We could spend an hour trying to undo all of these responses, but I’m just suggesting some of them. In suffering voluntarily and innocently, Christ gives the answer to the question about suffering and its meaning. We must never rule that out, and certainly there is the involvement of Satan in the suffering of Job. She did a little cross-stitch. What is suffering? Why me? We believe in a day of judgment, and afterwards the just punishment of sinners in hell forever. First of all, one form of suffering is satanic. How we pattern our thinking with regard to difficulty affects our response to God when difficulty comes. I wish this thing had never come my way.”. I want to outline five different things that I want to do in the next hour. I urge you to study these references in their contexts, to develop a more comprehensive biblical theology of suffering. If you want to stay and ask questions, you may do so, but some of you need to go. As Corrie ten Boom, the famed Dutch Christian whose family hid Jews from the Nazis during World War II, once said, “joy runs deeper than despair.”, I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. However difficult it may be for us to understand the extent of the retribution for what is, you might suggest, a white lie about the price of a piece of real estate that the church had no business knowing anyway…you might attempt, though I don’t advise it, to philosophize on Ananias and Sapphira in that way. So the issue that I want us to talk about this morning is a biblical view of suffering. Secondly,that just suffering — on the issue of just suffering — that sometimes suffering is the consequence of sin. Wherever there is suffering, there is a battle — a battle for your soul. Various causes of suffering 2. And, I’m putting it that way because at first glance the cross is an instrument of pain and suffering and calls on us to think of God in an entirely different way apart from the way that faith would have us think. This exhortation is specifically identified as a passage of Scripture in Hebrews 12. Hear us, O Lord, for Jesus’ sake. I think those are two books that ought to be on everyone’s bookshelf. This article evaluates the experience of suffering and its redemptive value in the light of St. John Paul II’s Theology of the Body. We must move beyond the point of submitting ourselves to the sovereignty of God. And, thirdly, I would suggest that illness may have a prospective disciplinary sanctifying purpose without bearing any relation to past sins. The book of Job provides a vivid illustration of the theology of suffering. David Hume, the famous philosophical skeptic, put it in a way that’s been cited and quoted and re-quoted and regurgitated in many different forms, but it appeared first of all in his Concerning Natural Religion: “If God is willing to prevent evil, is He willing to prevent evil but not able? It is the default, for example, of Job’s friends. An issue of course that’s under great stress and even denial today in certain evangelical quarters is ‘How can somebody suffer on the part of or in the place of, or as a substitute for another?’ That seems to some to be inherently unjust. Sometimes I think that we resort too quickly to illness as punishment, illness as a message of some kind from God Almighty. The casualties of “by faith” formulas. It was one of the most blatant…non-Calvinistic, but non-biblical attempts in public that I’d seen for many a year. I think in a biblical theology of suffering we need to adopt what Puritans called living life sub specie eternitatis — living life in the light of eternity, with our bags packed and ready to go. Cultural Myths about Suffering 1. I think that’s particularly what the book of Job is about, that some suffering happens not because of something that we do. She was in fact just two days away from death, as it turned out. Amen. He’s set in a theater to play a part for God in the world. Redemptive suffering based in Pope John Paul II's theology of the body embraces suffering as having value in and of itself. And I think my point here is simply to say that unless we are familiar with the Psalms, the language of lament and the language of complaint will be a feature of our lives…that when we find ourselves doing it, we will be somewhat out of joint. And what does God say to Job? Ten, we must glory in suffering. He is the founder of The Justice Conference—a yearly international conference that exposes men and women to a wide range of organizations and conversations relating to justice and the biblical call to give our lives away. Thirdly, thatsome suffering is meant to be educational or disciplinary, and I think that you could argue that in some sense all suffering is meant to be educative. In most of the world, the church is familiar with adversity. So taking half a truth and making it the whole truth, it becomes an untruth. Apply and teach about how to live meaningfully in suffering. Suffering prepares us for more glory. Fifthly, innocent suffering. We need to strengthen our trust that, although we will undoubtedly meet adversity and pain on His