I’ve been struggling with the question of suffering for some time.
I’ve read various books on the topic, some of which go so far as to imply that God is so ‘sovereign’ that he causes suffering, and others which deny God has anything to do with it.
Some people claim suffering is caused by Satan – that it’s all pure evil.
Others say accidents are sometimes the result of science – simply, cause-and-effect.
Certainly, some suffering is the direct result of the choices we make – but sometimes tragedy strikes unexpectedly, and there’s seemingly no rhyme or reason to it.
I heard a talk on the weekend by an academic researcher named Andrew Sloane, who shared that he was the only surviving member of his family.
He’d lost both parents, his brother died after years of suffering stemming from a bike accident, and his sister committed suicide.
He said this:
“If God exists at all, he’s absolute goodness. He’s not in the business of generating meaningless suffering. He might permit it, but he’s not the global author of suffering. He can use it but doesn’t cause it. God did not push my brother off his bike just so I could become a slightly better person. Gravity caused my brother’s fall. Scientific regularities will cause things. The world’s regularities will work out well sometimes, and sometimes will not. But God meets us there in the suffering and fallout.”
Sloane went on to say:
“The cross tells us that God, in Christ, enters into the pain of human experience. God, the author of the story, is with us. And his resurrection is the promise and the proof that God makes all things new.”
He spoke about Psalm 22 – a psalm “in which faith confronts suffering and feels its full force.”
God accepts our experiences, enters into our suffering, and meets us there, he said.
Whatever you’re going through right now, know that you can take your suffering and your unresolved questions to a God who knows pain intimately and meets you there, right in the middle of it.
Psalm 22 (NLT):
My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?
Why are you so far away when I groan for help?
2 Every day I call to you, my God, but you do not answer.
Every night I lift my voice, but I find no relief.
3 Yet you are holy,
enthroned on the praises of Israel.
4 Our ancestors trusted in you,
and you rescued them.
5 They cried out to you and were saved.
They trusted in you and were never disgraced.
6 But I am a worm and not a man.
I am scorned and despised by all!
7 Everyone who sees me mocks me.
They sneer and shake their heads, saying,
8 “Is this the one who relies on the Lord?
Then let the Lord save him!
If the Lord loves him so much,
let the Lord rescue him!”
9 Yet you brought me safely from my mother’s womb
and led me to trust you at my mother’s breast.
10 I was thrust into your arms at my birth.
You have been my God from the moment I was born.
11 Do not stay so far from me,
for trouble is near,
and no one else can help me.
12 My enemies surround me like a herd of bulls;
fierce bulls of Bashan have hemmed me in!
13 Like lions they open their jaws against me,
roaring and tearing into their prey.
14 My life is poured out like water,
and all my bones are out of joint.
My heart is like wax,
melting within me.
15 My strength has dried up like sunbaked clay.
My tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth.
You have laid me in the dust and left me for dead.
16 My enemies surround me like a pack of dogs;
an evil gang closes in on me.
They have pierced[a] my hands and feet.
17 I can count all my bones.
My enemies stare at me and gloat.
18 They divide my garments among themselves
and throw dice[b] for my clothing.
19 O Lord, do not stay far away!
You are my strength; come quickly to my aid!
20 Save me from the sword;
spare my precious life from these dogs.
21 Snatch me from the lion’s jaws
and from the horns of these wild oxen.
22 I will proclaim your name to my brothers and sisters.[c]
I will praise you among your assembled people.
23 Praise the Lord, all you who fear him!
Honor him, all you descendants of Jacob!
Show him reverence, all you descendants of Israel!
24 For he has not ignored or belittled the suffering of the needy.
He has not turned his back on them,
but has listened to their cries for help.
25 I will praise you in the great assembly.
I will fulfill my vows in the presence of those who worship you.
26 The poor will eat and be satisfied.
All who seek the Lord will praise him.
Their hearts will rejoice with everlasting joy.
27 The whole earth will acknowledge the Lord and return to him.
All the families of the nations will bow down before him.
28 For royal power belongs to the Lord.
He rules all the nations.
29 Let the rich of the earth feast and worship.
Bow before him, all who are mortal,
all whose lives will end as dust.
30 Our children will also serve him.
Future generations will hear about the wonders of the Lord.
31 His righteous acts will be told to those not yet born.
They will hear about everything he has done.
I was religious, but became indifferent.
But the basic values gained from my mother is still alive.
I could gain by following you
Thanks for sharing, Kurian. I hope you find your way back to God. To me, it’s less about religion and more about a relationship with Jesus.
~~ “Do we need answers about suffering, or do we need a God who meets us there?” ~~
I do not know about other people, but, yeah, I do need answers about suffering as well as needing and wanting God to meet me there. I guess it is where my faith and innate reasoning and logic all seem to collide.
Well said. And we each have to find our own balance between logic and faith/feelings don’t we?
For me, much of my healing came from understanding -or getting answers- so that I could finally sit with God in the pain. I don’t think He causes pain, I do believe He allows it. all part of the “free will” He gives us. I also believe He waits for us to accept His love and compassion.
Amen, Denise. Well said.
I really like your perspective in this article, and I resonate with how you treat the topic of suffering. Coincidentally I looked at the place of suffering this way: https://rhfoerger.wordpress.com/2017/06/02/the-place-of-suffering-to-the-soul/