If you struggle with suffering, and we all do, and if you consider yourself an agnostic or atheist… I would invite you to fully embrace your answer to the problem. You may not like the Bible’s recipe, but really look at your reason for suffering… you think life is supposed to be this way. If you really think that, then why are you so mad or bothered when innocent and weak people are killed… You shouldn’t be. It’s normal. It’s natural according to evolution. But I’ll tell you what if you really try to live out this belief, you’ll go crazy.
Fredrick Nietchze believed that suffering was normal. He said there is no God. There is no hope. And he eventually lost his mind. He realized that if what he believed was really true, life is both meaningless and hopeless. Friedrich Nietzsche described existence without God as a world in which “we stray through an infinite nothing, with no up or down left. Lanterns must be lit in the morning hours and sacred games invented to take the place of religious ceremony.” At an atheist gathering at the Salk Institute, Dr. Carolyn Porco proposed that science create its own religious-like rituals and ceremonies to inspire awe at the wonders of science as a reference point for finding meaning. Nietzsche himself spent the last thirteen years of his life in the darkness of insanity, while his Godly mother watched over him by his bedside. Here was a man who literally went crazy with no bigger understanding for the problem of suffering… so much that his Godly mother, who had a lens for suffering, cared for him.
In the movie Julie and Julia, a young girl named Julie is suffering from meaninglessness and hopelessness until she finds some hope in connecting with Julia Child’s cookbook to bring some meaning to her life….
Clip of Julie and Julia: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GV4wkrG0Gv0&feature=relmfu
Now, Julia wanted to “know” someone was with her… Even if it was a woman she’d never met… a fairy Godmother… She wanted to know she’s not alone…. She wanted hope… She wanted to understand… And notice that she was able to go from “laying on the floor” despair to “someone is interested in me” simply by seeing there may be a purpose to her pain. I said there are 5 reasons why the recipe is ruined. The fifth is.
Suffering is the Result of a Broken Creation and Free Will
The Bible teaches that this is not the way it is supposed to be and there are two reasons why. First, free will… Someone didn’t follow directions and add too much yeast and did not cook it long enough which caused this mess. But more than that, suffering is a result of a broken creation Someone dumped too much salt into our recipe and ruined the otherwise good things. In the past, a contaminate was deposited into creation that has ruined relationships, the weather, the human heart, etc. The creation itself is ruined and broken. Jesus was asked once about a “current event.” A group of people from Jesus hometown of Galilee had been brutally killed by the Pilate, the local leader or “mayor” of the region. They also asked Jesus about a tower that fell on some innocent people. He said…
Luke 13:1-7 1 There were present at that season some who told Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. 2 And Jesus answered and said to them,”Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things? 3″I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish. 4″Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem?
Jesus rejects karma by saying, “Do you think those Galileans suffered because they were worse than others?” Rhetoric “NO!” They died because of the evil free will of Pilate. Is rejecting karma, the idea that suffering is the fault of the sufferer? He notes that we live in a broken world where often bad things happen to good people. He also rejects the idea of Buddhism that teaches that suffering is an allusion. These Galileans really died. They Really suffered when Pilate killed them and the tower fell. He rejects the idea that “worse” people have towers fall on them. He says suffering is more complicated than that. In fact, Jesus is such a realist… he tells people that coping with suffering begins by “getting in touch with the reality that we live in a broken world. A war zone. A broken Creation. The Bible says that we are currently living in a war zone. It warns us that in this world we will have tribulation. It prepares us not to “be surprised when bad things happen” and Jesus even says, “In this world, YOU WILL have tribulation.
Imagine this scenario. A soldier heads over to Afghanistan. He is assigned a position in the battle zone. He is on the front line. After his first day taking fire, he returns to the camp, angry, disgruntled, and frustrated at General Petrais. He storms into His office and demands, “What are you doing? What is wrong with the way you are running this unit? I got shot at all day out in the desert. I came down to Afghanistan to enjoy a nice vacation, to get a nice tan, and try to relax. And not only did I not get much R&R in, I was in mortal danger, What are you, general, going to do about it? How would you react to that newspaper clipping? You’d think, “This guy is an idiot! He thinks he is on vacation, not in a war. He has a serious expectation problem. He has a serious Reality Problem. He doesn’t “get” his reality. And because of that, He is angry at the General. Surprised at his circumstances.