account, He is also the one who has overcome the world and in whom we have life. Definition of suffering b. Definition of suffering b. Not an unreserved…it would be a somewhat qualified response that I would give to C.S. Let me close in prayer. In light of this alleged problem, what is a Theology of Suffering and why must we have one? I think into a biblical theology of suffering we need to add the uniqueness of signs of the kingdom in apostolic age, and what II Corinthians 12:12 refers to as “signs of the Apostles.” So there were things that happened under the ministry of the Apostles in terms of healing and so on that aren’t necessarily things that are to be seen throughout the eventual age from the resurrection of Jesus to His Second Coming. We may then find ourselves wavering, frantically searching for prosperity and blessing that we believe is the Christian experience, rather than obediently moving forward in the steps of the Savior. We live in a fallen world. Why now? The secular idol of physical health and beauty, as what I call the negation of ugliness, weakness, and death, and I don’t elaborate too much on that, but I think that we have made health and beauty an idol, and I think we are dangerously close to that in the modern church in a way that the church has never done before in its entire history, I think. We’re not denying the role of doctors and nurses and medicine and so on, and counselors. The book of Job shows us there can be two ways to respond to suffering: one that curses God because of suffering and one that praises God, even in the midst of suffering (Job 2:9–10). Because of God’s love for us in the cross, we’re to trust Him in every circumstance, no matter how difficult, no matter how hard. The Psalms are sometimes down in the dumps a lot. Example of job ii. By the way, the Jeremiah who’d been in the stocks the night before is now in chapter 20 repeating what looks like the very language of Job 3. We are unskilled in the word of righteousness, inept in applying its great doctrines to the anxieties of life. He suffered on behalf of others in order to prevent somebody else dying; he gave himself. And the answer is….I don’t know. Seventhly, that Christianity was from the first announced as the way of the cross. Well, illness may have a disciplinary sanctifying purpose without necessarily bearing any relation to past sins. We are not to forget the exhortation, the argument, the case by which Scripture speaks. I urge you to study these references in their contexts, to develop a more comprehensive biblical theology of suffering. Was it him, or was it his parents? How suffering may alter our spiritual beliefs c. Biblical teachings on suffering i. And Christian Science and probably Spinoza, the philosopher that lies behind all of that. Suffering is a battleground. To reject evil and suffering. Physical evils of sickness and pain and unproductive suffering. When Ananias and Sapphira are judged, it is instant retribution. Friedrich Nietzsche shared at least one fundamental concern with the religions and metaphysical systems that he so criticized: the problem of suffering and how one deals with it. ), but they have been down in the dumps, saying things like “I wish I’d never been born. Meaning and purpose a. Now that’s very different from saying that all [suffering] is the result of my personal sin or personal failure. What can I learn from this particular sickness? And that is the conundrum (at least, the philosophical conundrum) with regard to suffering. She had contracted cancer exactly one year before, and for twelve months or so her family, and especially her mother, kept a blog online at the Caring Bridge Center with daily — sometimes twice or three times daily — entries. You have reaped what you have sown. There are arguments to suggest, for example, that Islam modified the goodness of God. It looks as though it was Job 3. If your expectation is that life is always going to be wonderful, that suffering and pain have no right to manifest themselves in your life, that when they come, they come as a total shock and surprise, then you don’t have all of the armor that you need to face evil and suffering. As I walked through the door…I said hello to him and he left, and I went up to the lady, and she was in tears. Why do the righteous suffer? First, that Christianity is an invitation to trust God’s love at all times and in all situations because of the cross. But I think in the latter part of Elihu’s chapters, I think that Elihu just steps back again into the theology of Job’s three friends, a theology that I would call instant retribution: that you get out of life exactly what you deserve; that sin and suffering is always a concomitant of personal sin; that suffering is always the concomitant of personal sin on our part. We know the truth, but we do not know how to apply it. The Old Testament, intertestamental literature, and the New Testament present two perspectives on human suffering. a. We’re in a world that has fallen. In LDS theology, I believe, it is the large context for all humans that gives meaning to suffering. And for all the books out there trying to solve the philosophical apologetical question — and certainly seminarians need to understand the trajectory down which some of those issues are solved — on a pastoral level, this is an issue that affects us all. Suffering. Now let’s be clear here. A Theology of Suffering : What is ‘The Problem of Evil’? It’s Romans 8:28…that everything that happens to us, all our circumstances in our Christian lives are ordered by God for furthering the good of final salvation. It’s part of what Hebrews 12 is trying to avoid. Of all the books on counseling that I know, from a sensible but biblically committed point of view I have found the writings of Dyess Davis to be incredibly helpful. The response to suffering, then, is seeing this life as not the only life there is. At the funeral service I preached on Romans 8:28. And it has become a significant pastoral issue, more so I think than if you’d lived in any other century when death was much more prevalent, and death at a young age. God wants you to be healthy and strong. Then I want at least to try and attempt a biblical theology of suffering and to look at all the various ways (at least, as many as we can) in which the Bible actually addresses the issue of suffering. As Christians, we should not suffer in this life. 1 Wilhelm Michaelis, The Theological Dictionary of The New Testament, Vol. How we train is how we perform. (1) Suffering is announced by Jesus as central to the understanding of Christian discipleship. First of all, I want just to reflect very briefly on what is sometimes called “the problem of evil,” and not so much from a philosophical point of view, rather from a pastoral point of view that there is a problem of evil, a problem of suffering. I venture to suggest that’s probably what this reporter was suggesting — that there are things that God simply isn’t in control of…trivial things…and perhaps for moral reasons to obviate the problem of God’s involvement in pain and suffering, that God is less than sovereign. Lewis’s The Problem of Pain. The Bible has so much, then, to say to us about suffering. “Is God telling me something?” is I think something that we ought always to do when we find ourselves ill. What is God teaching me? Illness may have a prospective disciplinary sanctifying purpose without bearing any relation to past sins. I think I’ve spoken about Job. Another is to abandon God’s control of the future; that God is sovereign to an extent, but there are things particularly in regard to the future that God doesn’t have control of. The core of the Deuteronomist Theology can be reduced even further to a core principle: Yahweh will bless those who obey and punish those who disobey.In practice, though, the principle is expressed in the reverse form: if you're suffering, then it must be because you disobeyed and if you're prospering it must be because you have been obedient. God wants you to thrive. We can dig deep into this verse and apply it to our times of struggle, and see the blessings that God sprouted from the ashes of the pain and suffering we experienced. [And frankly I don’t want to live till I’m 120, with all of the consequences that that probably will bring.]. How suffering may alter our spiritual beliefs c. Biblical teachings on suffering i. And secondly, I want us to look at various responses to evil, and again I want to do that in the generic form. Now the problems here are many. The Psalms complain a lot. And the problem is that suffering can produce bitterness. Suffering. Firstly, that all suffering including illness is a consequence of Adamic sin. Zoroastrianism, for example… Manichaeism. it’s at the heart of the atonement that Jesus suffered in our place, the just for the unjust, to bring us to God. A friend of mine, Alex Mutagubya, is the founder of Transform African Ministries and pastor of the City Church in Kampala, Uganda. I sometimes say we ought to have a moratorium in using Romans 8:28 in a way that is sometimes inappropriate and trite, but it seemed on this occasion to be the exact words for this circumstance: that God works all things together for the good of those who love Him; that there isn’t a circumstance, there isn’t a set of contingencies in which God isn’t in absolute and total control.   Twitter We want to go out from a service feeling affirmed. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.” He concluded with one of the more astonishing spiritual truths of the New Testament, “For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). We may then find ourselves wavering, frantically searching for prosperity and blessing that we believe is the Christian experience, rather than obediently moving forward in the steps of the Savior. We thank You for our Savior, who has been tempted in every point like as we are, yet without sin. And he puts on… [I was going to say a torch, but you Americans think of that as something else]…a flashlight. As Christians we can expect to face challenges and hard times. Our comprehension of suffering as intrinsic to the life of the believer is essential if we are to find