God and suffering

Discussion in '2000-02 Archive' started by russell55, Nov 17, 2002.

  1. russell55

    russell55
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    As a few of you know, we are going through a very difficult trial in our home. Due to this, I have been doing a lot of thinking about suffering lately, and God's relationship to our suffering.

    I have two friends who have dealt extensively with these issues and have come to different conclusions. The first one is a woman I went to school with, who has a son with severe autism who accidentaly badly burned himself over a large portion of his body. Of course, the question of why a good God would let something like this happen to someone who couldn't even comprehend what was happening to him loomed large in her mind. She wrote a book about her journey searching for the answer to this question, and came to this conclusion: For the most part, God has a hand's off relationship to the suffering in this world. What happened to them and to their son was more or less the "luck of the draw", or circumstances working themselves out naturally. God had no particular purpose in mind to bring about from these events in her son's life.

    The other friend also went to school with us and is now one of the big names in the "openness of God" movement. A tragic event suffered by his family precipitated his journey into this theology. He explains his family's tragedy by saying that God didn't know for certain what would happen. God doesn't have a "hands off" relationship with the world, rather He is always working in the events of the human history, but He doesn't see with certainty events that have yet to take place, and so bad things happen even though God is good and all-powerful.

    My take on this is different than either of the previous opinions. In this time of suffering for us, I have taken great comfort in my belief that God has knowingly allowed this to happen to us because He has good purposes He is accomplishing through it. I may not know exactly what those good purposes are, and I may never know until glory, but I trust that God has his perfect reasons for allowing us to suffer in this way.

    I am curious as to your take on this question. How have you explained it when you went through times of suffering? Do you agree with any of these explanations? Or do you have a different one? Did you find any of these explanations comforting or not?
     
  2. post-it

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    In a perfect world we would have no need of God.

    A perfect world would be proof that God controls everything.

    An imperfect world would be more proof that God must control everything otherwise chaos would have long ago destroyed this world.

    Sin brought the inperfection, God allowed it by some promise to man (free will, etc) and God has maintained it with perfect balance against choas and sin. Our struggle is against sin, not God. We win no more battles in life than the unsaved, except for one... at death.
     
  3. Helen

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    Russell, you are totally right. First of all, "we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him..." you know the rest.

    He knows the number of hairs on each head and when each sparrow falls. There is no detail that escapes Him or that He has not always known about. He is outside of time and in Isaiah reminds us that He knows the end from the beginning. He is intimately concerned with and involved in each of our lives.

    He also suffered. So He not only knows, we can know that He understands. He would have understood anyway, being God, but now WE know He understands.

    If I listed the things that have happened to me in my life, it would take much too long. It hasn't been a normal life at all -- my pastor suggested I write a book and all I could think of was "Who would believe it?"

    I have had four major knee surgeries and am on my second artificial joint. When the first one was put in I was the youngest person on record to receive one. Bone surgery is the pits for pain.

    I was kicked by a horse when I was 21. In the gut. Lost my spleen and half my pancreas. I have another surgery coming up in mid-January to repair even more damage the years have added to the initial damage. It's going to be a bear of a surgery and I will not be able to be up and around for a minimum of a month afterwards.

    I died in surgery for a burst appendix when I was 30 and was shocked back. I spent the next four days 'trying' to die due to massive internal infections. Morphine did not help the pain. I passed out from pain and woke up from pain.

    When I was 43, my husband of 20 years left me for another woman. He left me with our six children, ages 6 to 17 at the time to finish raising myself. I cried every day for a year. I had loved him.

    I'm the "religious freak" of the family and two of my sisters won't even speak to me and my mother is only slightly less intolerant. She is into psychics and such.

    I know what pain is. I know what anguish is. My youngest son is also autistic. And profoundly retarded. At 18 years old now, he has a 19 IQ and will never be able to speak and will always be in diapers. He had encephalitis when he was three...

    But you know something? It has all, in the long run, had meaning. God does not allow meaningless pain for His children. Maybe not for anyone!

    When life is comfortable and everything is going along smoothly and happily, who would grow? Who would want to change at all?

    No one.

    And so God, who is GOING to finish the good work He began in each of us, allows circumstances in our lives to force us to grow and mature spiritually. It hurts. But He knows that and He is walking with us each step of the way. I have learned that one through experience!

    And so the pain and the suffering force our eyes upwards, even if it is to ask "Why?" At least our focus is where it belongs then! And we learn trust as we watch God slowly take the threads of the disasters and pain we go through and weave them into something incredibly beautiful in our lives.

    Our suffering is also what God uses to show the world the beauty of His grace in our lives. Shining brighter than the sun, people see HIS love in us even while we are suffering. And they start to wonder about this God who can provide such peace and joy in the middle of the fiercest pain.

