Friday, July 24, 2015

"Why Does God Allow Suffering and Pain?"



Tell me what you think of this one. It shows mainstream evangelicals in the church system struggling with one of life's biggest questions. Some of them are definitely Emergent types.

I wonder about the inverse side of the coin of "Have the Best Life Now" teachings and worry that it is one will always find meaning in suffering or suffering will always make one more godly. Suffering is supposed to bring great insight and change. This isn't always true. There are some false messages out there that I worry muddy the waters.

Not every illness or disaster or suffering will bring great spiritual lessons. We are in a natural world open to disease, sin and accidents. In fact I dare say this teaching can actually influence people away from God especially if they have suffered deeply in their lives or lost several people to death. Yes there is suffering that comes from sin and even demonic attacks, but much suffering in this world is from it's natural and fallen state.

I know this is a complex issue, but just thinking aloud for this article. God does use evil for good but I worry about these false messages in Christianity. Many atheists go running for the hills when cultural Christians provide weak answers to some of these life questions or teach people meaning will always be found in suffering. In fact these are some things that lead many to turn away from God, and if god "allows" the suffering, doesn't that mean god is cruel? I can count dozens who have told me this refusing the gospel.

I had the weird experience the other week, being at a coffeeshop with a few acquaintances in town and one has stage IV colon cancer. She was being "brave" and then told me and a few others, "I know God sent me this cancer to change me and teach me some spiritual lessons". I was horrified. Cancer from God? Maybe it would be better stated to say that God would use her horrific illness for some good, but this one spiritually troubled me. She is in a mainstream church. I told her, I do not believe God sends anyone illness and that illness is part of a fallen world and that God is not the author of evil. She knows I have suffered severe illness and from a young age, so I hope I woke her up.

So few understand the core basic, that death and disease came to this world via sin. Jesus came to bring us more abundant life and eternal life, not suffering and death. Salvation in Jesus Christ is the lifeline out of the muck and sufferings of this world.

 I can't even count how many atheists have said to me, "How could there be a God when thousands die in disasters?" I think there is this trend in American society where everything that happens in this world must have meaning or some kind of positive outcome actually adds more confusion to these questions.

Bad things happen in this world.  Sin [both our own and others and even that of Adam and Eve] brought death and suffering into this world. Satan is the prince of this earth. The bible makes clear this world is a vale of tears for us all:

Ecclesiastes 7King James Version (KJV) 7 A good name is better than precious ointment; and the day of death than the day of one's birth. 2 It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting: for that is the end of all men; and the living will lay it to his heart.

One thing I thought about watching this video is that suffering is for special people. It will only happen to a select group. All of us will see people die and then die ourselves. Maybe the upper middle class academic vibe to this video gave me that feeling.

Michael Frost, a professor of theology explores the free-will issue and there is some truth there, that people do make choices [well sins] that will bring good or bad. Of course even there that is limited. Bad things happen to people who make good decisions too. American culture is awash in the concept that "good choices" determine one's destiny.

 The Bible says it rains on the just and unjust. Sadly in our culture, we know that there is that undercurrent that those who have made good decisions supposedly benefit from having a good life and those who have made poor ones supposedly have bad lives. Things don't work that way. The poor are often oppressed with that one.

Alan Hirsch a philosopher talks about earthquakes and hurricanes that kill thousands. He is correct that there are extreme limitations in the Eastern philosophies of why suffering occurs, since they say this life isn't real, or promote the idea of karma. Karma is when one is suffering in this life for the misdeeds of the supposed last life. He seems to see Christianity as the "best religion" which I don't agree with. It is the only one that is true.

Angie Smith who lost her baby has a poignant experience to share and seems to have grown closer to God through her deep loss and grief. Jo Saxton is right in saying Christians should be allowed to cry. Sadly there are false teachers out there that condemn all emotions. She sticks to the verse, "I know my Redeemer Lives".

Hugh Halter is a man who had a son with severe disability and talks about his son's life and impact. Gideon Tsang, says earlier in a kind of fuzzy-way that lack of love causes suffering but then are plenty who love who suffer too. In fact sometimes I think suffering can be deeper when it comes to grief for those who love deeper. Of course he has the view that God will heal THIS world which I do not agree with.

Mike Breen sees God as a "hero". That one has too much overlap with Superheroes for me. Explore God is a multi-denominational evangelical group so obviously I won't agree with everything on the video. I worry about Catholic view of suffering where suffering for suffering's sake is seen as redeemable. They don't come out so direct with that one but see a few glimmers of it. I do worry sometimes that the denial of suffering in American culture has led our culture to a strange place where suffering is seen as the exception and not for everyone. This idea that God "allows" suffering bothers me too. It is one I have thought on for many years.

There will be suffering for the gospel, martyrship and the like. There is chastisement and God will even use suffering for the greater good but there are some subtle teachings with suffering that should worry us. Jesus Christ came to save us from death and to offer us eternal life and God offers us a future free of suffering with salvation in Him.

Rev 21:4 And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

Excellent post BB. A lot to take in and think about..Perfect timing!
I have suffered a lot in this life and agree that we live in a fallen world.
So, a lot of it is just that..
I always like to pray for comfort in suffering..God's comfort eases my pain..
Christians forget how Job's friends kept trying to claim they knew why he was suffering.
I will pray you find peace and comfort in your sufferings.
Peace to you - Sue

Bible Believer said...