our voice among the faithful — among those who know lament. some suffering is meant to be educational or disciplinary, suffering is a part of the universe forever. Through this study, she takes participants on a journey to discover the redemptive side of suffering through the life of a man who lost it all. [Laughter] I think they’re completely off their rocker. To abandon God’s control of the future. She had teenage girls, three of them, and her husband. “In Gethsemane the holiest of all Petitioners prayed three times that a certain cup might pass from Him. We’d love to hear from you! And it’s a valid form of study, and we could think of the study of apologetics, for example, as it relates to the whole issue of suffering and evil. You were drawn like a bee to honey [maybe the metaphor needs to be changed now], but you were drawn to go to a seminar on suffering because in your current experience darkness is your only friend. When we find ourselves caught in the violent grip of fatigue, suffocating in the terror of the soul’s dark night, we need a song to sing. Cultural Myths about Suffering 1. And that good that all things work together for good in Romans 8:28 is not necessarily the good of tomorrow, or the good of the next day. And another is to modify God’s goodness. It was, I suppose, a no-holds-barred Presbyterian predestinarian sermon reflecting on the issue of suffering and providence. Nothing tests our love for God more than suffering and trials, and the death of someone we love, or the illness of someone we love more than anyone else in this world, apart from Jesus. We are, I think, to look forward to a new heavens and a new earth, in which we will exist in bodily and mental and emotional forms, and all of that has to come into a picture of the biblical understanding of suffering. Even when it does not make sense, God remains God in the midst of suffering and pain.”. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines suffering as “the state or experience of ones that suffers” and “pain.” Distress, suffering, misery, and agony mean the state of being in great trouble. And at least part of the reason why she was allowed to suffer in God’s providence was that she might be a vehicle to minister to thousands of people through that Caring Bridge blog that people read. Distress implies an external and usually temporary cause of great physical or mental strain and stress. But equally we look to the sovereignty of God and that God answers prayer, and that God especially hears the prayers of His people. Let’s begin by addressing something of what theologians and philosophers sometimes euphemistically call the problem of evil. Without a theology of suffering, we will assume something is wrong, broken, or out of balance whenever we face trials. We live in an age where Satan prowls about, seeking whom he may devour, and we must never lose sight of that. This need for song is really an expression of a deeper issue — our need for a richer theology of suffering. It was a surreal conversation that we were having, but it was almost as though she was there. Building a robust theology of suffering both prepares us for and acquaints us with the journey we have been called to walk. I’m thinking especially of Thomas Boston (and I’m putting him as a Puritan…his theology is Puritan)…Thomas Boston’s The Crook in the Lot, and Flavel’s The Mystery of Providence. What did he do? It was one of the first cross-stitches (whatever the word is) that she ever did. It’s a Psalm…it’s the darkest Psalm in the Psalter. 5. The apostle Peter is one of the most prominent of the first disciples of Jesus in the canonical record. I’ll never ever forget that, and she ministered to me. Another dimension of Paul’s thought on the meaning of suffering is his conception of suffering as a means for sanctification, keeping pride at a minimum and trust in God at a maximum. Many, many people followed these blogs and were moved in ways that go beyond explanation by the faith, the courage, the adventure of the highs, the lows of watching her 27-year-old daughter die of cancer. Suffering teaches us empathy, compassion, and humility, and God comforts us in our afflictions so that we can comfort others with the comfort … That’s his philosophy of Christian ministry: “It is through many tribulations that we enter the kingdom of God.” You know, when you realize that, you won’t be taken by surprise when tribulations come. And if there were no more alligators — and all of you green folk now can get all aerated — but if there were no more alligators in the world, I wouldn’t shed a tear! The alternate term suffering (Latin: dolens, lit. As the church and as individuals, it is time that we find our song. And then, another issue that I’ve already touched on, the disregard of the psychosomatic links. 'grieving') emphasizes the nature of souls' experience in Purgatory; they are suffering the temporal consequences of their sins to redemptive effect. Meaning and purpose a. That’s pretty good company to be with if you’re down in the dumps. 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