Tuesday, November 19, 2013

How to suffer well?

Last week, we heard of Typhoon Haiyan coming through Tacloban, Philippines killing 10,000 people.  Yesterday, news reached me of 75 tornadoes ripping through the Midwest of our own country.  20 out of our 50 states were under extreme watch.  Why do these type of atrocities occur?  Why do children die unexpectedly and why does Aunt Sally have a tragic accident on the way back home from church?  These questions all fall under the big umbrella of theodicy (the problem of evil).  How do we answer the problem of evil, suffering, and pain in our world?  In reality, there is no 1 answer that fits the question and there will be times in this life that we will never receive an answer.  I recently heard a mother express just that in reference to her child being shot at Sandy Hook.  She may be right.  She may never know on earth why the gunman pulled the trigger.

With that being said, let me give you a few possible solutions to the problem of evil, however I remind you that these solutions are not a one size fits all approach to answering the problem of evil question.  Colossians 1:24 speaks of us filling up what is lacking in our afflictions of Christ.  What is it that is lacking?  It is our pain or suffering that God can use to point other people to the gospel.  Sometimes we do experience pain because God is disciplining us or bringing depth in our walk with God (think of Job).  Sometimes God is just demonstrating his greatness to us in suffering by reminding us that He is our greatest treasure.

Romans 8:28-29 is a great passage of Scripture for those experiencing evil, pain, or suffering.  Many times our suffering is present to make us become more like Christ, who suffered more than we ever will on the cross.  We must remember God doesn't exist to make us happy.  The "everything works for our good" part of Romans 8:28 doesn't say for our happiness.  In this case, good could imply suffering if that is what it takes for us to gain what is lacking to look more like Christ.    Plus people take notice when they see us suffer and our hope remains in Christ.  Many people don't take notice when everything is going normal as is.

Other times, we suffer because we live in a fallen world, because of our own sin, because others sin against us, because the devil tempts us, or for God's good purposes.  Jesus is our example in suffering.  From Him, we learn how to suffer well.  I Corinthians 1:3-7 gives us the paradigm for suffering.  We suffer and receive comfort from God in our affliction so we can then turn and comfort others in their affliction which in turn produces hope. 

Remember, nothing in your life has happened that hasn't already crossed God's desk.  The suffering we receive from God has ministry in view.  Even your suffering doesn't belong to you.  It belongs to God.  The redemptive purpose in all of this is hope in a fallen world!

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