reasonable person cannot blame God for the suffering brought on by these poor decisions.

There are explanations I have heard that I don't agree with even though I have heard good people use them to explain suffering.  Below are what I view as some wrong assumptions that many people have developed as they go through suffering.
1.  One wrong assumption is that bad things are not suppose to happen to good people.  Let us look at a couple of many verses in the Bible that contradict that theory.  "The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart, And saves such as have a contrite spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous But the Lord delivers him out of them all." Psalms 34:18-19.  Even our Lord and Savior let us know that life is full of suffering.  "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
2.  Some people have address suffering in every generation by assuming that we somehow get what we deserve and our misfortunes come as punishment for our sins.  This is a wrong assumption.  It creates guilt even where there is no basis for guilt.  Blaming the victim is a way or reassuring ourselves that the world is not as bad a place as it may seem, and that there are good reasons for people’s suffering.   It makes people hate God, and even makes them hate themselves.  And most disturbing of all it does not even fit the facts.  God has provided a payment and forgiveness for all of our sins, and there is no one that is without sin.  “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one” (Romans 3:10).  If we all got what we deserve, none of us would be alive.  It is true that there are natural consequences for sin, but that is not why bad things happen to good people.  
This does not take into account that God does chastise His children when we need it. But I personally believe that he does not hurt other people for our sins.  I do not believe that a person who loves God and is trying to serve Him will receive chastisement at the expense of others.  For instance, I do not believe God would take a child or spouse of someone because they did not live up to all the standards they felt were set for them.  Neither do I believe we get diseases like cancer and other things for our shortcomings.  We serve a merciful and loving God and Father and He is a better Father than any of us and we would not punish our children with that severity.  
"For whom the Lord loves He chastens,  And scourges every son whom He receives.  If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons.  Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live? For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness."  Hebrews 12:6-10
3.  Another wrong assumption is that one of God’s reason’s to make us suffer is educational.   I have heard people say “Maybe God is trying to teach us a lesson.”  God does not do painful things to us as His way of helping us.  This statement is used to defend God or give Him an excuse for the bad things that happens to His children.  God does not operate this way.  “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.”                (Jeremiah 29:11).  It is wrong to think that the God who loves us and sent His son to die for us would try to teach us lessons by allowing innocent children to die in accidents or through incurable diseases.
3.  Let me give you one final assumption that I think is wrong, even though it may take you awhile to believe it or process it.  “God is all-powerful and causes everything that happens in the world.  Nothing happens without His willing it.”  God is all powerful, but   Just because God is all-knowing does not mean He causes bad things to happen to good people.   “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is long-suffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.”   (2 Peter 3:9).  
It is almost impossible to believe that God does not always get His way.  Bad things do happen to good people in this world, but it is not God who wills it.  God would like people to get the good things they deserve in this life, but He will not always arrange it.  God wants the righteous to live peaceful, happy lives, but sometimes it does not happen the way He wants it to.
Why?  Because He loves you and me and He has given us a license that is called “free will”.  "I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live” (Deuteronomy 30:19). 
 He has temporally abdicated His all-powerful ability to give you the ability to choose to love Him and receive good things from Him.  If we can bring ourselves to acknowledge that there are some things God does not control, many good things become possible.  We will be able to turn to God for things He can do to help us, instead of holding on to unrealistic expectations of Him which will never come about.  Our question should be “God, see what is happening to me. Can You help me?” not “God, why are You doing this to me?”  Where was God when Hitler killed over 6 million men, women, and Children?  He was with the victims and not with the murderers.  Even though He does not control man’s choosing between good and evil, he is sees and feels the tears and prayers and is suffering alongside the people He has created.  “For we have not a high priest who is not able to be touched by the feelings of our feeble flesh; but we have one who has been tested in all points as we ourselves are tested, but without sin. Then let us come near to the seat of grace without fear, so that mercy may be given to us, and we may get grace for our help in time of need.”  (Hebrews 4:15-16).
God gets back His power when we pray and get strength and comfort from Him.  He puts that power in us to feed the hungry, fight the injustice in our world, heal the brokenhearted, and all the things that He allowed His Son, the Lord Jesus to do, now He can use us.  You become His legs, His arms, His feet, and His mouth.
When bad things happen to good people, God wants to help them.  He wants  those who are hurting to stop hurting themselves.  He wants you to pray and connect with others who have the power to get things from Him.  He wants to comfort you and love you when bad things are happening to you.  He wants you to comfort others when bad things are happening to them.  Prayer will deliver you from many bad things, but not all bad things.  But when bad things happen to God’s people, they can be assured of one thing and that is that He will give you the ability to get through it.  This is called grace.  “And He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness." Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”                              (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Finally, when bad things happen to good people, they have a choice.  They can allow God to use them to help others or they can become bitter and angry.  You can become better or you can become bitter. I hope you will understand this one thing and that is that the bad things that happen to you are not from God.  They are either from poor choices or Satan Himself.   Our Lord said about Himself and Satan: “The thief (Satan) does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10).