In the same way, Jesus reminds us that we live in a war zone. We are caught in a cosmic war zone between good and evil. And we need to remember we are in a war. A battle, not a vacation. We are living behind enemy lines in evil’s throne room on earth. Stop yelling at God, demanding of God, walking into the general’s office… This is why Jesus view on suffering allows you to be angry at evil and suffering… It allows you to hurt, to grieve, to “know” in your heart that… what you are feeling is right… “This world is broken and not the way it’s supposed to be…” But also to have hope… Where is the hope… Well…
There is ONE recipe for restoration
Is there a solution to Suffering?
Yes… but, NOT YET. God made a world without suffering and will one day restore it fully and physically.
Yes, but, NOT UNLESS you do better. God will fix suffering one day in Heaven based on your works.
Yes, it’s Not Really Happening. You must enlighten yourself out of your personhood and cravings which are causing the suffering by realizing they are UNREAL.
No, Not Ever. Suffering will never be fully fixed, but we do our best to keep improving.
Yes, Not Again! Suffering is a normal process of reincarnation where you suffer and return to do better.
Here are the five answers to suffering. Not Yet. Not Unless. Not Really. Not Ever, and Not Again!!! Will Suffering be fixed… If you are a Buddhist… the answer is No, it’s not really happening now. If you are a Hindu… the answer is “NOT AGAIN”… Suffering is “solved” through billions of years of “more suffering” where the universe punishes you through karma by the great wheel of birth and death, and rebirth. If you are an atheist, the answer is an emphatic… “Not ever…” There is no God who will judge Hitler. No Ultimate justice for evil doers. There is no final healer. No final cleansing or restoration. Suffering has always been part of natural selection and always will be… then The Bible offers this Recipe for Restoration… YES, BUT NOT YET!!
Notice that it’s frustrating to hear the message of the Bible say, NOT YET!!! But at least in this view, suffering will be dealt with. Evil will be judged. And goodness will be restored. The Gospel, the main message of the Bible offers a radical solution to suffering.
John 9:1-15 1 Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth. 2 And His disciples asked Him, saying,”Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”3 Jesus answered,”Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him.
Jesus says that the reason there is suffering is neither the person’s fault, or parents…. But that the works of God would be revealed…. God can take things caused by either broken creation or free will and use it for a greater purpose: Pain doesn’t have to be meaningless. And in a broken world, pain may even have purposes beyond what we can imagine.
Ravi Zacharius tells a story about a three-year-old girl in Elk River, Minnesota, who suffers from a rare malady that involves insensitively to pain. It is called CIPA, Congenital Insensitivity to Pain with Anhidrosis. People with this disease feel no pain, nor do they sweat or shed tears. There are only approximately one hundred known cases in the world. Little Gabby Gingras has to be watched over constantly. At four months of age, her parents noticed that she would bite her own fingers till they bled, with no expression of discomfort. When she was two years old, she had to have her teeth removed to prevent her from biting herself and causing serious injury. She could put her hand on a hot plate and burn herself without feeling a twinge of pain. She always has to wear safety glasses because in one instance she scratched her cornea badly. She plays sports with absolute fearlessness, never hesitant about banging into anything. She says sometimes she feels like crying, but she can’t. The life of this little one is in perpetual danger. The average lifespan for a child with this malady is twenty-five years. The parents of children with CIPA have one prayer, that their child would feel pain. If it is possible in our finite world with our limited knowledge to be able to appreciate just one benefit of pain, is it not possible that God has designed this awareness within us to remind us of what is good for us and what is destructive?
So, pain may have a purpose beyond what we can see… But more than that. There is a hope that God can work through pain. If God worked through an old rugged cross to bring about forgiveness… He can use even the worst of things to bring about good….
But the restoration the Bible speaks of is much, greater than merely, “what doesn’t’ kill you makes you stronger…” it is a picture of an ultimate fulfillment. A final time when God will restore everything…
Revelation 21:3-5 3 And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. 4 And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”5 Then He who sat on the throne said,”Behold, I make all things new.”And He said to me, a”Write, for these words are true and faithful.”
This is the recipe for restoration. God will wipe away tears… no more sorrow… no more death… no more crying… no more pain. The former “things” like the challenges, the pains, the hurts, the difficulties will be swallowed up by the joy. Like the joy of having a child swallows up the pain of delivery. Like the sweetness of finishing a marathon swallows up the challenges of the 3 month training. So too, the richness of heaven. The reality of this picture is so real… It is the hope that can be “rubbed into the wounds” of suffering now… The bottom line is that in a war zone, every breathe we have is “borrowed” and a gift… So we need to come to grips with the reality of suffering and the solution of it. More than that, we are called to help nurture and help those who are hurting until that time.
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