|Posted on September 5, 2019 at 10:55 AM|
My heart is grieved for the folks in the Bahamas. Having survived a few hurricanes in South Florida I can’t even imagine the suffering endured by those who were caught up in the furry of Dorian for over two days. We are just now beginning to learn about the devastation they will have to face on the long road to recovery. They will need our prayers and support for a long time to come.
Nothing causes us to doubt the goodness of God and the hope of the gospel more than suffering. Natural disasters of this sort tend to divide our thinking into two camps. There are those who think God uses such events to punish the people who are suffering because of their sins. And there are those who think God spared them from the disaster because of their righteousness. According to Jesus, both ideas are wrong. As he told his disciples, “The rain falls on the just and the unjust”.
Such erroneous thinking is born out of a deep fear we naturally have of suffering and our own pitiful efforts to avoid it. The foolishness of man assumes that we can understand its causes and somehow avoid it by our efforts. When this reasoning is applied to God, we conclude that since he is both omnipotent and loving he would do whatever is necessary to prevent those he loves from suffering. Add to that the idea that God does not love sinful people and it seems that those who suffer must deserve it as punishment. Such convoluted thinking and false conclusions not only discourage those who suffer, but also creates a false pride in those who don’t.
In the last half of Romans 8 Paul makes it clear that suffering is not due to personal sinfulness, but because we live in a sin-cursed world within sin-cursed bodies which are both falling apart. This is what physicists refer to as the second law of thermodynamics which states that matter goes from an orderly to a disorderly state meaning that things grow old and fall apart. He tells us that the creation “was made subject to vanity” meaning that the universe began falling apart when mankind turned away from God and that “the whole creation groans and travails together in pain until now”. Suffering is a universal reality for all humanity and not simply a punishment for some.
But God has not left us without hope in this world of suffering and pain. He has sent his Son to deal with the underlying sin causing suffering and left us his Spirit to comfort us in the middle of our suffering until he redeems both us and the creation. We cannot find relief through our puny efforts to avoid suffering, but through facing it in faith trusting in his provisions in the middle of it. There we will find the peace that passes all understanding, the hope we need to endure, and the love to share with others.