Why All This Suffering? Part 1

I don’t know if this question has entered your mind or has been asked of you in the past couple weeks, “If God is good and loving, why is He allowing all this suffering and evil to exist in our world”? This has been a tough month or so for the United States. First came the hurricanes which brought major flooding, death and destruction to our southern and gulf communities. Then we had the horrible shooting deaths of 58 individuals by an apparently lone crazed gunman who rained down warlike gunfire on crowds of concert goers in Las Vegas. Now here in California we are faced with wildfires, which are currently ravaging the houses and properties of thousands of people in Southern and Northern CA and at the date of this writing has caused many deaths. All this suffering causes many to ask the question, “Why?”

That “why” question goes back thousands of years. It was asked in the Old Testament by Job and the writers of the Psalms, and it was especially relevant during the 20th century, where we witnessed two World Wars, the Holocaust, genocides in the Soviet Union and China, devastating famines in Africa, the killing fields of Cambodia, the emergence of AIDS, the genocide in Rwanda and the ethnic cleansing of Kosovo. There was 9/11, the ISIS slaughters, and on and on. Why all of this if there’s a loving and powerful God?

But if you’ve never asked why our world is infected with pain and suffering, you will when they strike you with full force or they come to a loved one. And Jesus said they are coming. Unlike some other religious leaders who wrote off pain and suffering as just being illusions, Jesus was honest. He told us the truth. He said in John 16:33, “You will have suffering in this world.” He didn’t say you might – he said it is going to happen.

We may not be able to make out all the peripheral details of why — they may be obscured from our view — but there are some key Biblical truths that can illuminate some points for us. And if we consider these truths, they will lead us in the right direction, toward some conclusions that I believe can help give us some basic answers.

I’ll list them here today and go into each one a little deeper in part 2 of this article.

Biblical Truths To Consider When Contemplating Evil and Suffering

  1. God is not the creator of evil and suffering.
  2. Though suffering isn’t good, God can use it to accomplish good.
  3. The day is coming when suffering will cease and God will judge evil.
  4. Our suffering will pale in comparison to what God has in store for His followers.
  5. We decide whether to turn bitter or turn to God for peace and courage.

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

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LIFE WILL TEST YOU – Part One

“for God has come to test you.” Ex 20:20

Do you remember the tests you took in school? You passed or failed, but you couldn’t avoid them. Life works that way too. When it comes to life’s tests-you must prepare yourself in advance! 

Jesus said: 24 “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. 26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”  (Mt 7:24-27).

The first man built his house on rock because he knew it wasn’t a question of “if,” but “when,” a storm will come. The second man built his house on sand because it was cheap and easy. When the storm came the first man’s house stood and the second man’s house fell.

What’s the point  Jesus was making?  Your talents, your resume and your reputation may get you to the top, but if you haven’t built strong character you won’t stay there long.

Furthermore, your beliefs may be sincere and line up with what other people around you think, but unless they’re founded on God’s Word they’ll fail you when you need them most. Three times in the Bible we read, “The just shall live by faith” (Ro 1:17).

When the tests of life come you’ve got to be able to rise up and say, I may not have all the answers, but I have proven God’s character and track record and I’m trusting Him to do what He’s promised in His Word!”

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BEWARE OF SELF-RIGHTEOUSNESS

“You who judge others do these very same things.” Romans 2:1

I read the following illustration, on having the proper perspective.  A woman looked out her window every morning and commented to her husband on the dirty laundry on her neighbor’s line. One day she noticed it was sparkling clean: “Maybe she’s using a new detergents”; she remarked. “No” said her husband. “I got up early and cleaned our windows.”

Hello! When Paul talks about “greed, hate, envy, murder, quarreling, deception…gossip” (Romans 1:29), it’s tempting to think it doesn’t apply to you. Then he says, “You are just as bad…you…do these very same things.”

Maybe you’ve never embezzled money, but have you ever shortchanged somebody? Or taken an “iffy” tax deduction? How about when you’re stuck in traffic, or you overhear some juicy gossip?

The Christian writer Phil Yancey says: “Murder and adultery differ from hatred and lust only by degree…Paul reserves his most scathing comments for self-righteous people…A Pharisee of Pharisees, he knew the pattern…the danger that accompanies a feeling of moral superiority. Just as denial keeps you from seeing a doctor about a lump or lesion…denial of sin leads to worse consequences…! accepted a speaking engagement from some Christians involved in Twelve­ Step Programs…As I pondered what to say…it occurred to me that what
recovering alcoholics confess daily-personal failure and the need for grace…represent high hurdles for those of us who take pride in independence and self-sufficiency. Romans 3:10 says, There is none righteous,’ and God’s grace is the only solution. It comes free of charge, apart from the law and…human efforts towards self-improvement…we need only hold out open, needy hands-the most difficult gesture for a self-righteous person.”

