Monday, January 5, 2015
GOD'S RELATIONSHIP TO HUMAN SUFFERING
Hard Times, Chicago, IL
This anonymous quote that rationalizes God’s relationship to human suffering was shared by the minister who officiated at our wedding. He found it to be comforting after his young wife’s car was rear ended into a speeding train and was killed, leaving him to raise their two young children:
“Suffering is not God's desire for us, but it occurs in the process of life. Suffering is not given to teach us something, but through it we may learn. Suffering is not given to punish us, but sometimes it is the consequence of our sin or poor judgment. Suffering does not occur because our faith is weak, but through it our faith may be strengthened. God does not depend on human suffering to achieve his purposes, but sometimes through suffering his purposes are achieved. Suffering can either destroy us, or it can add meaning to our life”.
Suffering may not be God’s ultimate desire for the human race, but it is certainly part of an environment where both nature and mankind have been corrupted and one that allows free will choices of good or evil. We do live in a broken world with all sorts of suffering and pain visited upon everyone at some time. And much human suffering is a consequence of man’s inhumanity to man or is brought upon ourselves. Seeing that suffering in little children is especially troublesome. We all share the common destiny of mortal death which can be accompanied by suffering, but we have no understanding of what more serious issues could have been in someone’s path if life were extended. We can generally handle news of a faraway event that rains suffering on a foreign land, but when it strikes close to home it becomes much more personal.
Our response to suffering is critical. For many, a steadfast resolve, deepening faith and inner courage are revealed. Our time of suffering is temporary when viewed in the grand scheme of eternity. In the midst of suffering, this quote could bring some clarity, however. And we have been assured that God will be with us always. No matter what challenges we encounter in life, we will never have to face them alone. God can also help us bring good out of any bad situation.
It’s important that we don’t default to simple platitudes in a sincere attempt to comfort those who are suffering such as, “Everything happens for a reason; It’s part of God’s plan; It must be the will of God; God needed another angel in Heaven”, etc. All these well-meaning phrases we’ve all heard in a time of need wrongly implicates God as the source of suffering which can turn people away from their Heavenly Father at precisely the time they need him the most. Folks can often simply benefit from a good friend’s presence in such times. Silence can be a much better healer than trite phrases which imply that a friend’s suffering has been orchestrated by their loving Creator. And healing does always occur, just not always in this mortal life. We’ll ultimately understand when we individually journey to the other side.