pain – death – war

Last time I wrote that we were created to enjoy God.  I wrote that God loves us and wants us to  be happy.  Writing that, I could hear in my mind, voices of readers making objections.  People naturally asking, “If God loves us and wants us to be happy, then WHY?  Why is there suffering and pain in the world?  Why do bad things happen to good people?  Why were more Christians tortured and killed last century, than all the other centuries put together?  Why are babies born with defects?  Why does God allow children to be abused?  Why is there war?”  The “Why’s” are many.

These questions lead to others.  Is God good and loving, yet weak or powerless to prevent pain and suffering?  Or, is God the almighty creator of the universe who made us and then takes an apathetic step back to see how it will all play out?  Questions like these are asked everyday in a hundred different ways, and it seems that no one has the answers.

Well, never fear, friendly reader.  Michael James Santiago Schwab is here.  I have all the answers.   In my dreams!  To tell the truth, my own voice was making the same objections when I wrote about God’s love, enjoying God, and being happy.  I was asking WHY?  I wish I had all the answers, but of course I don’t.  I live in the same world as you – a world filled with  the tensions of good and evil; wholeness and brokenness;  happiness and sadness; peace and conflict; joy and disappointment; success and frustration.  These types of tensions confront most of us on a daily basis.

Another question.  What do we do with all these tensions?  Try to ignore them?  Bury our heads in the sand?  Put on rose colored glasses?  Pray for the best, but expect the worst?  Let go and let God?

Again, I don’t have the answers.  All I can do is share some ideas about how I have learned to cope with these issues as they have sprung up on my spiritual  journey.  I hope what I have to say will encourage everyone, but undoubtedly my words will be a disappointment for some and ring hollow to others.

For me, finding the  right perspective on these issues of good and evil, suffering and pain, begins with reading the Bible.  I believe the Bible is God’s Word that He gives us to help us think His  thoughts after Him.  To open the eyes of our heart, our spiritual eyes.  I think of the Bible, the Holy Scriptures, as a User’s Manual, that God has graciously given us to.  He made us.  He knows how we function.  He explains what we need to know in the Manual.  In reading, studying and meditating on the Bible, God helps me  understand, a little bit more everyday, what’s going on.  I get more of His perspective.  Through the help of the Holy Spirit, I can see things more clearly.

One of the first things that I learn from Scripture is that having all the answers in life isn’t all that important.  In fact, having all the  answers is impossible.  What is important in life is to trust that God loves us and  wants us to be happy.  That’s what the Bible says.  One example- I just scanned the book of Psalms, all 150 chapters.  I  have read it many times, and underlined things that were important to me.  Scanning all those pages and reading things I had underlined, certain words and phrases jumped out at me.  Rejoice, gladness, joy, delight, steadfast love, love endures forever, rescue, compassion, forgiveness, mercy, goodness.  These are the words that the writers of the Psalms use to describe God, His gifts, and their reaction to those gifts.  Throughout the Bible, from the Garden of  Eden in Genesis, to the New Jerusalem in Revelation, I read about a Good God who loves His people and wants them to be happy.


Job and his “friends”

This is not to say that  God’s people never suffer.  All we have to do is to read the book of Job to see that.  This book gives the account of a “blameless, upright man who feared God and shunned evil”.  He was very wealthy.  He was a devoted father.  A picture of health.  We all know the story.  He lost everything in a short time.  His wealth was stolen.  His children died in a tragic accident.  He began suffering from a horrible, painful skin disease.  How did Job react?  The first two chapters tell us that “Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing” and “Job did not sin in what he said.”  Job 13:15 records Job as saying, “Even if God kills me, still I will trust Him.”

Naturally Job wanted to know WHY?!  Why God?  Why?

Towards the end of the book of Job, Job receives an audience with God.  Surely he must have thought, Now God will answer my question – WHY?  Guess what?  God did not answer the Why Question.  God proclaimed  His might and power to Job.  God told Job to consider the universe that He had created.  God directed Job’s attention to nature, and God asked a few questions of His own.  Forty-seven questions to be exact.  A few examples of the questions that God asked Job –

Where were you when I laid the earths foundations?

Have you ever given orders to the morning, or shown the dawn its place?

Have you comprehended the vast expanses of the earth?

Can you bring forth the constellations?

Do you send the lighting bolts on their way?

Will the one who contends the Almighty correct him?

To all these questions, Job had to answer “No”, while God says, “I was there, I have done it and will continue to do it.”  What God is saying to Job, and to us, is that He is all powerful.  He is sovereign.  He has given us a beautiful creation, and He can be trusted to do the right thing, even if we can’t see it or don’t understand it.  Job never did understand, this  side of eternity, why he had to suffer the way he did, but he did understand that he had to to trust in God, that  He is  good and that His love endures forever.

I love Psalm 103.  God is pictured as a loving, compassionate father.  He understands what we are going through.  Why we suffer.  Verse 14 says, ‘he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.”    Our attitudes are dust.  Our actions are dust.  Our strength is dust.  Our motivations are dust.  As a result of all that “dust”  we suffer sometimes because of our sin.  We cause other people to suffer because of our sin.  We suffer because of other peoples sin.  Sin is the main cause of suffering, although certainly not the only cause.  Despite our sin, as Psalm 103 says, “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him.”  When we recognize our sin, and ask God to forgive us and restore us to a right relationship with Him, then we can be assured, as verse 12 states, “as far as the east is  from the  west, so  far has he removed our transgressions from us.”

In our times of trials, turmoil and terrible pain, we can be sure that God, our compassionate Father, is  there beside us, walking with us, and at times carrying us.  Ultimately we can rest assured that we will  be delivered from all  sorrow  and suffering.  Why?  Because God loves us and wants  us to be happy.

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“Through many dangers, toils and snares
I have already come;
‘Tis Grace that brought me safe thus far
and Grace will lead me home”     Amazing Grace

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Next blog – Three Happy People