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How Can a Loving God Allow Devastation in Haiti (and in my life)?

How Can a Loving God Allow Devastation in Haiti (and in my life)?

 

Pat Robertson doesn't get it:

 

Shortly after a devastating earthquake rocked Haiti on Jan. 12, 2010, potentially killing half a million people, Pat Robertson said Haitians had made a "pact with the devil" and have been "cursed" ever since. A statement almost apologizing was made by CNN for Robertson's current faux pas that seems to occur every time a disaster hits. Someone on his staff should figure this out.

 

Unfortunately, we have either Robertson or a worldview that excludes eternity and God to inform us how we can understand a tragedy or a pain point in our own life. We believe either that God is judging me and that is why I am suffering or there is no God or else he would not allow sufering. Both are wrong.

 

Currently in Acts 29 we are facing suffering among many of our pastors. Wives are struggling with health issues, pastors facing back surgery, suicide among our number, a baby needs a heart transplant and a pastor experienced brain surgery for a malignant tumor and is currently undergoing extensive chemo and radiation. Is God angry with these pastors? Is God judging Acts 29 and are they getting what they deserve?

 

Our response is to cry, to pity, to get angry at God. Martyn Lloyd-Jones said that we should not be surprised when we suffer. Some people get bitter and bail. It is not uncommon for couples to divorce after death of a child. Regardless, we may ask, "Why me, God?" We naturally see these things as attacks against us instead of as God working for us through our suffering. According to Romans 8:16-17, we are called to suffer as children of God until Jesus returns. We are also called to suffer well for His glory.

  • The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. (Romans 8:16-17) Emphasis mine.

 

Until I asked John Piper into my heart (insert smiley face here), I did not understand suffering. When suffering came in my life, I only saw my pain instead of seeing God. Man meant it for evil, but God meant it for good (Gen. 50:20). John Piper taught me the Theology of Suffering and I am grateful. This content is actually driven from his teaching.

     

    Three Ways we Understand suffering

     

    All of Creation Suffers. ALL of creation groans and is enslaved to corruption (8:21) and is futile (8:20). Things break down; corrupt; decay; entropy.

    • Rom 8:22 (ESV) 22For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.

     

    All of History Suffers (All of creation, including people have suffered and will suffer)

     

    Suffering is in this present time

    • Romans 8:18, 18For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.

    Suffering is in the past

    • Rom 8:20, 20For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope.

    Suffering is in the future: One day, without any assistance, creation will be set free

    • Rom. 8:21,  21that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.

    Until Jesus returns, we will not experience world peace, no matter how many beauty queens wish for it.

     

    God Judicially Sentenced the World to Suffer

    • Romans 8:20 (ESV) 20For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope.

    Genesis 3 records the onset of sin into the world. Man disobeyed and willfully sinned. Judgment came on mankind and on the earth. God in hope cursed all of creation. He judged it with the hope that He will redeem it through His Son. To accept this, we must view God’s holiness way beyond the way we view it now. Believers will suffer as we wait for the redemption of our bodies. The already not yet of the Kingdom includes our bodies.

    • Romans 8:23 (ESV) 23And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.

     

    Six Promises Given to us while we are Suffering

     

    We Will Experience an All-Satisfying Beauty

    • Romans 8:18 (ESV) 18For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.

    When we are with Jesus, we will see all of His glory. Our current suffering is like paying a penny to have a million dollars. What we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory He will give us later. In addition to having the meaning of value, the phrase also carrries the idea of weight. Paul says, For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison (2 Cor. 4:17). It is not light in and of itself. Cancer is still present. Only compared with the weight of glory can it be light.

     

    We will be Revealed in Glory

    • Romans 8:19 (ESV) 19For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God.

    Creation (birds, trees, rocks and grass) is waiting with eager anticipation of our being revealed as sons of God. Just as in Genesis 3, the fate of creation is linked intricately with that of man. As we long to see God in all of His glory, to be free of pain, to experience peace like nothing we ever have, to experience pleasure like nothing else, the mountains and the hills are prepared to break forth into singing; the trees of the field are ready to clap their hands; the rocks are ready to shout out. (Isa 55:12; Luke 19:40). One day we will be like Jesus, our Redeemer (1 John 2:28-3:3; 2 Corinthians 3:18). For now, we are all physically, emotionally, socially, verbally, mentally and sexually disabled.

