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Thursday, September 15, 2016

Ouch . . . suffering at it's best!

The remedial power of suffering is often overlooked. Often we fail to appreciate the opportunity that suffering offers us as a sanctifying process in our journey heavenward. Paul so joyfully reminds us that:

Not only that, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us (Romans 5:3-5).

But why rejoice? Because, he also said:

I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death (Philippians 3:10).

This in a nutshell is the purpose of suffering; that is, to be conformed to the image of Christ (Romans 8:28-29). That means Christlikeness in the good times as well as the bad and everything in-between. Christ did not come just to show us the way but to be the way for no man shall see God without holiness (Hebrews 12:14) which is without a doubt Christlikeness. Job recognized the value of his suffering when he said:

“When he has tried me, I shall come forth as gold.” (23:10)

Someone has said that the chief cause for atheism is that there seems to be no plausible answer to:” Why does a good God allow bad things to happen to good people?” I am not suggesting that I have all the answers; however, part of the answer, I believe, lays in the response Aron Moss gave to someone who once complained:

Why do bad things happen to good people? Why is this world so unfair? Please don't tell me "We can't understand God's ways." I am sick of hearing that. I want an explanation.

His response was simple:

Are you sure you want an explanation? Do you really want to know why the innocent suffer? I think not. You are far better off with the question than with an answer.

You are bothered by the fact that people suffer undeservedly. As you should be. Any person with an ounce of moral sensitivity is outraged by the injustices of our world. Abraham, the first Jew, asked God, "Should the Judge of the whole world not act fairly?" Moses asked, "Why have You treated this people badly?" And today we still ask, "Why God, why?"

But what if we found the answer? What if someone came along and gave us a satisfying explanation? What if the mystery were finally solved? What if we asked why, and actually got an answer?

If this ultimate question were answered, then we would be able to make peace with the suffering of innocents. And that is unthinkable. Worse than innocent people suffering is others watching their suffering unmoved. And that's exactly what would happen if we were to understand why innocents suffer. We would no longer be bothered by their cry, we would no longer feel their pain, because we would understand why it is happening.

Aron Moss continues:

Imagine you are in a hospital and you hear a woman screaming with pain. Outside her room, her family is standing around chatting, all smiling and happy. You scream at them, "What's wrong with you? Can't you hear how much pain she is in?" They answer, "This is the delivery ward. She is having a baby. Of course we are happy."

When you have an explanation, pain doesn't seem so bad anymore. We can tolerate suffering when we know why it is happening.

And so, if we could make sense of innocent people suffering, if we could rationalize tragedy, then we could live with it. We would be able to hear the cry of sweet children in pain and not be horrified. We would tolerate seeing broken hearts and shattered lives, for we would be able to neatly explain them away. Our question would be answered, and we could move on.

But as long as the pain of innocents remains a burning question, we are bothered by its existence. And as long as we can't explain pain, we must alleviate it. If innocent people suffering does not fit into our worldview, we must eradicate it. Rather than justifying their pain, we need to get rid of it.

So keep asking the question, why bad things happen to good people. But stop looking for answers. Start formulating a response. Take your righteous anger and turn it into a force for doing good. Redirect your frustration with injustice and unfairness and channel it into a drive to fight injustice and unfairness. Let your outrage propel you into action. When you see innocent people suffering, help them. Combat the pain in the world with goodness. Alleviate suffering wherever you can.

We don't want answers, we don't want explanations, and we don't want closure. We want an end to suffering. And we dare not leave it up to God to alleviate suffering. He is waiting for us to do it. That's what we are here for.
That is precisely what all of us must do. That is, give a cup of cold water to those who thirst. Feed and care for the widow an orphan. Do good even to “Love our enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and our reward will be great, and we will be sons of the Most High … Luke 6:35.”

We may not be able to fully understand or elevate evil, but we can, however, to share each others burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2).

Take care . . .