Many people have made some sort of peace that there is evil and suffering in the world but what they have a problem with is that there is no rhyme or reason with it. What are some of the principles involved?
PRINCIPLES FROM SCRIPTURE DEALING WITH PAIN AND SUFFERING:
1) Principle of sowing and reaping –Isaiah 3:11. Gal. 6. What we sow, we reap. We find this preeminently in Deut and the wisdom literature. Obey God and receive all the benefits of the covenant or you can disobey God and suffer the price. You are going to suffer if you do wrong. Many people suffer for that very reason. Smoking and getting lung cancer. What we sow is what we reap. There has to be a caution thrown in here.
a) The book of Job overthrows the simple equation.
b) Luke 13:1-5. Behind this report Jesus reads an attempt at self-justification rooted in the common notion that disaster befalls those who deserve it. Jesus’ reply does not deny sin its consequences (sowing & reaping), nor that sin leads to judgment; instead, he rejects the theory that those who encounter calamity have necessarily been marked by God as more deserving of judgment than those who do not. For those eager to regard others as more deserving of God’s judgment than themselves, Jesus continues in v6-9 y insisting that the unrepentant have escaped judgment not because of their relative sanctity but because of God’s mercy. God may have acted in mercy in holding back destruction for the moment, but this stay of judgment is temporary. Grounded thus is Jesus’ final note of urgency: Now is the time of repentance.
c) In John 9:1-3, Jesus says in v3 very strongly that “far from it that” or “on the contrary” that the man is blind because of sin of his parents or the man in the womb (there was some belief that a child could sin in the womb). This is an opportunity for God’s grace to be displayed and not punishing them for sin. Look at the significance of the word “work.” What was to happen is to us a miracle, but to God no more than a normal “work.” FF Bruce says, “God overruled the disaster of the child’s blindness so that, when the child grew to manhood, he might, by recovering his sight, see the glory of God in the face of Christ.”
2) Principle of discipline and purification—it is prospective rather than retrospective. It is not so much what we have done but it is what God wants to be done.
• John 15:1-2—He prunes us so that we may bear MORE fruit.
• Al Meredith—”God never uses anyone greatly without first wounding him deeply.”
• It is looking to the future and what kind of person will my child become. In the covenant God shows this covenant loyalty who sticks closer than a brother. Heb 12:4-11. Romans 5:3-4.
[i]There is nothing—no circumstance, no trouble, no testing—that can ever touch me until, first of all, it has gone past God and past Christ, right through to me. If it has come that far, it has come with a great purpose, which I may not understand at the moment, but as I refuse to become panicky, as I lift up my eyes to him and accept it as coming from the throne of God for some great purpose of blessing to my own heart, no sorrow will ever disturb me, no trial will ever disarm me, no circumstance will cause me to fret, for I shall rest in the joy of what my Lord is. Citation: Pastor and author Alan Redpath (1907–1988)
•James 1:3 In verse 3, James states that this testing of faith actually leads to endurance. So why can believers react to trials with such an unexpected response of joy? The reason is Christians know that God uses trials to perfect a believer’s faith and make one stronger Christians.
•Idea of being made COMPLETE in Christ. James 1:2-4—Also, the perfection of James looks ahead to its fullest maturity at the end when God’s purposes will have been achieved. The word “complete” indicates soundness and idea of wholeness, in contrast to one who is unhealthy or sick (see Acts 3:16). Therefore, when a Christian is tested and responds with confidence in God and is determined to endure, a wholeness of Christian character develops that lacks nothing in the full suit or armor of virtues that define Godly character.
• For non-Christians, God will allow the prodigal to squander things and end up in a pigs trough to run to their Father. In a sense, God is the Father of all and waiting for people to come back. Its not that God will beat people until they come to be people He wants them to be.
• What if the prodigal son had been a good money manager?
• Sometimes the discipline might be, just allowing us reaping what we sow. Sometimes God won’t rescue us. There are earthly consequences of sin even though the sin is forgiven.
A BEAR, A TRAP, A HUNTER, AND GOD
•How can a mere finite human be sure that infinite wisdom could not tolerate certain short-range evils in order for more long-range goods that we could not foresee?
• Dr. Kreeft uses the example of a bear caught in a trap. Imagine a bear in a trap and a hunter who, out of sympathy, wants to liberate him. He tries to win the bear’s confidence, but he can’t do it, so he has to shoot the bear full of drugs.
• The bear, however, thinks this is an attack and that the hunter is trying to kill him. The bear does not realize that this is being done of out compassion.
• Then, in order to get the bear out of the trap, the hunter has to push him further into the trap to release the tension on the spring. If the bear were conscious, he would be even more convinced the hunter was trying to kill him. But the bear would be wrong.
