Tag Archive: SUFFERING


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/

 

 

Why do we suffer, and more importantly, why does God allow us to suffer? Why doesn’t he just step in and stop bad things from happening?

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Welcome to part two of an updated and improved version of a series I first wrote six years ago. I approach this subject from a Biblical point of view: how does scripture answer such fundamental questions?

So much of our suffering results from the way we humans act, towards others and towards ourselves. We can easily understand that. If a thief robs our house we’re suffering because of his deed. But the next thought that enters our mind once we realize that the house was robbed by a scoundrel is “Why did God allow this to happen to me?

An unavoidable issue to consider in the quest for answers to the opening questions is that of free will, because with free-will comes the likelihood that someone will suffer at the hands of someone else’s bad actions.

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God clearly planned for mankind to have a mind of his own.  According to Genesis, when He first made the world and everything in it he made one tree-and only one-which Adam and Eve were commanded not to eat from. It was called “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil”. God warned them that if they ate from it they would die. It seems to have been a simple, easy choice in a simple world. Everything was created for their happiness: all they had to do was avoid that one tree.

What happened? They believed the lie fed to them that they would be better off not following their maker’s instructions, and they ate the forbidden fruit.

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Why, we may ask, did God do such a thing as to make a deadly tree in an otherwise perfect world? The answer is really quite straightforward, if you think it through. With God’s intention to give mankind true intelligence and the ability to choose there had to be an opportunity to disobey, to make a wrong choice and to enact the decision. The potential for a wrong choice had to be real, the deed had to be allowed to happen, and there had to be real consequences, or free will would not be free will. Do we want to be pre-programmed like a robot, and be made to behave in a certain way, and be made to go to heaven and worship God, or would we rather make our own choices?

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In any case, that particular decision has already been made for us: we have the conscience and the ability to choose, and we’re stuck with it!

True, some people don’t live long enough to think it all through, and some don’t have enough information to make a very informed choice about God or right and wrong: that’s a subject for another day.

Unfortunately Adam’s bad decision-making didn’t end at eating from the forbidden tree. From our ultimate progenitor until this day the history of man is marked with bad decisions and bad living. We harm each other, and we harm ourselves. As we look around our world and at our own lives we can see the affects of those decisions.

THE ULTIMATE PURPOSE OF FREE WILL

When God created the world he never wanted Adam and Eve and their descendants to disobey his warnings. However, even before he created the world he had “Plan B” ready (1 Peter 18-20). God didn’t “lose” his creation when Adam and his descendants disobeyed and essentially rebelled against his perfect nature. It wasn’t suddenly beyond his reach so that he gave up on it. Humanity didn’t become independent of him in the sense that the world is now ours to do what we want with it. Scripture speaks plainly of consequences for our actions, the ultimate one being the future judgment of all mankind before the world is restored to its pristine condition.

Humanity through the ages has included a mass of people who’ve willingly chosen to seek God. It’s these people who’ve used their free-will to try to obey and to love God who will populate his heaven and his universe for all eternity, and who will have incredible, intimate fellowship with their maker. This is the ultimate purpose of free-will. Please note that I’m not advocating salvation by works: salvation from our sin is found in the gift of God, his son Jesus Christ.

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Jesus in a parable likened the world of mankind to a farmer’s field. The farmer waits patiently for his crop to grow, though there are weeds in with the good grain. Those who have rejected and opposed him are compared to weeds. The farmer tells his workers not to pull up the weeds too soon, as they may pull the good plants up with them-don’t forget that this parable was given before weed-killing chemicals and other intense farming methods were developed.

The workers were to wait until harvest, at which time the crop and the weeds would be separated. The harvest represents the end of the age of human government (see Matthew 13:24-30 and 36-43). If you read about the return of Jesus Christ to bring both salvation and judgment (Matthew 24) you will find that these passages fit together perfectly.

God’s heaven will be populated by multitudes of people who were not necessarily perfect in their earthly lives, but who at some point acknowledged that God’s ways were right and theirs were not, and who then attempted to live in obedience. They will fit perfectly into the new world, and they’ll be happy there. In contrast, those who chose to reject him and his ways now would certainly not be happy there, and if they were sent there, they would only make heaven into the same confused, violent, cold-hearted, rebellious mess that we see around us now.

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Yes I believe in answered prayer. However, God does not stop all suffering in this world, because his plan is not to patch up a fallen world (as an example, read about Paul’s physical ailment, for which he prayed for healing three times (2 Corinthians 12:7-10). Instead, God’s “Plan B”, which is really part of the original plan, is for us to find salvation from our sin and bad decisions and actions through his Son Jesus Christ. God is preparing a ‘crop’ of followers for his heaven: people who love his ways and who choose his will above their own.