Thanks Sue, I am glad you understood one of the main points I was trying to communicate, yes this is a fallen world and much suffering is related to that. I pray for comfort too. Yes Job's friends criticized him and told him he must have done something evil, we hear that too from even people who claim to be Christians. I pray you find peace too Sue. God bless. :)

Anonymous said...

Agree and I love your last sentence! John 9 & 10 (9:38) - Don

Anonymous said...

i believe all suffering God is aware of and He uses every bit of evil for good, He knows when a single sparrow drops dead, has numbered the hairs on our heads ...
ozmliad

Anonymous said...

what do you do with these verses?
Deut 32:39'See now that I, I am He, And there is no god besides Me; It is I who put to death and give life. I have wounded and it is I who heal, And there is no one who can deliver from My hand.

Or Hebrews about Christ:

hebrews 5:7 In the days of His flesh, He offered up both prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears to the One able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His piety. 8Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered. 9And having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation.

I think the issues is knowing when we are suffering for doing right, and knowing when suffering has come to bring us into obedience. I do believe lack of repentance is the cause of all sorts of diseases, so yeah that is not God's fault, but still, this issue needs right division of the word.

Anonymous said...

I believe that God does allow suffering in this life. One thing you need to remember is this we will never suffer like Jesus suffered on the cross. The physical abuse that Jesus suffered was brought by man, but it was God that laid the sin of the world on Him. Jesus became sin for us. If we think about just our own sin and then multiply it by every person that has lived or will live on this earth that is what was laid on Jesus. Sin is horrendous and our minds cannot even comprehend what Jesus went through. I have a hard time even trying to put into words how terrible it must have been. I think that it was worse than the physical torture that was done to Him. This is made evident in “Luke 22:44 And being in agony, He prayed more earnestly. Then His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.” Sin leads to death.

Can you still take the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the lost if you are sick or maybe you are disabled? Yes should be the answer without any complaint about your situation. All glory and honor belong to the Lord. We are to humble ourselves under His mighty hand.

And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. 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. 2Corinthians 12:7-9

Whether you have some illness that is brought on by your lifestyle or maybe it is hereditary it was allowed by God. Paul had a physical problem that caused him great discomfort and pain. It was allowed by God because God wanted Paul to glorify the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit and not Paul himself. Paul lived to an old age, not from his own doing but by the power of God.

We may suffer from illness and we may never be cured of it, but that does not mean that the Father does not care. You can still function like everyone else if you allow the Father to work through you and give Him the glory for everything in your life. Just like Paul did not complain about his thorn in the flesh we should not complain either. Nor should we broadcast what our problem is just like Paul did not tell about his problem. The Father knows when a sparrow dies, how much more does He care for us. He sent His one and only Son to die on the cross and we have salvation. Our sins covered by the blood of Jesus. This life is only for a short while, can you really imagine ETERNITY?

Joel

Bible Believer said...

Thanks Don and Oz too.

Bible Believer said...

I believe God can teach things via suffering. Some is used for that. Jesus wouldn't have faced chastisement being sinless but that would happen in our case.

Bible Believer said...

Joel, yes the suffering of Jesus Christ is beyond our imagination taking on every sin in the world, present, past and future. Yes when the Bible says even His sweat turned to blood, that says something.

Thanks for bringing up the reminders of Paul and the infirmities he went through.

2 Cor 12:9 King James Bible
And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

Anonymous said...

Joel - I always appreciate your comments!
But aren't there many places in the Old Testament where people lamented about there sufferings. Complained to God.. I'm so tired tonight I can't come up with specific verses..
Blessings to you all - Sue

Bible Believer said...

I agree. I think it is okay to lament to God. People can talk about things. Be careful of the "think positive" crowds messages to "never complain".

Anonymous said...

BB and Sue,

There is a difference between laying your requests and the foot of the Throne of God and complaining. I am not one of those "think positive thoughts" people either. Also, when the children of Israel, when in the wilderness, started complaining about their situation God allowed 25,000 of them to die, men, women and children.

I used the verse from 2Corinthians 12:9 for the very reason that we have no complaint whatsoever to make to God. We are to be content with His grace that He so freely gives. Like I said before in the last phrase of Galatians 3:11 it says "for the just shall live by faith". I have been told that this is a mistranslation it should say "for by faith you shall live". That means we will be with God for ETERNITY after this life is over. So now tell me what do you have to complain about?

Please forgive me if this sounds harsh, I am not trying to beat anyone over the head. It is hard to put into words what needs to be said without seeing and hearing the person you are reading says.

Joel

Anonymous said...

Anon, who said "I do believe lack of repentence is the cause of all sorts of diseases". Is that really biblical?
Two of the healthiest people i know over 65yrs. of age, who I'm pretty sure have never repented of anything, have no disease (which is rare these days)...
I'm not sure that is a right judgement...

Anonymous said...

Plus, I know of people that are really suffering because someone else sinned against them...

Anonymous said...

blessed the peacemakers.

Anonymous said...

What do peacemakers look life for I have not seen them inside of any church system?