    He uses us, in our times of pain and suffering, to show people a little more of His grace and power. If we never suffered, people could rightly say, "You don't understand! Your God is a cruel God to us!" But we go through the same things, and sometimes more. They can't say that. We do understand. And we can still end up saying, "Yes I do understand. And let me tell you something I have learned from my own time: God is not only for real, He is here and He loves us. We suffer the consequences of a fallen and sin-ridden world. Everyone does, one way or another. But God is bigger than that and He is also more immediate than your pain. He's really here. He really loves you. You can trust Him."

    Our words would mean nothing if we had not walked the path of pain and suffering, too.

    Russell, I still live with pain every day of my life. But I spent today raking and shoveling and burning and getting one fairly major area of the yard totally cleaned up for the winter. I came in after over six hours of work aching in every muscle I had along with the regular old pain junk. But you know something? So what! It was a glorious day and that part of the yard looks REALLY good! And that is enough for today. He gave me my daily bread today. I had work to do and two kids still at home to love and my husband called several times (from Australia) and I am loved by him and it feels good to be tired this way. My oldest son called to see how things were over here, and a girlfriend asked me out to lunch next week. One of my Mormon neighbors dropped by to ask if he could help me get rid of a tree that was felled (or, actually snapped in half -- a beautiful liquidamber) and drag it down the street to burn at their place. How thoughtful! I'm usually shunned by the Mormons around here!

    So hey, a snapped off tree provided a point of contact with someone I might not have had contact with otherwise. That's important. It's more important than the tree.

    Things keep working that way. God knows exactly what He is doing and why He is allowing certain things to happen. How we respond is up to us, but I truly have started to understand how and why Paul could tell us to give thanks in everything. God knows what He is doing. Something incredible is going to happen.

    I will promise you this. There will come a time when you will feel unworthy to have been allowed to suffer in the way you have and are suffering now. Why? Because you will have seen what God is doing with it and who He is touching because of it and you will be so awed and humbled that He should have used YOU.

    And maybe you will also have the privilege someday of writing a letter just like this and saying, "It's OK. It's all going to be so much better than you know. Trust God. You are so loved."

    One day at a time. Don't worry about the rest. God really does know what He is doing, and you WILL get your DAILY bread. He is utterly faithful.
     
  4. donnA

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    In a perfect world man would not see a need of God, he would not reconize the world was perfect becasue of God. We would be just arrogant enough to think we had made it or kept it perfect. An imperfect world shows us we really do need God, becasue we ourselves are imperfect. If all the world were perfect and never touched by sin, or the bad things that happen to us, we would have no contrast as to what it is like when we do not have God. Remember in Job, satan said to God, something like of course Job follows you and is upright, you have made a hedge of pertection arounf him, in other words God protected Job form the bad, and even prospered him. But when bad and suffering came to Job, what did he do. One of my favorite bible verse, though He slay me, yet will I follow.(I know wording not 100%, just my memory). God will be glorified even in our sufferings.
    Have I made sence, or just confused?
    One last thing, suffering isn't always physical, there can be a lot of differetn kinds of suffering.
     
  5. SouthernBaptistBoy

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    There are a lot of reasons why we sufferRm. 5:3-5 gives the final reason, that is the Hope with in us. James 1:2-4 tells us so that we mat be perfect, or a transition as we know as sanctification, v12 resulting in the crown of life.And of course Job is a good example of one who was right before God yet lost everything, but because of his faith and steadfastness before the Lord, God blessed him with more then he ever had. Not to be used as a promise to us though, but we do know God blesses those who endure. I feel with your suffering.
    I became sick several years ago and my family immediately lost all of its income. I had family memebers coming to me and telling me it was due to sin or it was due to my lack of faith, but I knew better I waswalking with God and I knew He was changing course in my life, and no matter what He has for me to go through I pray I never take my eyes off of him, and I pray that for you brother.

    God Bless you all.
     
  6. Ps104_33

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    Helen,
    I was really blessed by your post. Why any man would want to leave you is beyond me. It was his loss.
    psalm
     
  7. post-it

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    A "Man" wouldn't have left!

    God bless you Helen.
     
  8. russell55

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    Thank you all for your comments.

    Here's something else I have been thinking about: Suffering seems to be the means God often chooses to accomplish things. For instance, look what was accomplished through Christ's suffering. Paul tells us that his suffering in prison brought about the furtherance of the gospel, and that his "thorn in the flesh" made him a better minister of the gospel.

    Compare the strength of revival in places with persecution to the strength of revival in places where there is no persecution. Persecution actually seems to help produce a vibrant church.

    I know this seems counterintuitive to us--suffering seems like a horrible way to get things done. It seems to us that things would just go so much smoother if we never had to face anything difficult, but that is just not the case. Suffering makes us stronger, suffering makes us more faithful to our service here on earth.

    And it certainly reminds us that this world is not our home--that the temporal is...well...temporal, and only the eternal will last.
     
  9. Rev. G

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    James 1:2-4 - My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.

