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Archive for August, 2011

Suffering …

What a difficult subject this is especially for Christians who believe in a loving and healing God. So why does God allow suffering? I think this question can really only ever be answered by God, however i have come across a number of explanations which seem to have a common theme – growth. The following excerpt from the book – ‘The Reason For God’ by Timothy Keller – gave me some comfort during a difficult time that i have been going through, i pray it will help you in such times.

“Many people have to admit that most of what they really needed for success in life came to them through their most difficult and painful experiences. Some look back on an illness and recognise that it was an irreplaceable season of personal and spiritual growth for them.” (p.24)

“Though none of these people are grateful for the tragedies themselves, they would not trade the insight, character and strength they had gained from them for anything. With time and perspective most of us can see good reasons for at least some of the tragedy and pain that occurs in life. Why couldn’t it be possible that, from God’s vantage point, there are good reasons for all of them?”

“If you have a God great and transcendent enough to be mad at because he hasn’t stopped evil and suffering in the world, then you have (at the same moment) a God great and transcendent enough to have good reasons for allowing it to continue that you can’t know. Indeed you can’t have it both ways.” (p.25)

It gets me thinking about Isaiah 55:8-10 which says:

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

Isn’t that the truth! In another book i have been reading recently – ‘Hinds’ Feet on High Places’ by Hannah Hurnard – one of which by reading the title, i would never have thought of reading (never judge a book by it’s cover), had it not been borrowed to me at such a time of suffering and change, i felt i could relate to and understand in part this allegory to my own spiritual journey. I felt hopeful as i read:

“She had the feeling that somehow, in the very far-off places, perhaps even in far-off ages, there would be a meaning found to all sorrow and an answer too fair and wonderful to be as yet understood.” (p.60) 

and i am left feeling hopeful for just that hint of what i first had when i came to Christ, that deep love and security and to be able to rest in his presence with assurance of this.

“Perhaps it had needed the desert wastes to open her eyes to all this beauty, but she walked through the wood, almost forgetting for a little that Sorrow and her sister (Suffering) also walked with her.” (p.69)

I have questioned God again and again on why he allows suffering and have struggled to see God as a good God. He has not let me down in that he still talks to me even when i don’t want to talk to him. Recently he gave me a word from Job 2:10

“Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?”

Of course that is what we want and expect from a good God. But then where would love, respect and faithfulness be on our part, if we just received blessings from God? Where is the test in that? Yes we can praise God with ease and tell him how much we love him when he is blessing us with good things and when all is going well. But when things are difficult and times are really hard – is it so easy to praise God then? I tell you now from personal experience, it most definately is not.

The story of Job in the bible was always the one i avoided the most. I read it through once and that was enough for me. Somehow by putting it to the back of my mind i didn’t have to face those difficult questions of suffering and God’s goodness. Now it seems that i cannot escape them. Finally i have to face it and accept that only God knows the bigger picture and the reasons why suffering has to be. I have to trust that God is good and that he works all things together for good. He knows what is best for us and when we mess up he brings the good out of the situation. It is so easy to blame God for the evil in the world because in our eyes he is not doing anything about it but is allowing it to happen. What can i say but that i do believe that God is real, i also believe that he knows best and therefore i need to trust that despite what i’m going through and what i see others go through, based on what i know of God, he must be good!

If this has been of any encouragement i would suggest that you read the story about Joseph in the bible as his sufferings led to greatness that only God could have brought about. God already knew the plans he had for Joseph and had revealed these in part to him through dreams. The trials that Joseph went through and the years of imprisonment would refine and grow his character in preparation for his success.

“For i know the plans i have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jer.29:11)

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