First of all, I am so sorry for not posting in a while, but I can tell you that you have been on my mind in the weeks since I last wrote. I wanted to thank you for your responses to the survey (see last post), where I asked for your feedback and thoughts on what you would like to see on this blog.
The responses I received have much to do with the things we all struggle with in this life: suffering, forgiveness, finding and drawing our way back to God, and pride, to name a few. I will write about each in the near future. (The survey and free gift card giveaway is still open until Sept. 1, so click here to participate).
I wanted to write about suffering today, which explains part of my delay. It isn’t an easy subject in that it is deep-seated and emotional and it affects us all. In fact, my heart is heavy as I hear news from Egypt where I have much of my family. I see the pictures of the destruction, and fear for their safety as Christians. Please pray for them.
There are countless sufferings, heart-breaking injustices in this world. Innocent children suffer and diseases take their ugly toll. We fear criminals, natural disasters, pain, car accidents and tragedies like 9/11.
In the midst of these realities, I read challenges to the question of faith in a suffering world. Yet Jesus told us there will be suffering. He said in John 16:33, “You will have suffering in this world.” As to the origin of suffering, the Bible says that it is not from God – 1 Timothy 4:4 states that “everything created by God is good”.
God created a perfect world and the first man and woman to enjoy it. Adam and Eve had a perfect relationship with Him. However, He also created them with free will to either love or reject Him. From the beginning, when Adam and Eve chose to reject God in their disobedience, mankind has followed their footsteps.
Romans 3:23 says, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Likewise, creation itself was effected by the Fall. A perfect world order gave way to natural disasters. This is addressed in Romans 8:22, which says, “We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now”.
But you may also ask, “Couldn’t God have foreseen all of this?” The answer is yes, I’m sure He did. He knew we would all rebel against Him, but He also knew many people would choose to follow Him. As I ponder this, it is amazing to me that even knowing we are evil, He chose to provide a way for us to live for eternity with a Him, who is holy. He didn’t have to, but He did this by sending His Son to endure more suffering than anyone ever has on earth by taking on all the punishment of mankind.
He saw that it was all worth the suffering for our redemption. You see, I don’t think we see the full picture this side of heaven. Read the words of 1 Corinthians 2:9, “What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived — the things God has prepared for those who love Him”.
This world as we see it right now is overwhelming because we’re in the middle of it, in bodies that fail and enemies that kill. Not to minimize suffering, but I believe it’s hard to see beyond this life because we can’t see the complete glory of heaven that will make the suffering of this life pale by comparison.
Second Corinthians addresses the brevity of life with these words: “For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison” – 2 Corinthians 4:17
I love the example that Lee Stobel gives. He states:
Let’s say that on the first day of 2012, you had an awful day. You had an emergency root canal at the dentist—and then ran out of pain-killers. You crashed your car, and had no insurance. Your stock portfolio took a nosedive. Your spouse got sick. A friend betrayed you. From start to finish, it was like the title of that children’s book: Alexander & the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.
But then every other day of the year was just incredibly terrific. Your relationship with God is close and real and intimate. A friend wins the lottery and gives you $100 million. You get promoted at work to your dream job. Time magazine puts your photo on its cover as “The Person of the Year.” You have your first child and he’s healthy and strong. Your marriage is idyllic, your health is fabulous, and you have a six-month vacation in Tahiti.
Then next New Year’s Day someone asks, “So, how was your 2012?” You’d probably say, “It was great; it was wonderful!” You’d remember that first bad day. You might think, that was a bad day, no denying it. It was difficult at the time. But when I look at the totality of the year, when I put everything in context, it’s been a great year. The 364 terrific days far outweigh the one bad day. That day just sort of fades away.”
And maybe that’s a good analogy for heaven. Listen to me—that is not to deny the reality of your pain in this life. It might be terrible. It might be chronic. My wife Leslie has a medical condition that puts her in pain every single day. Maybe you’re suffering from a physical ailment or heartache at this very moment. But in heaven, after 354,484,545 days of pure bliss—and with an infinite more to come—if someone asked, “So, how has your existence been?”, you’d instantly react by saying, “It has been absolutely wonderful! Words can’t describe the joy and the delight and the fulfillment!” *
I never want to sound trite as I talk about suffering, because I know that as long as we are here on Earth, we are still going to be punched in the gut with suffering of all kinds. That’s why I am also here to say that while His complete relief from sin and suffering won’t come until we meet Him in heaven, He also provides peace for today:
“For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:15-16
Are you grieving? Jesus wept. Are you suffering? Jesus suffered tremendously on the cross. Do you think God has forsaken you? Jesus cried those same words. Are you persecuted? So was He.
Knowing the glory and rest in Heaven that God promises for His children, my last question to you today would be: Are you ready? Do you know Jesus Christ as the Savior, as our only hope in this world? If you don’t, I plead that you would make that decision today.