    1 Peter 1:6-9 - In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith--the salvation of your souls.

    Romans 5:3-5 - And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

    2 Corinthians 1:3-4 - Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.

    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    1 Peter 4:1-2 - Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God.
     
  10. Helen

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    Amen, Russell.

    Folks, thank you for the compliments, but that is not why I wrote what I did. Please know that God has worked long and hard with me and I was not the most understanding or even supportive wife I should have been years ago. I pray I am better now with Barry.

    The reason I wrote what I did, however, was to show that the lives of believers can look like 'hell' to the unbeliever sometimes. But on the inside, even though there are tears of frustration and pain, there is something different going on: heaven is being started. That's what I have found, and it is the ONLY reason to share some of what I've been through.

    God never wastes pain.
     
  11. donnA

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    Russel, I think of suffering as a way God uses to move us to where He needs us to be so He can use us. God also sends us comfort, through the Holy Spirit,a nd through His people, we will reach the point where we can then comfort others who go through similar things. What Helen does.
     
  12. Daniel David

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    God is completely sovereign and nothing happens without his hand.

    God does not merely allow suffering. He ordains it. It is our responsibility to understand his purpose. If we do not understand for sure, we just need to acknowledge what our Father of the Faithful, Abraham, did:

    Will not the Judge of the earth do what is right?

    Remember, Job shut-up with his objections and questions when he caught a vision of God's sovereignty.
     
  13. Thankful

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    Our Pastor preached on this last night, but left several questions in my mind. My husband and I discussed it, but there are still some unanswered questions.

    Pastor told that God does not cause the problems, but we do with our own free will. He discussed that he was going to counsel a woman who had had a difficult childhood and could not understand why it had happened and was blaming God. He said he was going to explain that God didn't do it, that the jerks who mistreated her were the cause of her pain. But the question popped into my mind that I am sure she will ask: Why did God let it happen to me an innocent child?

    God knows all. He knows what will happen in the future. He did give us free will and sin does cause much of our problems, but when we as Christians face hardships, it is not always a punishment and I agree that good can be accomplished through our problems.

    I have had a rather easy life compared to many of you. I had a lovely family when I was a child. I did have two husbands that were disabled and died. I had to be the bread winner of the family when my children were small and take care of my husband.

    I know that all these experiences have helped me be a better wife, mother, grandmother, and Christian.

    I do have one thing that I can't resolve....the sudden death of my 37 year old daughter. I am not blaming God. I just can't understand the good in this. Perhaps it is one of those things that we are not supposed to understand.

    The only good that I can see is that she is with our Lord. But what about the two small children that still need her??

    Thank you for this thread, just when I needed it.
     
  14. Daniel David

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    Thankful, I truly understand the difficulty that comes with trying to understand difficult questions. Pain and suffering is not pleasant, but it is needful.

    Perhaps, your daughter was spared a long, drawn-out death? Maybe, she was spared seeing something very painful with one of her children. Maybe, God wants to raise the children with more of a dependence on him and not on mom.

    Timothy was raised without a father, basically. So, mom and grammy taught him the Word and he began to hang out with Paul. Was God in the father leaving? Yes.

    Keep in mind this:

    God works all things together for good... That does not mean that God merely knows the future and is wise enough to piece everything together so that the end will be good. He is actively involved in the lives of believers conforming their lives to Christlikeness. Suffering is one of the ways the Potter shapes his clay.
     
  15. tyndale1946

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    We all have a cross to bear... Some have a light cross and some have a heavy cross... I truly feel with those that have a heavy cross to bear are drawn closer to the Lord.

    The ones that have a heavy cross to bear and I'm not talking about those that have brought heavy burdens on themselves because of personal sin no one deals with that until they are void of self. They have to reach rock bottom and see that the only way up is to look to God.

    Many don't say Lord I cast my burden on you but instead point the accusing finger and blame God for all their troubles in life. Sometimes Christians are the worst offenders even though they say they trust in the Lord in their heart they are asking... WHY ME?... Personally I'm not guiltless.

    Suffering like all the brethren have said before me is useful and many of Gods children have suffered down thru-out time in various ways from without and from within. Suffering and sin are synonymous... One cannot exist without the other. Suffering is for our good even though we may not think so at the time.

    I've always wondered why some seem to suffer more than others and some seem not to suffer at all? Then again I'm not that person and really don't know deep down what they are going through and they may be hiding a lot of hurt and disappointments in life. I'm reminded of that bumper sticker... No Peace... No Jesus... Know Peace... Know Jesus!... When we think we are suffering look to sinless Jesus who suffered for all his children as our suffering does not even compare to his! All the suffering and sins of Adams race until Jesus comes again can NEVER compare to his suffering in place for our sins... Brother Glen [​IMG]

    [ November 18, 2002, 01:59 PM: Message edited by: tyndale1946 ]
     

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