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TWO STORIE S ABOUT MARRIAGE

“love…keeps no record of being wronged.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-5

Story one: Deborah K. Johnson writes: “My seven-year-old daughter wanted to take violin lessons, so I took her to a music store to rent an instrument. Hoping she would understand the importance of making a commitment to practice, I explained that lessons were expensive. I was willing to make the financial sacrifice if she promised to work hard. ‘There may be times you’ll feel like giving up,’ I said, ‘but I want you to hang in there!’ She nodded, understanding, then in her most serious voice she said, ‘It will be just like marriage, right, Mom?'”

Story two: A husband asked his wife, “Tell me, dear, have you ever been in love before?” She thought for a moment and replied, “No, darling. I once respected a man for his great intelligence. I admired another one for his remarkable courage. And I was captivated by yet another for his good looks and charm. But with you, well, how else could I explain it, except love?”

Have you been finding fault with your mate instead of remembering the qualities that attracted you to them? Attitudes are like weeds, they spring up overnight and if you don’t deal with them they take over the whole garden. Don’t let that happen! Next time you’re too busy to show love, or you react in anger, read these words: “Love is patient and kind.

Love…does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged…Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.” (1Co 13:4-7).

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PARENT, THAT’S YOUR JOB DESCRIPTION

“And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.Deuteronomy 6:7

 Abraham had a nephew called Lot who succeeded in business, but lost his family. How come? Because:
(a) he had the wrong emphasis – he placed material  success above spiritual success;
(b) he had the wrong environment – he thought his children could live in Sodom and not be affected by it;
(c) he had the wrong expectation – he thought he could change his surroundings by compromising with them;
(d) he set the wrong example – he thought his family would follow his instructions; instead they followed his lifestyle;
(e) he had the wrong relationships – he didn’t realize until it was too late, how much Sodom had influenced
  his family  (See Ge 19:4-5).

If you think you can live by the world’s rules and expect your children to follow God’s, you’re kidding yourself. Instead of preaching about the shoes you want your children to fill, walk in them! Lead by example. Outside of your influence as a parent, the four greatest influences in your child’s life are their peers, the internet, media and music. And all four are either working for you or against you. You say, “But I’m really busy right now.” Get un-busy! Rethink your priorities.

Your child’s character is being molded each day; the question is, by whom? God’s Word clearly states that these six things constitute your job description as a parent: (1) Instruct them (See Dt 6:6-7). (2) Train them (See Prov 22:6). (3) Provide for them (See 2Co 12:14). (4) Nurture them (See Eph 6:4). (5) Discipline them (See 1Ti 3:4). (6) Love them (See Tit 2:4).

The truth is, you have no greater responsibility!

 

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PRAY ABOUT EVERYTHING

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”  Philippians 4:6

Sometimes we take for granted the gift of prayer. The idea that we can communicate personally with the most Holy Sovereign Supreme God Who just happens to be the Creator of everything is stunningly amazing. It reminds me of a story I read several years ago.

The four-year-old son of a missionary family in Africa spotted a picture of a little pink dinosaur in a magazine and set his heart on having one. His mom knew it was impossible (the magazine was three years old), but her son never doubted God would come through for him. Ten months later, on Christmas Eve, a box from home arrived. At first glance, it seemed to contain something special for everyone-except a four-year-old boy. Then they reached the bottom-and they were stunned. The lady who sent the box had no way of knowing God would use her to answer a little boy’s prayer. Before taping up the box, at the last minute, she tossed in the one item impossible for his parents to provide-something so insignificant no rational adult would ever have been foolish enough to ask God for…a pink plastic brontosaurus from a fast-food restaurant promotion!

Sometimes we feel foolish bothering God with little things, but we shouldn’t. The Bible says: “pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.”

God is interested in every detail of your life; if something is important to you, it’s important to Him. In Bible times two sparrows were sold for a cent (on sale you could buy five for two cents!) yet Jesus said, “Not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it…the very hairs on your head are all numbered” (Mt 10:29-30).

When you learn to trust God in little things, you’ll be able to trust Him in big ones.

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YOUR TRIAL IS PRODUCING MATURITY

“And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.”
1 Peter 5:10

Saw an article which read as follows: “My friend…spent months job-hunting, and as leads failed to pan into paychecks she became discouraged. Yet…she refused to anesthetize the waiting ache…She fasted from TV, believing God had given her this time to reflect on where she was headed. Through those agonizing months God showed up in ways more profound than a job offer. She looked for a way to support herself; He taught her a new level of dependence on Him. As she waited for a potential employer’s call, God spoke into her soul…She searched for a ‘genie-god’ to instantly meet her needs; God blew her away by revealing He’s bigger than she ever dreamed. Eventually she landed a job and was grateful…but she was even more grateful to learn how God meets us through waiting in ways beyond those we can ask or imagine…Sometimes in the bleakest moments, His intervention manifests itself…we receive the perfect job, the physical healing, the necessary funds, and the wait is over. Other times He does the miracle in us.”

