Your Thoughts Wanted

Years ago I read the following from Joni Erickson Tada’s book, “A Step Further.”

It’s a kind of scale, I finally reasoned. Every person alive fits somewhere onto a scale of suffering that ranges from little to much.

And it’s true. Wherever we happen to be on that scale-that is, however much suffering we have to endure-there are always those below us who suffer less, and those above who suffer more. The problem is we usually like to compare ourselves only with those who suffer less. That way we can pity ourselves and pretend we’re at the top of the scale. But when we face reality and stand beside those who suffer more, our purple-heart medals don’t shine so brightly.

Along these same lines I’ve been thinking about what we call the sovereignty of God.  In the face of suffering people talk about the sovereignty of God quite a bit.  “It must have been God’s will,” we say.  As I worked through the miscarriages, the loss of friendships and the death of a mother-in-law I wondered, I trusted and I prayed.  “Was this YOUR will, Father?”  I also muse that in the face of suffering we do not talk much of the goodness of God.   It is as though God’s sovereign-ness deals a hard blow to life.  God’s goodness brings only joy and good feelings.  What if both of these simplistic ideas area not true and a reflection of how we deal with ourselves and others as we move along the “scale of suffering” that Joni talks about?


4 thoughts on “Your Thoughts Wanted

  1. Well, you certainly didn’t pick an easy topic, did ya? 😉

    I’ve have pondered this question in light of the false and abusive teachers that popped up this summer who claimed that suffering was practically, if not actually sinful, and God’s only response to suffering is to end it, immediately, in dramatic show like fashion.

    Well, that’s balony.

    I was taught growing up that God doesn’t cause ‘bad’ things, but allows them to happen for ultimate good. Suffering was never seen as punishment for one’s own sin, but rather because there is sin in the world.

    But, I have been pondering the other ‘extreme’, if you will.
    Not that God punishes people for their sin by sending suffering. There is no possible way that we could pay for our sins. Christ took our punishment. To say that we can suffer for our sin, I think would be blasphemy.

    But they, our sins, WERE punished by God. His wrath was poured out upon His son. It was God’s will to crush Him (Isaiah 53:10). It was God’s will that through the suffering of His Son, that man would be redeemed.

    (Not that God doesn’t discipline us. But, discipline is derived from disciple. Discipline implies growth in His maturity. He disciplines those He loves, often through suffering, and not just those who’ve been bad.)

    No, the other ‘extreme’ I’ve been pondering is, what if it all, everything that has ever happened and will ever happened is caused by God, not just allowed, but willed?

    I don’t know, it seems pretty heavy.

    In thinking about my mom, who suffers much every day, is it God’s will? Did God decide this path for her intentionally?

    My first reaction to that idea is to be hurt and angry. I thought God was good, and this sure doesn’t seem good to me!

    But, there is something comforting about a good God being in charge, and that even the kind of suffering Mom endures is redeemable. That God is in charge and not I.

    Though, I am to pray for her, I am not to heal her by my power. Her healing or whatever good is to come of this suffering is not dependent upon how well or how hard I pray. But rather the goodness and mercy and the sovereignty of God.

    What if what I see as a bad thing- Mom suffering so much- is really not. Because God’s thoughts are higher than ours, they are not ours.

    My perspective comes from a fallen mindset, I see through a glass dimly. How would I know good or bad?

    Mom seems to be getting disciplined.

    I don’t know, I really don’t.

    Speaking of Joni Eareckson Tada, have you seen this clip of hers at Biola University speaking on redemptive suffering?

    I like this quote by a man named John who has a severe, progressive physical disability, “He determines what time we would be born, what age, what year, what geographical location, and works all things together in order for us to have a circumstance which we might cry out to Him.” ‘Works all things together’- even suffering.

    Or John Piper’s statement, “The terrorized and troubled world exists to make a place for Jesus Christ, the Son of God, to suffer and die for our sins.”

    These aren’t complete answers to the meaning of suffering or the sovereignty of God. Just random, and a bit rambled, thoughts.

  2. I’d like to give another thought, on God punishing people. Pondering the verses, God DOES punish the wicked- those who have not been redeemed. But for those who are His, Christ has taken our punishment.

    God does discipline- which is not punishment, and God does allow natural consequences for sin. But not all suffering is one of those two.

  3. Hi there,

    Well… it’s been in the midst of pain and suffering I came to see the goodness of God. This is perhaps maybe what you’re getting too.

    We tend to see that God is good when life is good.
    And we can see mistakenly that God is bad when life is bad.

    It’s like our feelings and circumstances dictating the very character of God not realizing that perhaps part of God’s character was expressed when He gave us a free will to make a choice.

  4. Colossians 1:24 states:

    “Now I rejoice in what was suffered for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church.”

    He is essentially letting us know that although Christ paid for our sins the fullness of that payment has not been realized yet in application. I would liken that almost to legitimate funds in the bank that have not been completely withdrawn yet.

    As for whether our suffering is God punishing us for our sins, someone once asked Christ “who sinned that this man was born blind?” Christ answered that neither he nor his parents sinned to cause the man to be born blind.

    Elsewhere the scriptures reveal to us that Christ came to heal those who were oppressed by SATAN (not God)–lunatics, those with palsy, etc. So because we are still in this world and in a sense Christ’s suffering is still lacking something, as Colossians explains, since the resurrection has not been completed yet, we still suffer.

    There is still spiritual warfare also taking place, but God is still healing us and fighting for us as best he can given the state we are still in–living in the domain of Satan. That is why we are told to pray “without ceasing”.

    Christ opened our eyes to a lot of the things people in the Old Testament did not fully understand, one of which was about suffering and where it came from.

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