     

    The Design of Despair is Hope

    • Romans 8:20 (ESV) 20For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope.

    Our futility (completely ineffective bodies, kids, marriages, jobs, homes) demands our hope in him. Our hope is in the seed of the woman who will bruise Satan’s head. It is not that this world will be made right. Even when we are in the middle of God’s will, we suffer. Jesus was asked by his disciples, “Who sinned, this man or his parents that he was born blind?” Jesus said, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parent, but that the works of God might be displayed in him (John 9:2-3). Sanctification is not the end of suffering; glorification is (full, entire deliverance from sin). Sanctification is not our hope, glorification is.

     

    All Creation will be freed from Suffering

    • Romans 8:21 (ESV) 21that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.

    God will first redeem us as His first fruits and then redeem the rest of creation to all be brought into His glory. Failure to see this coming for us leads us to self-medicate to cope with our suffering. It also leads us to justify our sins in the suffering. It is like the man who steals bread because he is hungry. A wife may self-justifyingly find comfort in some other man because her husband does not treat her well. We try to bring heaven here because we don’t believe we will be set free. We will be baptized into Jesus Christ and we will be resurrected with Him. In Christ, we also suffer with Him and in Him we will be glorified with Him.

     

    Miseries are not doors to death, but doors to life

    • Romans 8:18, 22-23 (ESV) 18For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 22For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.

    As we experience pain, we view this as a mom in labor that produces life, not death. Groaning in the maternity ward and groaning in the cancer ward generate two different responses. All of our suffering, including death, is a door to life. He is working all things for our good (8:28). The pastor with a brain tumor tweeted recently, “When the illusion of control disappears we become men and women of prayer.”

     

    God cares about our suffering

    • Romans 8:23 (ESV) 23And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.

    At times it may not seem that he cares, but the redemption of our bodies is coming. We have a great high priest who is able to sympathize with our suffering (συμπαθέω süm-pä-the'-ō: to be affected with the same feeling as another).

    • “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb 4:15-16)

    Our healing may not come in this lifetime, but we are not living for life here and our healing will come in the life we long to see.

     

    How should we respond?

     

    1. Pray for those who are suffering. Pray with them. If you are suffering, pray and pray with others.
    2. Remind yourself (and another fellow soldier) that we are in an all-out war for the souls of men and women and children. You can’t expect a war to resemble a resort spa. A soldier goes through the pain and suffering with the power of the Holy Spirit and for the victorious King’s glory. Jesus will be the only one who will end the onslaught of sin and suffering in our lives. There are no bread trucks in our mission field; only armored tanks and gurneys. Fatalities and injuries and suffering will happen all around us as long as sin is in the world and in our fellowship gatherings.
    3. God breaks people when he is getting ready to do a great thing. He wants to use broken people so that we cannot take any credit in order that the works of God might be displayed. God is breaking us of pride and arrogance and subtle idols among us.
    4. Let’s fight alongside one another. Encourage a fellow soldier. Stay in the fight. Listen to the commanding voice of the King and rest in His protection as we head into His mission field.
    5. Keep your eyes on the cross. It is where our Redeemer suffered for the sins of all mankind. His suffering brought our hope. Our suffering brings Him glory.

     

    • Romans 8:24-25 (ESV) 24For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

     

     

    2 Comments

    Massimo Lorenzini

    on Jan 25, 2010 :: 11:32 pm

    Thanks for this excellent summary. Suffering is a great teacher of the realities of the faith we profess. I'm sure you were being faceitious but this sounds sacrilegious and I'm sure Piper would cringe to hear it: "...I asked John Piper into my heart..."

    [ST: John may cringe, although his sons, Abraham and Barnabas would laugh their heads off. I really wrote it with a big sly grin on my face.]

    Maarten Van Gestel

    on Jan 26, 2010 :: 5:32 am

    "Until I asked John Piper into my heart..." -- it must have been very late last night Scott... or I am missing a new kind of Christian experience?

    [ST: Imagine a sly smirk at the end of that comment and you get the idea. Hasn't John taught us a rabbinical load of truths?]

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    Scott Thomas has served as the President of Acts 29 Network and a Pastor at Mars Hill Church. Scott has been a pastor for 30 years—first as a youth pastor and then as a lead pastor and church planter/church replanter for 16 years.