• How can anyone be certain that’s not an analogy between us and God? Kreeft believes God does the same to us sometimes, and we can’t comprehend why He does it any more than the bear can understand the motivations of the hunter. As the bear could have trusted the hunter, so we can trust God.
EVIL AS EVIDENCE FOR GOD
• The evidence of evil and suffering can go both ways—it can actually be used in favor of God.
• When one is outraged about the evil and suffering in our world, that presupposes there really is a difference between good and evil. The fact that he is saying quite rightly that this horrible suffering isn’t what OUGHT to be—means that he has a notion of what ought to be; that this notion corresponds to something real; and that there is, therefore, a reality called the Supreme Good. Well, that’s another name for God.
• An atheist may be testifying to the reality of God because by recognizing evil he is assuming there is an objective standard on which its based.
• If a teacher gives a student a 90% and another an 80%, that presupposes that 100% is a real standard. The point is this: if there is no God, where did we get the standard of goodness by which we judge evil as evil?
• CS Lewis said, “If the universe is so bad . . . how on earth did human beings ever come to attribute it to the activity of a wise and good Creator? In other words, the very presence of these ideas in our minds—that is, the idea of evil, thus of goodness and of God as the origin and standard of goodness—needs to be accounted for.”
3) Principle of Spiritual Warfare—Mark 5:2-15—demoniac. Man filled with legion and he is running about the caves. This man is a sociopath. He is self-destructive. Jesus had to drive out the devil. Luke 13. Woman crippled by a spirit for 18 years. Daughter of Abraham whom Satan has bounded her for 18 long years. Jesus feels for her and recognizes her pain and drives out the spirit. Acts 10:38. Eph 6. Paul talks later how he was hindered by satan and the powers of darkness. God has His own plans and purposes. We are so pitiful as specimens of Christians and we are so shallow in our prayer lives and unbelieving almost across the board and we are so prone to overlook a demon and that explains a whole lot why we don’t see healing today in our world. We have so little power to bring grace onto the scene. This causes people to feel that our God is bringing pain unto the world. “You have so much light but so little power.”
4) Principle of revelation—God speaks to Hosea and says, “marry an adulterous wife.” God wants Hosea to understand God and Israel and their relationship. It was in that agony Hosea faced, he was able to not only prophesy but deliver God’s message of an unfaithful people. There are times we are called to better know God that we would rather not suffer. Romans 8:28-38. How can Paul know that? In his own life. 2 Cor 11:24-29. 1 Cor 4:9-13. How could he possibly know that nothing shall separate us from the love of God? He had been there and found that. No one who has lost a loved one, cannot know how that feels in any other way. There is suffering that God puts us through so we can know Him. God is trying to open things to them.
5) Principle of redemption. Not our redemption but for other peoples. Col. 1:24. As the body of Christ extending of the Gospel, we suffer in order to spread the Gospel. 2 Cor 4:7-12. Death is at work in us so that life is at work in you. Sometimes what we suffer has nothing to do with us. It is real easy to say that I have to take up my cross to follow Jesus, think about what that means? We must suffer at times. Who is not to say that Joni Erickson Tada’s cross is living in a wheel chair? Suffer for someone else’s sake? Maybe God is allowing you to struggle so you will be able to help others. The Gospel we could have. That is why its so important not to give up once you fail. Get up! Come out the far end. Bring good news to somebody. Suffering on behave of others.
6) Principle of Final Resolution—pain and suffering are eschatologically resolved. God makes it alright at the end. Israel lives in this tension that is only resolved by looking to the future. Israel looks to the future. The suffering that they have endured turns them to tomorrow. Always saying that God’s promises are fulfilled in the future. 2 Cor 4:16-18. Our light and momentary troubles (being beaten, whipped, etc.) . . we focus on what is unseen; what is seen is temporary and what is unseen is eternal. Gut intuitions differ. How can God set right the atrocities right. Rev 21:1-4. Whatever we don’t understand today, there is going to be a new order tomorrow.
These principles can help us overcome the simplistic answers. “If you don’t study someone enough to be tempted by their thought, you don’t understand them well enough.”
Where is God when it hurts?—by Philip Yancey (a great and very thought provoking book)
• Dr. Paul Bland came to appreciate pain by living among people with leprosy. It was he who discovered that leprosy patients suffer for the simple reason that they have a defective pain system. Leprosy is a painless disease. It works as an anesthetic, attacking the pain cells of hands, feet, nose, ears, and eyes to produce numbness. Bland learned that those with leprosy were living in danger with a pain free life by not knowing they were destroying their bodies. For Dr. Bland, pain represented one of God’s great gifts.
In regard to John 9, the disciples wanted to look backward, to find out “why?” Jesus redirected their attention. Consistently, Jesus points forward, answering a different question: to what end? And that, I believe offers a neat summary of the Bible’s approach to the problem of pain. The Bible does hold out hope for the future, that even suffering can be transformed or redeemed.