Suffering is a universal problem: sooner or later, it grips the lives of all of us in one way or another.

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Welcome to an updated and improved series I first published six years ago…

Why do we suffer? Surely, if there’s a loving God, there should be no suffering, or it should be short-lived and quickly fixed…

The problem of suffering is used by atheists, agnostics and unbelievers as a reason (or excuse) to ignore God or to preach against his existence. If there really were a God, particularly a loving God, they reason, either there would be no suffering, or he would show up at the first sign of any trouble and put things right. We would all be free to live our lives just as we want, without hindrance, trouble or problems of any kind.

Some people, having no answers to the questions we all ask in the middle of trouble, suffer to the point of losing any faith in God that they may have had. Others maintain their faith and even emerge stronger than they were to begin with. It seems that while most churches have some degree of ministry to those who are suffering, not many prepare the flock in advance, even though we all know it’s a universal problem. And we as individuals choose not to consider the prospect of trouble in our own future.

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All religions and philosophies either have an explanation for suffering, or attempt to sidestep it in one way or another (we don’t really exist and any suffering is caused by our own minds: that kind of thing). I intend to tackle the subject from a Biblical viewpoint. It’s my conviction that the Bible contains most (not all) of the answers to why we suffer, and that they are solid, logical, reasonable answers. While I freely confess that I’m no formally-trained expert, and that I’ve not suffered anywhere near as much as some people do-yet-I think I’ve grasped the main causes of suffering in our world-intellectually. I intend to go into some detail on each cause in following installments of my series, but here I will list them.

Some causes of suffering are of far more consequence than others: this list is not in any particular order:

  • The Curse. 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.
  • 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 to assess and reveal the condition of our hearts.
  • The consequences of rejecting God. By consistently rejecting Him, we’re not protected by His providence. This also applies to nations, cities and individuals. By going our own way, we are inviting trouble.
  • We reject God’s guidelines for a healthy, successful life.
  • Satan and the spirit beings who have sided with him are against us. We all have an enemy who hates God, his children, humanity in general, and His creation.
  • Free will. God chose to give humans the capacity to choose between right and wrong, rather than create a race of robots who were incapable of true love. Free will necessitates wrong choices and consequential suffering.
  • 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 refinement is more important than our comfort and ease.
  • Suffering may be allowed to teach dependence on God
  • We harm ourselves with bad choices. For example, we’re too eager to get romantically involved with a person we don’t really know, or we throw our money into a dishonest or suspect business deal;
  •  We harm others with our actions. We may be violent, selfish or greedy.  If we drive while intoxicated we’re risking lives. When we steal, we’re taking what belongs to other people and what they may have worked hard for.
  • We harm ourselves with bad attitudes. For example, we may wallow in destructive self pity rather than looking to God and being thankful.
  • We harm others with our words. The old ‘sticks and stones’ rhyme is not valid: words can be very destructive.
  • We harm others when we fail to love them. Children in particular are in great need of expressed love and kindness.
  • We harm others when we keep them from the truth, and when we teach them the inventions of man, such as evolution.
  • Suffering may be allowed to bring glory to God, in the long or short term. We are His servants-not the other way around.
  • Murphy’s Law/ Sod’s Law/ Fate/ Determinism/ Bad luck. (See my post on Murphy’s Law).

THE TERROR OF GOD

Sometimes God really is “terrible”. In fact, in some ways He’s the ultimate terrorist…

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Don’t worry, fellow believer, I’m not about to intentionally engage in any kind of blasphemy. I’m sure it’s true that, God is light; in him there is no darkness at all (1 John 1:5 NIV).

However, in contrast the Bible warns us that:

It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God (Hebrews 10 : 31 KJV).

How can God be said in his own book to be all “light” and yet at the same time cause fear? We have in the Scriptures what is either a serious contradiction, or a strange paradox which we need to come to terms with. In the latter case, which I’ll demonstrate is the correct alternative, the fact that God is “light” doesn’t exclude the reality of his fearful attributes: the terrible, fearful side of God’s nature does not equate to “darkness”.

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I noted in a recent post* that Richard Dawkins stated in his book, “THE GOD DELUSION” a number of extremely derogatory and insulting terms to describe the God of the Bible. I commented that none of his assertions were valid. However, in some fairness to the God-hating professor, I must say that anyone who’s done any serious thinking about life, the universe and everything, and anyone who’s lived for any length of time, and anyone who’s honest, will have questioned the goodness of God at some point in their life. If there is a God (and I’m convinced there is) and if he’s good and loving as the Bible claims he is, then why do so many terrible things happen in our lives and in our world?