 “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” James 1:2-4

Gold only becomes valuable when the impurities have been removed in the fire, and God uses tough times like a refining process to bring out the best in us. He controls the heat, because His goal isn’t to destroy you but to develop you. He tailors the trial to the area in your life that needs work, and as you mature He ups the intensity. Athletes start out training with light weights, and as they grow stronger they progress to heavier ones. As you grow in Christ, obstacles that once seemed overwhelming will be par for the course.

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STANDING ON GOD’S PROMISES

“As surely as God is faithful, our word to you has not been Yes and No….but in Him it is always yes.” 2 Corinthians 1:19

Ever had a friend break a promise? The check doesn’t come, the repairman doesn’t show, your date doesn’t call? Count on it, people will let you down. But God won’t, “For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory.” 2 Corinthians 1:20

Knowing that enables you to keep walking by faith while you wait for them to be fulfilled. James MacDonald says: “It’s the not-knowing that crushes us. We doubt…worry… despair…falter and fail…If we knew how this was going to play out we’d be okay. We can take a bad day…month…year…or decade…as long as we know how it ends. A health crisis…a question about your marriage…uncertainty over a child…we all have areas we need to hold on to what God said…He knows what He promised, He can’t lie, and He can’t forget. He’ll deliver on time. Who else can make a promise like that? Now I wish I could tell you it always figures out perfectly in our lifetime, but I’d be lying…You can’t make sense of God’s promises with this life only. You must factor in the reality of eternity…Eternity brings it all together…eternal life…and the assurance of heaven are what make His promises so precious.”

Victor Frankl, who survived the horrors of the Holocaust, said, “A weak faith is weakened by predicaments and catastrophes, whereas a strong faith is strengthened by them.”

A Sunday school class was memorizing Psalm 23 and little Tommy couldn’t get beyond the first verse. On the big day he stepped up to the microphone, grinned at the audience and announced, “The Lord is my Shepherd – and that’s all I know!” And it’s all you need to know for now.

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YOU’RE ON A MISSION!

“Go! I am sending you.” Luke 10:3

Jesus sent His disciples out on a mission saying, “Carry no moneybag, no knapsack, no sandals, and greet no one on the road.” Luke 10:4

Observe three things He emphasized:

  1. “Carry no moneybag” – no hoarding! God will bless the man or woman who says, “Every penny you give me above my needs, Lord, I’ll use to fulfill your purposes.”

Imagine standing at the judgment seat of Christ with your riches uninvested, your assignment unfulfilled, and your sphere of influence unreached for Christ. What could you possibly say?

  1. “No knapsack ” – no excess baggage! God’s Word says,

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,” Hebrews 12:1

Whatever can get your attention can influence you, and whatever can keep your attention can master you. Satan dreads the completion of your assignment, so you must fight to keep your focus.

  1. “Greet no one on the road” – don’t waste time! Question any relationship that doesn’t contribute to your destiny. Paul was single-minded on this issue: “If anyone does not obey what we say in this letter, take note of that person, and have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed.” 2 Thessalonians 3:14

The hour is too late and the need too great. In the old days, in certain agricultural states in America they closed the schools for a few weeks and everyone was sent into the fields to gather the harvest. Why? Because to wait is to be too late!

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BE HUMBLE!

“Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master,
nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.”
John 13:16

One of the reasons God chose John the Baptist as Jesus forerunner is because he was humble. He’s introduced simply as a voice…crying in the wilderness, (Mark 1:3), no pretentious preambles or highfalutin titles. Many notable saints came before John, but Jesus said,

“Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.” Matthew 11:11

John had no hidden agenda or overblown ego; his message was:

“He must increase, but I must decrease.” John 3:30

John Barnett says: “Pride is the sin of competing with God…it makes you self-reliant, self-absorbed, self-deceived, self-confident, self-conscious, self-sufficient, self-satisfied, self-focused, self-centered and self-driven. It makes you unreliable, because nobody can tell you what to do…unloving, because you won’t sacrifice for others…unteachable, because nobody can correct you…competitive, because you’ll always try to outdo others.
Humility means not always having to be asked, reminded and recognized…you go around looking for ways to serve.”

Somebody asked Hudson Taylor, “Are you conscious of the way God has prospered you in the China Inland Mission? I doubt any man has had greater honor.” Taylor replied, “I don’t see it like that. I think God must have been looking for someone small enough and weak enough to use so that all the glory might be His…and He found me.”

Bottom line:

“God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” 1 Peter 5:5

Or as Kenneth Taylor puts it in The Living Bible paraphrase…“God gives special blessings to those who are humble, but sets Himself against those who are proud” (1Peter 5:5 TLB).

SO, BE HUMBLE!

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