Monday, July 27, 2009

No, No, No, No!

This morning I heard a pastor talk about suffering. It was well meaning. However, I am going to say not just that I disagree with it, but that it is a view that is pernicious, destructive to faith and unworthy of God. (I have held it, and preached it, and that is how I know this.)
The talk went like this:
1. Why does God allow suffering?
2. Because God is using it for our good to make us like Christ.
3. When we get the lesson He is trying to teach us, we won’t have to be in pain anymore. (yes, that is what he said.)

The fact that God has, through the great reversal of the cross, redeemed suffering should not be used as an explanation of suffering. God does not explain evil – he only trumps it, on the cross. He takes the worst that his enemy can do – the death of the Son of Man – and turns it around into the best that can ever happen. And that is what he does with suffering, and with evil. He does use it for our good – but that is not a why – it is instead a how.

The question is asked “What is God tying to teach you in this?” Yikes. God does not try. God is not up there saying “Gee, she/he still doesn’t get it! I guess I will keep her from getting pregnant/let her child be in pain/give him a brain tumor/” NO, NO, NO! Infertility and pain and sickness are part of this fallen world. God does not stop them. But he will transform them, make them into instruments of His love and use them for our sanctification. It is indeed true that the mercies of God, experienced through suffering can deepen and remake human beings. As C.S. Lewis said “Pain carves out places in our hearts for joy to dwell.”

And when you “get it” you do not get out of your pain. This is the equivalent of the faith healer telling the sick person “if you had enough faith, you would be healed!” It is cruel, and wrong to say so.

If you are suffering, in pain, let me say this to you. God does not offer you an explanation. What explanation can be enough? ( “Our ears still ring with the cry of artists like Dostoyevsky whose Ivan Karamazov had protested passionately against suffering inflicted on a child, ‘I would persist in my indignation, even if I were wrong.’” Henri Blocher, Evil and The Cross) He instead offers Himself, entering into it in Christ, walking with us through it by His Spirit, and triumphing over it through the cross.

“…the problem of evil is not something we will “solve” in the present world, and ..our primary task is not so much to give answers to impossible philosophical questions as to bring signs of God’s new world to birth on the basis of Jesus’ death and resurrection and in the power of his Spirit, even in the midst of “the present evil age.” N.T. Wright, Evil and the Justice of God

I am sure that that is what our good brother was after.