More than that, anyone who’s read a sizable portion of the Old Testament couldn’t fail to notice some very heavy-handed dealings by God with his people and those around them. As an example, consider the punishment of Korah, his family and all who rebelled against Moses with him:

“…the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up, with their households and all who belonged to Korah…and the earth closed over them…And all Israel who were around them fled at their cry, for they said, “Lest the earth swallow us up”. And fire came out from the Lord and consumed the 250 men offering the insense…” (Numbers 17:31-35 ESV).

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Now, that’s terrorism in its purest form. If we only had a very shallow knowledge of the God of the Bible, we might read that passage and conclude that God is a mean, terrifying ogre. But I’d like to here reiterate a regular theme of mine, which is that if God is God-our creator and our sustainer-he has every right to do what he wants with his creation just as surely as a potter has every right to remake a buckled vessel on his wheel. Were he really a mean ogre, he would have every right to be so. We in contrast and in comparison have no rights and no way of enforcing any claims to rights.

God in the Old Testament was aware of his potential to inflict terror even on his own people, and made a habit of passing out warnings in advance, against any behavior which would lead to his anger flaring up. Think of the warning He gave to the people of Israel at Mt. Sinai, telling them not to set foot on the mountain:

And the Lord said to Moses, “Go down and warn the people, lest they break through to the Lord to look and many of them perish…” (Exodus 19:21)

It’s as though God was telling the people, “Please don’t come too close to me, because I won’t be able to help myself, and I don’t want to make you suffer or to destroy you…”

Our problem in this age is that we’ve forgotten about the holiness of God. He is perfect, he is infinite, he is mighty, and he must be multi-dimensional-if dimensions can be applied at all to an eternal, omnipresent being. We in contrast are imperfect, flawed, weak and very limited in our capacities, particularly our spiritual capacity. We can no more stand next to God and chat with him-in our natural state-than we can stand next to the sun: it’s impossible. And we can no more ignore and neglect the characteristics of God than we can ignore the properties of the sun: travelling at night to land a space ship on the sun to avoid the heat would be a futile, foolish operation.

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We believers tend to metaphorically brush under the carpets of our minds the numerous “B.C.” events such as the crushing of Korah’s rebellion, choosing instead to focus on the God of the New Testament and his loving, merciful attributes. My own dad, an otherwise godly man in every way, could not accept much of what was written in the Old Testament, and made the decision that God had been misrepresented by its authors, because God clearly wouldn’t condone the killing of anyone let alone thousands of men, women and children. It was the New Testament, in his eyes and the eyes of many others, which is the inspired Word of God: not the Old.

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The problem with that approach is that by dismissing the OT you are also bringing into question the entire New Testament. You can’t read any one of the gospels without finding numerous examples of Jesus Christ quoting the Old Testament as though he believed it were true, and the letters are similarly packed with references to it. In fact, putting the Pharisees on the spot as he loved to do, Jesus said:

For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me, for he wrote about Me (John 5:46 NASB).

You can’t have one without the other, said Jesus: the Old Testament and his words go together.

The two disciples on the road to Emmaus who were talking to Jesus without knowing it were given a Bible study (Luke 24:13-35). He demonstrated from what we call the Old Testament-there was no written New Testament at that time- that the prophesied Christ had to suffer and be raised. Why would he have reasoned from the Old Testament if it’s not to be accepted or believed?

So what about my outrageous assertion-coming as it does from a believer-that God is terrible? Am I now attempting to insult the Lord Almighty in a similar vein to the renowned and exalted prof.? Am I sowing seeds of dissent and rebellion? No. I’m using the word “terrible” in the context of being “dreadful”, “unspeakable” and “awesome”. I’m simply facing up to the reality of God’s nature.

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“But…” you may protest…”God is different in the New Testament!”

Is he really? I agree that Jesus Christ was and is “meek and mild”, and merciful, though a time is coming when the other side of his nature will be seen. Leaving that aside for the moment, I want to stress that God is “the same yesterday, today and forever…” Consider the words of New Testament writers, who spoke not only of God’s mercy but of his fearful side:

…let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. For our God is a consuming fire (Hebrews 12:28 KJV).

It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God… (Hebrews 10:31 NIV)

Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off (Romans 11:22 ESV)

If this were not enough evidence of the disciples’ awareness of the terrible nature of God we can read in the Revelation and the words of Jesus himself about how the entire world is going to be judged-by his holy standards and not ours-the same kind of holy standards that we see in the Old Testament. Paul wrote:

This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might (2 Thessalonians 1:6-9 NIV). 

The terror of God will fall on imperfect mankind. But there is hope. Part two of my article will offer you the good news: the way of escape from the terror of God.

Thanks for reading this far!

This post in both its parts serves as an introduction to my forthcoming series on the subject of suffering as it relates to the God of the Bible, titled “Why Do We Suffer?”

* https://nickyfisher.com/2017/04/29/wrath-and-mercy/

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