Answers about Suffering

questions

In our last blog we looked at the dilemma we face when we suffer. Suffering demands that we choose between two apparently opposing truths about the nature of God. Logic tells us that God cannot be both all-powerful and all loving if he doesn’t intervene to stop our suffering. We turned to the story of Job for the answer to this conundrum.

The only answer Job had was to find the presence of God. He knows that if he can just come into God’s presence his questions will be answered and he will be vindicated.

Job 23:3-5 “If only I knew where to find him; if only I could go to his dwelling! I would state my case before him and fill my mouth with arguments. I would find out what he would answer me and consider what he would say.”

Asaph comes to the same conclusion in Psalm 73 where he is overcome by the success of the evil all around him.

Vs 2-5 “But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold. For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong. They are free from the burdens common to man; they are not plagued by human ills.”

Vs 16-18 “When I tried to understand all this, it was oppressive to me till I entered the sanctuary of God [came into God’s presence]; then I understood their final destiny. Surely you place them on slippery ground; you cast them down to ruin.”

Finally, he comes to one of the most profound truths in the Bible and the place of true peace:

Vs.25 “Whom have I in heaven but you? And being with you, I desire nothing on earth”

Job and Asaph are saying the same thing: the answer to our deepest questions and doubts is often not a propositional truth but a presence. In the presence of God, the question is no longer of concern; the doubt is no longer relevant.

The key to understanding God’s pleasure with Job and displeasure with his friends is not that Job’s arguments or statements about God were truer than his friends. The difference between them was that his friends could only see God as the keeper of a religious system in which good is rewarded and evil punished. Job could not come to an acceptable answer within that religious system. There was no good answer, but he looked beyond all of that to the simple answer of coming into the presence of God. Religion requires answers; relationship needs only the presence of the Father.

In the middle of suffering we have no answer to the question, “why is this happening to me?” Because there is no answer to the question, it leaves us hopeless. If we will change the question to a “what” question rather than a “why” question we will find meaning in the midst of our suffering. The question becomes, “Father, what are you trying to teach me in the middle of this suffering?” This is a question He will always answer. Once we know what he is trying to build into us in our crisis we begin to see His hand at work. We find a purpose in our suffering and it becomes a lesson rather than meaningless pain. Change your “why” to a “what”.

Beyond finding some redeeming purpose for our suffering, our deepest need is to find our Father in the midst of our suffering. His presence with us in our suffering is the comfort we need to survive. Satan would have us believe that God is untouched by our suffering. That he is incapable of sharing it with us. That He does not feel what we feel. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Your Father God lives within you and feels every emotion you feel while you are feeling it! He shares your suffering with you.

Year ago, I sat with a young mother in the hospital after her baby was born dead. We were sitting on chairs side by side. Her arm was resting on the arm rest of her chair. She was sobbing and asking me why a loving God would allow her baby to die. I had no answer to her question and I refused to dismiss her pain with some sort of “pat” answer.

As I was sharing her pain I happened to look at her arm. I had one of the few open-eyed visions I have ever had. I saw small drops of what appeared to be water falling onto her arm. I realized they were tears, but they were not hers or mine. God spoke to me and said, “I am crying for her pain”.

Jesus did just that when He found Lazarus dead in his tomb. Jesus wept. What a strange thing to do minutes before solving the sister’s pain by raising Lazarus from the dead. He could have simply said, “Stop crying, I am now going to raise your brother from the dead!”

Instead, Jesus chose to enter their suffering with them!

What an amazing God we have who chooses to share our suffering with us.

You are never alone in your suffering while you wait for your prayer to be answered.

He is the God who can be found in suffering.

Surviving Suffering

surviving suffering

Satan is most effective in drawing us away from God when we are either being extremely blessed or experiencing real suffering. Each condition is vulnerable to a particular lie. Satan is the “father of lies”. Lying is not just in His nature, it is how he goes about separating us from our Father. Today we will look at the lies we are tempted to believe when we suffer.

Suffering always brings difficult questions and a terrible temptation. The question it brings is; “where was God when this happened and why didn’t He do something to stop it?” The temptation it brings is to cease believing one of these two truths:

1] that God is all loving &

2] that God is all powerful.

Any time we experience suffering we are left thinking either God is all loving but not very powerful, or He is all powerful but not very loving. We reason; if He were both this terrible thing would not have happened.

In answer to our reasoning the Bible tells us that God is both all-powerful and all loving.

One thing God has spoken, two things have I heard:  that you, O God, are strong, and that you, O Lord, are loving.”  Psalm 62:11-12

This passage is telling us that God is perfectly unified in His love and strength, but we usually experience Him as two separate things. At any given moment we are usually experiencing Him as either one or the other. The experience of suffering causes us to doubt one or the other and doubting either truth will drive a wedge between us and God.

Satan does not care which attribute you choose to doubt because doubting either will accomplish his purpose of distorting your image of God and thereby damaging your relationship with Him.

What is the answer to this dilemma? We see the answer most clearly in the story of Job. Satan comes to God and says, “the only reason people worship you is because you bless them.” What Satan is really saying is, “God you are not worth loving just for who you are. The only reason anyone would marry you is for your money.”

All of the angels hear this allegation and 1/3rd of them have already rebelled against God. Much is at stake, so God allows what is completely unjust – the suffering of an innocent and righteous man. Job suffers unimaginably, and he is tempted by his own wife and friends to either believe that God is not just or that he has sinned – and he knows neither of these is true. The problem is, he has no answer to the question, “why is this happening to me?”

This is the same question we usually ask when we are suffering.

What was Job’s answer?

What is our answer?

Read our next blog for the answer…

What if I can’t hear God’s Voice like I used to?

There are a few reasons for the condition of not hearing God’s voice like you used to. The first is very easy to fix.

It may be that you have stopped listening in order to obey. Many of us, at times, only listen  to hear what we want Him to say. It we do this habitually He will attempt to correct our self centered attitude for a while and then, if we don’t listen to His correction, He will stop bothering us with His thoughts. He does not stop loving us but He will wait until we truly want to hear and obey whatever He says. The issue for us is one of motivation. Why do you want to hear Him? Just for your comfort or also for your growth in commitment and holiness? The quick solution once you have discerned a self centered motive, in your relationship with Him, is to repent.

The second reason why you may not be hearing Him like you used to is that you are slowly acquiring His mind. As a young Christian there is a very great difference between your un-sanctified thoughts and His thoughts, as they arise in your mind. The difference is startling because,at this point, you are not very transformed in your mind. Another way of saying this is that you have not yet acquired much of the mind of Christ. The transformation of your thinking, from mostly your thoughts to mostly His thoughts, takes time spent listening to Him, both in reading His word and in conversing with Him in prayer.

As you spend time with Him you acquire more and more of His mind, that is to say, you are being influenced by His thoughts; His viewpoint, agenda, desires, understanding, etc. What is really happening is that His mind and your mind are becoming intertwined. His thoughts are becoming mixed up with your thoughts and His thoughts are superior to your thoughts. He is influencing your thinking which means that thinking like He does and reaching His conclusions is becoming second nature to you. Interestingly, most of the time it is not a process that you are particularly aware of. Over time the result is that much of the time you are thinking His thoughts and attributing them to your own mind. It seems like He is not speaking as much. The truth is that He is actually “speaking” more.

There is a third reason and it is that God wants more than just your obedience to His commands. He wants to be pursued. He wants you to learn to wait for Him to speak. He wants what every lover wants – He wants to be sought after. At times He will wait to speak until you pursue Him. This desire to be pursued is not coming from a selfish or insecure motive on His part. His desire is to love you into His likeness in order to make your joy complete. The only way this can be done is through intimacy with Him. In order to increase His intimacy with you He may need to increase your hunger for Him. Remaining silent is one of the ways He does this. Silence and stillness intensify your desire for Him.

Hearing God’s Voice through Scripture

It is normal for people to turn to the Bible for guidance because the Bible is full of wise principles for successful living. But sometimes, God wants to use the Bible to speak directly to our hearts and minds to guide us supernaturally in the moment. Find out Bob finds direction for his ministry. God spoke supernaturally to Bob in a way that empowered the faith and perseverance he needed to walk into get God’s direction in his life. God can do the same for you. Enjoy this story.

God taught Mark about hearing His Voice

Can one three letter word from God, the word “red”, be unmistakable supernatural divine guidance? Is God willing to provide a one-word answer to silence our doubts? Does God care enough to answer our practical questions about what to do with our money? Mark has a story that will astound you and lift your faith to hear and trust God’s supernatural guidance. God doesn’t always speak to me in this way, you’ll probably laugh out loud…

Truths about Truth – follow up post

Our post modern western culture has abandoned any concept of absolute truth. What this means is that the “rules” of evangelism are changing. To use a sports analogy, we are playing full contact football and our culture is playing soccer. We are simply not playing the same game. We are trying to sell truth to a culture that no longer values it, because it does not believe truth exists. What our friends, neighbors and co-workers value is practical, e.g. whatever helps them through the difficulties of life. The game has truly changed [pun intended].

Not only has the game changed but two very destructive lies have been injected into the game.

“Our culture has accepted two huge lies. The first is that if you disagree with someone’s lifestyle, you must fear or hate them. The second is that to love someone means you must agree with everything they believe or do. Both are nonsense. You don’t have to compromise convictions to be compassionate”. Rick Warren

The question becomes, “how do we introduce people to our faith in the new game?” Do we need a new approach? Or maybe a return to a very old approach? How about doing it the way Jesus did it? Jesus came into a religious world that was committed to the truth much like ours is. They were sure they had the truth down pat. Jesus came along with a very radical message. He didn’t say, “I have a new truth for you”. He said,

“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6

He didn’t come claiming to simply speak truth, He claimed to be the truth!

Jesus did not come to refine the Jewish religion, He came to replace it with Himself!

He is our faith! He didn’t come to call people to a system of belief, He came to call people to Himself.

Here is how their new faith came to the first Christians, Jesus said,

“Come follow me”.

There was no statement of faith or proclamation of truth – just an invitation to follow HIM.

“Simon Peter, I want to use your boat to sit in while I talk to these people”.

“Hey Simon, go out into deeper water and lower your nets”. “Master, we’ve been fishing all night and caught nothing, it’s a waste of time but since it’s you who is asking, OK”. “OH MY GOD! LOOK AT ALL THE FISH WE’RE CATCHING!!!”  As they followed him they came to know the truth, because they were coming to know Him!

Can we trust in the idea that if we introduce people to Jesus by loving them the way He does, they will come to know Him and as they grow in their relationship with Him, they will be led into the truth they need to know to share in His life?

Can we trust Him to reveal truth?

What about dealing with sin? Don’t we have an obligation to confront people with their sin? Sure, but which comes first, love or correction? Which came first for Jesus? And who does confrontation better, us or the Holy Spirit?

I am thinking that maybe it is OK that the world no longer believes in moral truth. Maybe it means that we will have to live our message rather than just speak it.

Does this mean we have nothing to say about what the Bible calls sin? No. But what it does mean is that love for the sinner should always be a greater motivation for our words than our love for the truth.

Here is the test; am I confronting sin because I hate sin or because I hate what sin is doing to this person?