SUFFERING & GOD'S LOVE
by Glenn Kaiser
Right off the bat let me admit what a host of godly men and women have admitted for years: I do not know why God allows each specific case of suffering, pain, extended misery and terrible death happen, especially when these surface in the lives of His Own faithful servants.
I understand such events bring us closer to Him, or to Him for salvation in the first place, or back to Him from a time of backsliding and unfaithful living.I know from Hebrews chapter 12, etc., that He actually extends and places His love in our lives via the discipline such events bring into our lives. I understand and appreciate many angles and lessons from suffering, and can probably preach a fair sermon or give a solid Bible study on the subject.
But to say I or anyone else truly grasps the depths of why a particular person, family or group goes through these things, especially near times such as Christmas or Easter is, I admit, a mystery.Honesty calls me to say so, and there you have it! But the question is this: is God still love... and a loving God (see John 3.16 and the First Letter of John for more detail...) and is He still not only good in His character and nature but actually BEING good toward us and our loved ones while we/they are in the midst of a continuing trial of pain, suffering and in some cases, difficult death?
My absolute answer is YES, YES, a thousand YES's!!! Sin, the devil, demons and of course our own free-will ability to make blatantly wrong and damaging choices all figure in to the why and how of it. But again, such does not answer the problem of pain (as C. S. Lewis phrased it) in all situations with all people, many of whom on all accounts never made poor choices nor did anything to "deserve" the agony they experience(d).
But God gives mercy and grace to the undeserving every moment, as we must believe and see in Scripture and history. That much is clear.I think the deeper issues are not the circumstances of the pain, nor even the attitude of the suffering person in question, but the humility and faithful "hang in, hang on, don't hang up!" for there is noOne else to Whom we ultimately must go but to a Father Who knows what we do not and in this life, cannot. The reasons? As I said earlier here, I know of a number, but not in every case.
But I know this: if God isn't Who He reveals Himself to be in His Own Word as well as the experience of millions of Christians throughout the centuries, you and I- far less loving, moral, forgiving, tender, kind and scads more ignorant (!) are less worthy of trust.Where does that leave you and I in suffering? It leaves us playing God, over our heads in a despair that we can take NOWHERE but into our own hearts. The Holy Spirit, among other things, is called by Jesus, The Comforter. God is called by Paul "the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort".
We know we and others benefit when they see us cling tightly to the Lord in times of pain.
We also know many who fall away, trash their marriages, families, bring untold future suffering to their children and basically spread yet more misery because in the end, their own grief became more important to them than God and others.
When we allow suffering to control us, it becomes the false God that destroys far beyond the actual elements bringing pain in the first place.Relationship to our Father is eternal. For the son and daughter of God by faith in Christ, pain is not! The question is not whether God changes from loving us to ignoring or taking pleasure in our torment... the question is: how will we respond when pain enters our picture? Will we grow in the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. chapter 5) and more reflect HIS nature... or simply shrink back into our own base nature that often says: "Give me what I want and I'll believe and follow.
Refuse me and I'll find another god"?
I wish you blessing and a pain-free Christmas, but it may not be so for either of us. In any case, I believe God is love, and that He alone sustains us by daily grace... a grace that proves itself "sufficient" when we receive and walk in it.
God help us!
(This article appears on Glenn's blog site. For other info and articles from/by Glenn, see his homepage, glennkaiser.com)