Tag Archive: Pain


What do you do when you’re down and troubled? Do you cuddle the dog? Do you put the TV on? Do you pop a pill or light a joint?

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We’ve probably all had someone tell us when we’re down that there are people worse off than us. That’s supposed to cheer us up. But as a 20th century British comedian, Peter Cook, observed, that just makes us feel bad about the other people as well.

One thing that’s helped me in recent times of feeling down is facing up to the fact that I’m feeling down. And with it I’ve also found comfort in the fact, after all, that others are suffering. I’m not saying that it’s a good thing to suffer, and I’m not saying that we should wallow in our trouble, or that we should not cuddle the dog or do something to “shake out of it”. But there’s a very real sense in which knowing that humanity is born into trouble and suffering, and that just being alive exposes us all to the consequences of being in a fallen world of nature and people…is half of the cure. It’s normal. It’s not an aberration to be down and troubled: it’s natural. It’s part of who we are. It’s life. It’s reality. It’s what humans do.

The other half of the cure (the subject of the third part of my “dark side” series, still to come) is stated clearly in this New Testament quote from Jesus Christ:

I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world (John 16:33 NIV).

By facing up to the reality of our human plight, we can also find the answer to it, in Jesus Christ.

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Who won the cup final in 1957? All correct answers will receive a…well…they won’t receive anything (except perhaps a big smile).

Welcome to all you fine people out there who are brave enough to consider the causes of suffering rather than trying to ignore them. Part six of my up-dated series on suffering (first published in 2011) concerns the subject of testing…

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Like it or not, we’re all tested at different times in our lives-perhaps throughout our lives-believers and non-believers. Our faith, our character and our motives are tested by the circumstances we face in life, by temptation to sin and to do wrong, and (this one is difficult for many believers to accept) by God himself. Our enemy the devil also tests us, inasmuch as God allows him to.

Original Greek and Hebrew words in the Bible translated ‘test’, ‘trial’ and ‘tempt’ can be used interchangeably: they have related meanings. They’re often only selected by the motive of the source.

Mankind has been tested from the beginning of creation. I’ve already discussed in part four how Adam and Eve failed the simplest test they could have had- that of resisting the temptation to eat the one forbidden fruit compared to the many that they were allowed to enjoy freely. Remember that God intentionally placed that tree of forbidden fruit in the garden where they lived. He could have left it out, if he wanted: see part two of the series.

Later in scripture we see the struggles of the Israelites, as they wandered in the desert after failing to enter the promised land by faith. Over and over we’re told that they were being tested:

“Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the desert, to humble you and to test you, in order to know what was in your heart” (Deuteronomy 8:2).

When God provided Manna, he said, “In this way I will test them and see if they will follow my instructions” (Exodus 16:4).

Once they were finally in the promised land, God used other nations “…to test Israel and see whether they will keep the way of the Lord and walk in it…” (Judges 2: 22).

David was aware of testing. He said “I know, my God, that you test the heart…” (1 Chronicles 29:17) and he even invited the Lord to test him:

Test me. O Lord, and try me, examine my heart and my mind (Psalm 26:2).

Testing was not just an Old Testament phenomenon. James said:

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, when you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance” “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him (James 1:2, 3,12).

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Even Jesus Christ himself was led by the Holy Spirit to be tempted by the devil (Matthew 4:1).

It’s during the hard times that God, and others, and perhaps we ourselves, see what’s really inside us, and the true condition of our hearts. I’m not trying to say that every hardship we face is sent by God, or that he’s going around like some malevolent, hateful ogre. We need to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit so that we can hope to discern the reason for our problems, and then we need to have the correct, godly attitude towards our situation, as Job did.

Sometimes God doesn’t have to do anything to test us: our real character is shown in the way we respond to everyday trials which come to us by the laws of nature and the nature of man. Whether our trials are expressly sent from God or not, He allows them to happen, and all trials can reveal our true character!

Some people make the mistake of blaming the devil for all their problems. Everything pleasant is from God, and everything unpleasant is from Satan, they think. Even when they sin they blame the devil. This is the “devil made me do it” mentality, and it’s not scriptural. The devil can’t make true believers do anything, and very often our problems are our own fault. That’s not to say that our enemy doesn’t ever test us: he does. Sometimes he’s the one to put that proverbial spanner/wrench in the works of our life. Satan tested Job with severe suffering. However, it’s important to remember that he had to get God’s permission to do it (Job 1: 6-12).

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Job was severely tested when Satan decided he should be, and though Job was a righteous man God allowed Satan to inflict all kinds of horrors on him. Satan had claimed that Job only had faith because things were going well for him (Job 1: 9-11).

Jesus said to Peter, “Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail” (Luke 22:31). Jesus didn’t say that he refused Satan’s request, but that he was defending Peter’s faith.

We’re all being “shaken” and sifted like wheat. The good grain is kept, the weeds disposed of. In the future all of humanity is going to face a time of severe trial, known commonly as ‘the time of Tribulation’. Jesus said that this “trial is going to come upon the whole world, to test those who live on the earth” (Revelation 3:10), We can see in other scripture passages that this ‘hour of trial’ is not sent by Satan (although he certainly plays a leading role) but by God himself, because He has said:

“Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens” (Hebrews 12:26).

Why does a new car devolve into a rusted, broken wreck? Why do the weeds keep coming back in the garden? Why do we get sick? Why does life sometimes seem like an unwinnable battle…

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(Picture by Marlith)

I’m tackling the problem of suffering from a Biblical point of view, because I really believe that the Bible gives solid answers, unlike many-or all-of the world’s alternative religions and philosophies.

Perhaps the most hopeless philosophy is that of naturalistic evolution. While some atheists put a brave face on their future by saying that they’re part of the onward and upward evolution of life, they can’t escape their own beliefs. Yes, they can feel good about themselves and their mortality by making the world a better place to live in for everyone else, but according to evolution suffering and death are necessary components of evolution. As individuals we struggle, suffer and die, with no hope of anything afterwards. We are, in this philosophy, no more important or valuable than a tape worm, and we prove to be no more than parasites on the earth.

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Atheists and evolutionists in general tend to dismiss the Biblical God by saying that he isn’t doing his job, which is to stop all suffering and to give everyone a good time. Well excuse me, but who told them that that was God’s “job” description or God’s obligation? And if he doesn’t do it by their prescription (or ours) isn’t that up to him? How are we going to force his hand anyway? Who decides what God “should” do, and how he should run the world that he created and sustains? Where does it say in the Bible that God promised to stop all suffering and give everyone a good time, except at the end of the Revelation? Just because God doesn’t do things our way, it doesn’t mean he isn’t there at all.

The source of most of human suffering is laid out for us clearly in the early chapters of Genesis. I wrote in part two about the free will that God gave to man, to choose between right and wrong, as well as the ability to decide on many things. Genesis tells us that God gave man a simple test of that free will, because without an opportunity to make the wrong choice and disobey, there could be no free-will.

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God gave Adam and Eve a perfect place to live in, with the companionship of a beautiful healthy mate, and his own presence. He also gave them all kinds of delicious and exotic natural foods to eat freely. However, God made one tree that they were not permitted to eat fruit from, and warned them clearly that if they ate from that one tree they would die. They failed the test.

God would not let imperfect man live for ever in a perfect world, so he profoundly changed the order of things. He told Eve that she would bear children in pain (Genesis 3:16). He removed Adam’s access to the tree of life, which would have given him and us health and life without end (Genesis 3:22, 23). He told Adam that he would henceforth have to work hard for a living, until the day he died, and made it clear that the world would no longer be just a playground of pleasure, but was cursed along with his own life. It would actually provide some resistance to him (verses 17 to 19).

Yes, death was and is the result of Adam’s disobedience. Paul stated the situation clearly, when he said “sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned…” (Romans 5:12).

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It’s not just humans who suffered from Adam’s decision. Paul explained that “the creation was subjected to frustration” (Romans 8:20), and that “the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time” (verse 22).  Whereas God created a perfect world with the potential for perpetual fulfillment and happiness, now all of nature is running down and decaying, and is not on an onward and upward journey of evolution.

This may seem to us like very stiff punishment for “one little mistake”. However, decisions do have consequences, and God can do what he wants to do. More than that, God’s action was a road-block to human nature which already tended towards rebellion against the creator. It wasn’t long before the dark side of humanity was at work again, when Cain, Adams’s son, murdered his brother (chapter 4).

And the rest is history, because like it or not we all inherited the same sin nature that Adam had. It’s not just that we have that same willingness to ignore God’s clear guidance which was written into our conscience and later in Scripture, but we’ve inherited that nature just as surely as we inherit genetic material from our ancestors. It’s as if we’re born with a disease, which God calls “sin’.

We’re not left without hope, because right from the beginning God had a plan-as I said before, “Plan B”- to rescue mankind from sin. Paul wrote:

…if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ (Romans 5:17).

We all now have the opportunity to make a very positive choice with our free will: a choice which will ultimately rid us of all suffering and give us eternal life. Jesus said:

I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies, and whoever lives and believes in me will never die (John 11:25, 26).

Paul wrote:

Since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man (1 Corinthians 15: 21).

The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus… (Romans 6:23).

In this provision of forgiveness and eternal life is seen God’s concern and love for us, even while we suffer for now in this fallen, broken world.

 

 

 

 

Perhaps I should re-name this series “How to be Hugely Successful and Have a Fun-Filled Life”, or “How to Impress All Your New Boyfriends”: I think my view count would soar. Apologies to those who’ve responded to the “How to Be Hugely Successful” tag. But then, avoiding trouble can lead to success, can it not?

It seems we all want our problems to go away, but we don’t want to know where they come from or how to stop them…

Bury-your-Head-in-the-sandI wrote last time that in order for God to give mankind free will as he did, he also had to give us the ongoing opportunity to make wrong choices. How we choose to act or speak in any situation leads to consequences-good or bad, and if we want to identify the cause of a huge amount of suffering in our world, all we have to do is look at our neighbors, or look in the mirror. Yes, human nature is a major cause of suffering.

 

Many times over I’ve heard people blame God for bad situations in their lives which were actually caused by other people. I must confess I’ve done it myself until I came to my senses. We’d like to think that a loving God would intervene and immediately deal with “those” people who cause us problems. But as I explained last time, God is in no mind to “drive” bodies and minds, neither is he inclined to come to our rescue when we’ve ignored and trashed him continuously. Like it or not “those” people have free-will, just as we do, and unfortunately humans sometimes hurt each other with that free will.

12769843-two-skeletons-who-are-fighting-as-they-decayHere I’ll introduce a very unfashionable and politically incorrect word into the mix: ‘sin’. ‘Sin’ is a Biblical word for any actions, thoughts or attitudes which are in opposition to God’s perfect ways and his prescription for our mutual happiness. All wrongdoing is “sin”, and the Bible says we’ve all sinned. It’s in our nature-whether we like it or not-to do things which are going to bring harm to ourselves or to others, directly or indirectly.

WE HARM OURSELVES

We humans invite or accept trouble into our own lives in a multitude of ways. For example, if we eat unhealthy food and fail to be active for years, we can suffer chronic health problems. We get too-easily involved in bad relationships with people who soon mistreat us and bring out the worst in us. We overwork and cause problems in our families, or we live in laziness leading to poverty and wasted time. We fail to forgive ourselves and others. We fall for deceptive and false philosophies. We fail to think truthfully about ourselves and develop a multitude of mental hang-ups which spill out into the world we inhabit.

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WE HURT EACH OTHER

When people fail in such ways as I’ve described above others can also be adversely affected. War is the result of the crooked will of man falling into greed or anger or some warped ideology, and then acting against his brother. It’s not an accident, it’s not a disease, and it’s not caused by God: it’s violence inflicted by man upon man. We’re all aware of war, murders, riots, robberies, embezzlement, oppression, rape, kidnapping, sex trafficking and terrorism. Most of us aren’t in the habit of perpetrating such things on others, but according to the Bible, we who aren’t guilty of murder or robbery shouldn’t feel smug or self-righteous, because we can all at times be guilty of things which may be destructive in varying degrees. In fact, the Bible states that:

“All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God…There is none righteous, no, not one” (Romans 3:10, 23 NIV).

In relation to God’s perfection, and from his point of view, we’re all “those” people. If we had to tip the imaginary scales of judgment which measure good-deeds against bad-deeds in order to gain a perfect God’s acceptance, we’d all be in some serious trouble…

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Hatred, snobbery, judgmental attitudes, infidelity, arrogance, manipulation, sarcasm, indifference, selfishness, deceit, vengeance, greed, envy: they all cause pain and suffering, and they all come from fallen human nature: our human nature. We even cause suffering by failing to do things. For example, we can fail to love or to show appreciation or mercy.

Cheerful stuff, eh? Well actually there is some good news. The Bible is a “how to” manual: it tells us how to avoid a lot of pain and trouble caused by human nature, how to be good to our fellow man, and how to please God. It also tells us that Jesus Christ came to provide forgiveness for us, and to deliver us from our sinful nature. Please see my  post “What is the gospel of Jesus Christ?”:

https://nickyfisher.com/2013/08/13/what-is-the-gospel-of-jesus-christ-2/

 

 

DOES SUFFERING DISPROVE GOD?

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Someone very close to me lost his faith in Jesus a number of years ago. He puts it down to a series of unhappy events and setbacks in his life: a good Christian man he knew died suddenly at a young age; his wife and first love left him for another man; his business failed; a close friend was involved in a road accident which left him brain damaged. Now this person angrily refuses to hear any talk about God.

I used to love watching David Attenborough’s television series on nature: as an ardent evolutionist, he unwittingly helped me to reject the notion of evolution.  I saw David being interviewed in a short video, and speaking about why he had decided for himself that there is no God. Instead of laying out the “evidence” for evolution, he related how he had seen someone in India suffering with a worm which had burrowed into her brain and which made her blind. This, said David, was enough to tell him that there is no God.

These views reflect common reasons given for rejecting the existence of God: some complain that a loving God would not have allowed them to suffer personally, and others complain that a loving God would not allow the suffering they see in the world around them.

However, this view has a serious flaw, and it’s this: the God of the Bible never said that we would not suffer. On the contrary, he gave numerous warnings that mankind is to expect suffering of all kinds in this world. Examples:

“Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life”…”by the sweat of your brow you will eat your food., until you return to the ground…” (God to Adam, Genesis 3:17-19);

“In this world you will have trouble…” (Jesus Christ, John 16:33).

In a series of posts I wrote on suffering I discussed its main causes – the causes we are warned of in the Bible, the same Bible which tells us of the very God who people say has failed in his duties. They are:

The Curse. All of nature is decaying, not onward and upward as in the theory of evolution (Romans 8:20-21);

The consequences of our own intentional sin or poor decisions: actions which affect us personally, such as sexual sin, drug or alcohol abuse, or actions or decisions which lead to accidents;

The consequences of intentional human sin: the actions of others, like hatred, theft, conspiracy, violence;

Deception, coercion, attacks from angels who have sided against God and his followers;

The consequences of rejecting God’s ways, which are designed for our wellbeing and happiness, as individuals or as a society;

Negligence , including failure to love, or give, or care, or share;

Irresponsibility or bad judgment, for example, dangerous driving;

Being tested by God;

Being Disciplined by God;

Being punished by God;

Humbling by God.

THE REAL PROBLEM

So where does the notion that God has failed come from?

The answer is that mankind creates or imagines his own view of what God should be like. Man dethrones God and sets himself up as the conceiver, the creator, and the judge of God, when in fact it’s the other way around. Man ignores the message of God-the Bible- totally, and then has the nerve to reject that Biblical God entirely on the grounds that He has failed miserably in his duties.  Man remakes God in his image. “If there really were a God, we say to ourselves, he would fix all our problems, he would stop all bad things from happening, except perhaps to people like Adolph Hitler, and he would do everything in his power to make sure that I-the great and mighty I-can go about my own business and live a happy, trouble free and fulfilling life.

Not excusing myself-indeed including myself in the ranks of the guilty, I can see that our view is simplistic, narcissistic, selfish, self-righteous and arrogant. It’s the same attitude that got us into this mess in the first place, as summarized in Genesis chapter 3-the attitude that says “God is wrong, he’s holding something back from us, he lied to us, he’s not a loving God at all, he doesn’t want us to enjoy ourselves, he’s failed us”.

THE ALTERNATIVE TO GOD

What amuses me is that many people who think that God obviously cannot exist because he has failed them, are angry with him. How can you be angry with someone who doesn’t exist? If there is no God, there’s no-one to get angry with. There’s no such thing as “evil” (but only an “illusion”, to borrow a popular contemporary term among evolutionists). There is no such thing as “good” or “bad”, “right” or “wrong”, except what we see or decide individually or as a society in our own subjective, relativistic notions of such things. In this case these terms evolve with us: they are not fixed.

If we evolved out of nothing, the “good” in life’s existence is competition, survival, death, extinction. It’s the strong overcoming the weak, the rich overcoming the poor, the achievers overcoming the failures, the healthy overcoming the sick, the slick overcoming the slow. Life is all about the survival of the fittest. Suffering is a natural part of the evolution of life. It’s for our own good: we should applaud it –worship it. Suffering is only “bad” because it feels unpleasant when it happens to us personally. Emotion over suffering is just a useless feeling, a weakness caused by chemical reactions which we should hurry up and evolve away.

However, if there is a God, a God who has created us with a sense of right and wrong, and who has fixed standards, and who has instilled within us concepts of love, happiness and perfection, then we will naturally be reviled by suffering, evil and injustice.

THE ANSWER

Our world is deep in trouble. Human nature is “desperately wicked” by God’s standards, and totally at variance with Him. All of nature is under a curse because of that human nature. But there’s an answer, a remedy. While God is not planning to run around patching this world up piece by piece, while mankind continues in open rebellion against him and his ways, he has given the promise of a new world, and has provided a way for us all to go there. This is God’s answer to suffering:

“God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes on him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

Those of us who claim to have faith need to steel ourselves.  Many Christians over the centuries have kept or even exponentially grown their faith through suffering  We need to prepare for what could come in our lifetime. If we are serious about our faith, we should build it up, and learn to lean on our God, no matter what. We need to so familiarize ourselves with what He has really said that we are not like rocky ground which received the seed, but which did not last when trouble arose (Matthew 13:20-21).

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