Friday, July 4, 2014

Blessing and Suffering - Part Two

I wrote in my previous post, Blessing and Suffering - Part One, about the word "blessing" and how we can abuse and misuse it. Please read it before reading this one. 

Abuse and misuse of the Bible isn't limited to the word "blessing." I think that if we misuse any section of scripture, we can really mess up people who aren't fully grounded in the Word. Those who haven't searched out the Truth for themselves, but rely on what other Christians have to say, are at the whim of our faulty turns of phrase and misconceptions about God's Word. (This is why I'm always stressing context and looking at the chapter(s) around a verse in order to understand it better.)

My dear friend is struggling right now with the thought that a loving God blesses me with health and wealth, relative to the rest of the world, and lets a child starve to death in another part of the world. “Why do I receive physical blessings and the child in Africa does not? Does God play favourites? He is omniscient and all-powerful, so he should be able to just make everything right. No loving father would let his child suffer when he can intervene. He's either a sick, twisted God, or he's not real.

I think there is a third option. God is neither sick, nor twisted, nor is He made up. I propose that the gap in our understanding has more to do with our own imperfect understanding of God than God's lack of desire to “make things right.”

Please read that again. Our inability to understand why God does this or that has more to do with our own imperfect understanding of God than God's lack of desire to “make things right.”

I cannot control God, neither can I fully understand Him.

hen I use the Bible to say that God's gifts and blessings are physical, then of course you'll think that my wealth and health are extremely unfair. I'm going to be radical here and use a word that many Christians try not to use. I'm just plain old lucky. (I saw one of you twitch right there. Bear with me as I trudge along this muddy path.) I beat the odds so far. Luck, as defined by the Oxford Dictionary, is “Success or failure apparently brought by chance rather than through one’s own actions.

I try to make pretty good decisions, living according to the morals and ethics that God delineated in the Bible. And I was born into a family that lived that way, so it's kind of been all I know. I don't engage in dangerous behaviours, and I try to avoid putting toxins in my body. I am healthy and have all that I need for survival (and so much more.) The truth is that there are plenty of people who live their lives the same, making the same decisions, and they are afflicted with brutal, ultimately fatal, diseases.

So why? Why does all this bad stuff have to happen?

I explained it to my kids this way: I could write a computer program to say, “I love Wanda” every time I hit a button.

Plunk - “I love Wanda.”
Plunk - “I love Wanda.”
Plunk - “I love Wanda.”

But do you think that would really do much for me? Would I feel loved because I programmed my computer to tell me it loves me? Uh, no. How about my kids... What if I forced my kids to say they loved me, every morning when they woke up, regardless of what they really think? Do you think that I would really feel loved by them? Uh, no.

Relationships work best when there is choice involved. Some mornings, my son comes up to me and says, “I like snuggling with you. You're so warm and cozy and nice. You're the best mom ever!” My heart melts. I'll take that over a programmed computer any day.

And that's what God did. He created this world and the people in it. And he gave them choices. He knew what the choice would end up being, and what the result of that was, and I'm sure he grieved over it. But he wanted the relationship to be a two-way relationship. Otherwise, we would be equivalent to programmed robots, going through life with no emotion, no choices of our own. And with imperfect choices and imperfect people comes an imperfect world.

Creation is decaying as a result of sin. Romans 8 discusses this, as do Isaiah 2 and Genesis 3. As Genesis suggests, our genetic makeup is moving away from perfection, not evolving into better health as Darwinians would have us believe. We are subject to the natural laws of this cursed earth.

Yes, there are miracles and there are times when God intervenes. Why does he choose one to receive the miracle and not another? Only God knows. Just as a parent knows and understands why one child receives a benefit that another child does not, only God can say why one lives while another dies.

But, without wanting to sound uncaring, I want you to understand that the 20, 40, 80, 106 years that you are on this earth are so insignificant in light of eternity. It is best summed up in 2 Corinthians 4:16-18. “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”
God's perspective is so much greater than ours. I trust that he knows what he's doing.

I'll leave you with a few quotations from Katie Davis, author of “Kisses From Katie.” She went to Uganda to do mission work and ended up staying there, ministering to, and bettering the lives of, thousands of people in the process. But more importantly, she brought the love of Jesus to these people. She is Jesus's hands and feet to thousands of people in Uganda, day in and day out.

Katie spent a year in Uganda and then came back to the USA to fulfill a commitment she had made. Sitting in her room with all of the stuff that she had in the States, she marvelled at the difference in the two lives. She writes in her book, “I hadn't realized what a transformation had taken place while I had been in Uganda, the spiritual richness I had experienced in material poverty and the spiritual poverty I felt now in a land of material wealth.”

Elsewhere she says, “I'm running from things that can destroy my soul... I am much more terrified of living in a self-serving society and failing to follow Jesus than I am of any illness or tragedy.” Perspective. It's important. We are chasing fleeting dreams and temporal riches and totally forgetting what should be most important to us.

One more word from Katie Davis, “Do not forget in the darkness what you have been promised in the light.” There is much darkness in this world. Be blessed as you find the light that is promised.

Ready to do something about the suffering in this world?  Keep reading...

1 comment: