Tag Archive: SUFFERING


You stub your toe on a table leg. You passionately address the table, and perhaps even the gods who you may not believe in, with certain derogatory words and accusations which your mother would never have approved of…

You wonder why the gods allowed your throbbing toe to make contact with such a solid object at all. Couldn’t they have moved the table aside one second before contact?

Why does the Biblical God allow us to suffer? Isn’t he a God of love? Why, if He’s omnipresent and omnipotent, isn’t he one step ahead of us, preventing all the terrible things which happen in our world every day? There are a number of answers to this, which none of us like. We can’t know them all, but we can know some of them…

First of all, God created a physical universe for physical beings to live in, and a physical universe must have natural laws to govern it. Why would God create a physical universe, and then negate its natural laws? If you drop a concrete slab, you can be sure that gravity will rapidly draw it with some considerable force and momentum towards your toe, already bruised and throbbing after its connection with the table leg.

We don’t know whether Adam and Eve, before the Fall, were susceptible to concrete slabs dropping on their toes. We do know, however, that once they began to rebel, they were susceptible to anything including death:

“For in the day that you eat thereof, you shall surely die.”

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Something happened when Adam disobeyed God, and he began to die, just as God had warned him he would. It took him a long time to die, but die he did, as a direct consequence of his disobedience. His disobedience, and later our own, led to our downfall also. It doesn’t take us so long to die as it took him, because he was still a fresh and extremely healthy creation. We Christians-those of us who believe the Bible-talk about the Fall of man and of nature, at which time humans and all of creation became subject to adverse events and circumstances. When Cain struck down Abel, God didn’t stop him…God let Cain do it. Why did he? Why didn’t God say, “Hey Abel! Look out-your brother has a knife!” Why didn’t he make whatever weapon Cain used turn to dust before it could do the dirty deed?

Since the Fall God has intentionally allowed us to face consequences: consequences of our own actions and of others’ actions; consequences of natural laws such as gravity, and consequences of the fall of nature, so that our bodies degrade and become ill. There can only be one alternative to perfect health forever, and that’s illness, decline and death. God refuses to allow fallen man-in rebellion and disobedience-to live forever, or to live without natural consequences.

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Free will is an amazing gift to us from God, as a vital part of His creation. God wants man to have his own mind and spirit, and to choose to love Him and each other, rather than creating him with robotic compliance. However, free will comes at a price. It’s the driving force behind all the hatred, unrest, unhappiness and evil we see playing out in our world. If God had turned Cain’s weapon to dust before it killed Abel, Cain would no longer have free will. If God froze our tongue moments before we made our feelings clear to someone, in the process hurting them, we would no longer have free will.

In suffering we learn and grow. If there were no consequences to our actions and our words, we would not learn to control them. We would not mature. We would remain like children in our character.

Perhaps the hardest lesson for us all to learn is that it’s God’s will that we suffer, in this world. He-not the devil- instituted the Curse. The Curse is one of those natural laws that God created. It affects all of creation. He’s able to negate those laws when he sees fit (in what we call a “miracle”) but for the most part, it’s His will that we endure suffering. How we respond to that suffering and those challenges is of great interest to God. It’s how God, and everyone else, finds out what we’re really made of. Even Jesus Christ was sent into the wilderness, by the Holy Spirit of God, to be tempted. In the Bible the words “tempt” and “test” are interchangeable.

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To that end, God even allows that rebellious spirit-Satan-to test us. You only need to read the story of Job to see that. Satan is able to afflict us physically and to sorely test us mentally and spiritually-if he receives permission from God to do so. While Satan probably doesn’t afflict all of us directly (he has his own minions) his hateful exploits have devastating affects on our world. But the most important message of Job’s story is that God-and Satan-were vitally interested in how Job would react to his suffering. What was he really like inside? What were his real motives for acting as he did, and for claiming to care about his creator? Did he really love God? Would he maintain his humility before God? Had he really only been following the Lord because life had been rich and trouble-free, or was it because he saw the Lord as his Master, for better or for worse? In marriage our love for our spouse is put to the test and seen for what it really is when we have problems and disagreements, not when all is going well.

God knows that human nature is contrary to His, and that even if He made sure that everything went smoothly for us, we would not feel the need to seek Him. In fact, in many or most cases we humans will only seek God, and humble ourselves to him, when we are suffering or struggling in some way. Somehow, God knows that we grow spiritually under adverse conditions.

Our universe is temporary, and this physical, limited world we live in is a proving ground for all of us. In time, we will be judged for our responses and actions. The most relevant fact that we need to respond positively to is that God has provided his own Son as a sacrifice, so that we can know Him. If we accept God’s gift of his Son, we can escape the limitations of our mortal, temporary bodies in the future, when he will restore all of nature to a state of perfection.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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One of the countless reasons people give for not having faith in the God of the Bible is that He’s cruel, angry and sadistic. Are they right?

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Perhaps the most important answer to this question is that the universe is not a democracy. The God of the Bible created it and sustains it. He has no equal, and He therefore has every right to do with it what he wants to do. God is God, and we are not. Not only that, be we can’t stop him doing what he wants to do. So perhaps the question should be worded differently: Can I believe that there is a God such as this, one who appears to be so cruel?

Surely, even if God were terribly cruel and sadistic, the fact would not rule out the reality of his existence, except perhaps from the point of view that no all-powerful being who is also mean and sadistic could or would create and maintain such an amazing and  beautiful cosmos. So then the question must be more correctly worded this way:

Is God so cruel that I don’t want to know him?

Here we’re getting down to the nub of the problem, because such questions are usually-but not always-thrown out as an argument from people who have no desire to know God in the first place. It’s a cop-out; an excuse.

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But what about it: is the God of the Bible cruel? He doesn’t claim to be cruel. In fact, scripture says that, “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16 NIV).

The gospel is all about the love of God for the pinnacle of his creation-mankind. He didn’t send his son to condemn the world, but to save it.

What about suffering? Why, if there is a God of love, do humans suffer so much, and then die? This is a subject for another post, and I’ve answered this question to the best of my ability in several posts. Please see the links below *

The skeptic will raise the subjects of God’s treatment of the Canaanites and the ancient Israelites, and the whole concept of hell.

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God told the Israelites to wipe out the Canaanites under the leadership of Joshua, including women and children. This is seen as extreme cruelty. The charge is made by people who are either ignorant of all the facts, or who are determined to deny God the right to decide how mankind will behave on his earth. The Canaanites had descended to the lowest pits of human depravity, so that they were sacrificing their own children to their idols. They had abandoned their creator and were worshiping wood and stone. They were engaging in every depraved activity they could imagine. And God did not suddenly decide to swat the Canaanites without giving them a chance to change. In fact, he gave them more than four hundred years to repent (Genesis chapter 15).

We humans don’t have a “right” to do what we want without consequence, because we are owned by our maker. Our maker has standards. I’m personally very thankful for that. How could The master mathematician, biologist, scientist and philosopher, not have standards? Why should he not want to enforce and maintain those standards? Does he not have a right to run his universe his way?

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And what about hell? Is the concept really so awful? Well, it certainly is awful for anyone who may go there. But suppose for  now, if you don’t believe, that God is indeed our creator and the creator of our universe, as the Bible claims he is. Where then can those people go who do not want to know their creator and refuse to adhere to his standards? Where can they go, if once having failed his standards, they then refuse his mercy also? Can they create their own universe? Can they go and settle another part of his universe? Unfortunately, God cannot, according to his nature, tolerate willing rebellion, anywhere in his creation.

He therefore has a special place reserved which we call “hell”, away from Him and the universe which those who love him will inhabit. Without God Hell can have no light, no love, no comforts, no hope, no fun, no beauty. It can only be a terrible place without God. Choose Him or lose Him and all his benefits.

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There is, therefore, no part of His universe people can move to to escape his will. And if he sent everyone, against their will, to his heaven, it would be mean to those people who hate him, his ways, and his people, to make them endure all three for all eternity. Not only that, but it would be cruel also to those who do love him and his ways, to then have to endure the godless for all eternity. Heaven would be just like the earth is now, with war, aggression, immorality, hatred, abuse, decadence, and all the evils men and women perpetrate upon each other.

The  Bible says that “God is love”. God created love, and God is love. But that doesn’t preclude the need for right, wrong, and the necessary judgment of wrongdoing. God is as just as he is loving, and the two go hand in hand perfectly. True justice is a beautiful as is true love, for all eternity. Glory to God!

*Below is a link to the first part of my series on the subject of suffering. You can search for subsequent parts in the search box above, using the words “Why do we suffer? Part 2”, Part 3, etc. You can pay a lot for some “expert’s” book on the topic, or you can read these for nothing:

https://nickyfisher.com/2017/05/31/why-do-we-suffer-part-1/

God doesn’t see things our way, and there’s nothing we can do about it. In fact, it seems sometimes to us that God has a huge, mean, dark side to his nature…

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Yet we read in the Book of books, the Bible, that “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all”. So how do we reconcile the hard realities of life with what we read?

What we’ve discussed in this little series can be boiled down to the fact that God-and reality-is something other than what we are and what we expect him or even want him to be. God is in no way controllable, tamable, measurable or understandable.

We cannot get a grip on God. And if you think about it, that’s how a God should be. Why should we expect the creator of the universe to be understood or controlled by limited, finite, mortal man? Since this is the case, how do we deal with a God who is apparently unapproachable, who has standards far above what we are able to live out, and who transcends all of time and space? There’s only one answer: God has to provide the way himself, and that’s exactly what he’s done.

God is infinite and perfectly holy, and yet perfectly merciful. The perfect God didn’t create the world and mankind in order to provide himself people to pick on. In fact, when he created the world in its original perfect condition along with mankind, as only a perfect God can do, we’re told that:

“…God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good” (Genesis 2:31).

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What could a perfect God do when his created beings began to be imperfect and to rebel against him and to betray each other? He didn’t want to wipe out his own creation, so he provided for himself ways of  reaching out to weak, fallible mankind, and forgiving that imperfection and rebellion. Such provision is seen repeatedly throughout the Bible in many characters.

An early and clear example found in the Old Testament is Moses. Moses was chosen by God to deliver his people from slavery. But it wasn’t just physical deliverance from Egypt that God had in mind for Moses, it was deliverance for the people from his own perfect standards and from his wrath against those who would break them. God’s desire and in fact his natural, perfect compulsion was to punish and destroy those who were rebellious. But there were times when Moses stepped in:

I have seen this people, and behold, it is a stiff-necked people. Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them, in order that I may make a great nation of you

But Moses implored the Lord his God and said, “O Lord, why does your wrath burn hot against your people…?  Turn from your burning anger and relent from this disaster against your people… And the Lord relented from the disaster… (Exodus 32:9-14).

God provided Moses to protect the Israelites from himself.

Many examples of people who stood between God’s wrath and man can be found in the Bible, but the greatest, and the most important one, is Jesus Christ. The gospel, or the “good news” about Jesus Christ is that he, being the only son of God, was sent by the Father to pay the price of our sin, rebellion and imperfection, which is God’s wrath:

Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed…and the Lord has laid upon him the iniquity of us all…(Isaiah 53:4-6).

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Remember the prayer of Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane, when he knew what was about to happen to him but surrendered to the will of the Father:

My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless , not as I will, but as you will… (Matthew 26:39).

Jesus Christ suffered God’s wrath in our place when he was crucified and left to die. This was the Father’s, and the Son’s, ultimate expression of love and mercy to his creation:

In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only son into the world, so that we might live through him…he loved us and sent his son to be the propitiation for our sins… (1 John 4:9-10).

Jesus Christ is our answer to God’s perfection and justice. Our escape from what we may perceive as “the dark side” of God is his own son Jesus Christ. But we have to accept that way of escape. There is no escape from the perfection of God without Jesus Christ:

Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him (John 5:23);

Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die… (John 11: 26).

 

 

 

 

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.

We suffer as does all life on earth. Neo-Darwinists put this down to evolution, and if that’s true then suffering, trouble and problems are natural and normal and we have nothing to complain about-we can just attempt to minimize them.

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Under evolution the strong and the beautiful should survive and procreate and the rest of us should bow out. However, if there’s a person we call God who created us, he either allows suffering, or he is unable to stop it, or he causes at least some of it himself…or there’s another explanation we don’t consider.

If we just ignore God by saying that he’s unknowable, as many people do, we will never come to an understanding of suffering. In complete contrast, the God of the Bible claims to have inspired a Book explaining much of what we suffer and why: you can take it or leave it. From my experience the Bible is trustworthy and stands up to reason and testing. More than that, if God is God, we are not. He is far above us in intellect, power and standards. We can’t ignore God indefinitely. We can’t go off and form our own universe: we’re totally at his mercy, and so we need to somehow understand our plight and come to terms with it.

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Does God have a dark side? Does the Creator who made this beautiful, amazing world, along with our incredible bodies, brains and minds, hate his creation and wish us all harm? I’m here to argue that the opposite is true.

Biblically speaking, the events and conditions which may appear to us to be the result of a pernicious, unreliable, inattentive and unpredictable God can be for the most part explained. Unfortunately most of us fail to look, or fail to accept what our God has told us. Consequently we have, for example, some people-Christians-believing that everything that goes wrong in life is the action of the devil who has free reign, while God goes around attempting to fix things, but only for those who can work up enough faith. This is wrong and un-Biblical.

Our creator has standards which we as humans have consistently broken from the very start. If we were perfect, there would be no problems whatsoever. So what can we do? Its impossible to be perfect, and those who think they are are just fooling themselves. It’s important here to consider that God gave man free will. This explains the choice of whether or not to eat the forbidden fruit in the garden of Eden. God gave us the dignity of making our own choices, and he wanted us to love him by choice, rather than by creating a world of robots which are programmed to act a certain way.

You may ask, as we all do from time to time, why God doesn’t at least step in and patch up the problems. I think that sometimes he does, and that’s where prayer comes in. However, God has apparently decided to let nature-which he created after all-to run its course. The ultimate cure to suffering; the resolution; the fix, will come, but it’s still future.  Many of my brothers and sisters in the faith will complain to me that Jesus has already implemented the fix. With respect, look around you, look at the news, look in the hospitals.

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Here then is a partial list of the Bible’s explanations for suffering and trouble in the world.

  • The CURSE.  A perfect God would not allow imperfect man to live life his own way in disobedience. The choices and actions of man have brought a curse on a world which was once perfect. The curse affects our bodies, our minds, and all of nature. Nature is running down. It’s the reason we get sick and die, because God will not allow rebellious mankind to steal his world and live forever in it. Try to imagine some of the worst characters you’ve heard of living forever.
  • GOD’S JUDGMENT. God is patient with us, but eventually sends judgment and trouble upon a rebellious nation, city or individual.
  • TESTING. We’re all tested throughout life to assess and reveal the condition of our hearts.
  • THE CONSEQUENCES OF OUR ACTIONS. We hurt others and they hurt us. Admit it-we’ve all done it, and we all know people who have hurt us. The prisons are full of the evidence of this (as is Washington!).
  • THE CONSEQUENCES OF REJECTING GOD. By consistently rejecting him and his pattern for a happy healthy life, we’re not always protected by his providence or mercy. This applies to nations, cities and individuals. By going our own way persistently, we’re inviting trouble. It’s like driving a Ferrari over ploughed fields and rocks-eventually something is going to go wrong.
  • SATAN, a created angel, and the spirit beings who have sided with him are against us because they hate God and his creation.
  • DISCIPLINE. God disciplines those he loves in order to make us more like Him.
  • HUMBLING. Sometimes only suffering breaks our pride.
  • A WAKE UP CALL. Sometimes only suffering gets our attention. Our cleansing and refinement is more important than our comfort and ease.
  • MURPHY’S LAW/ Sod’s Law/ Fate/ Determinism/ Bad luck. (See my post on Murphy’s Law).

Here I’ve explained some of the reasons why we suffer and why God allows it, but I haven’t yet discussed the antidote. That will come next time. Thanks for reading.

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