Store up for yourselves treasures in Heaven
where moth and rust cannot destroy and thieves cannot break in and steal

Friday, January 18, 2013

Pointless Suffering

One of the sad facts of Christian life is that we can “feel” close to God and at the same time harbour in our lives the most horrendous sin. While that is sad, it should not surprise. Sin's deceitful nature blinds us to its existence in our lives. 

It's no different for atheists who honestly believe they are good people. Witness Lance Armstrong who finally came to realize that "I'm a deeply flawed bully."

So what's to be done? How are we to become aware of that which is hidden? And if it isn't hidden, if we've had a glimpse of what we're like, how can the presence of sin become so real to us that we can no longer deny its place in our lives? Well, the answer entails one of the things that atheists say is evidence that God Himself does not exist – pain, suffering, loss and so on. We've all heard it. “How can a loving God allow pointless suffering?”
I believe with all my heart that:
  • Because we are followers of Jesus,
  • Because we want to become like Jesus
  • Because God's goal for us is to become like Jesus (Rom. 8:29),
then every single difficulty (which is often the consequence of sin) that God allows into our lives is meant to raise to the surface in us those characteristics that are in greatest need of change. Again, the Armstrong case.
. Most of us spend so much time trying to stop the discomfort that problems generate in our lives that we completely miss the learning that God is trying to instill into our hearts in the midst of our problems. If this learning is missed, if this change is missed, the eternal value of this whole process will be minimal.
. For those who are on their way to hell, suffering, loss and pain really are pointless things that randomly happen in life.
. For the rest of us, if God wants to change our character, and He does, then He will present us with exactly those challenges that at the very least give us the opportunity to grow into the character or Jesus.
I believe that no matter how long we've been disciples of Jesus, every single one of us is in desperate need of learning more mercy, more forgiveness and becoming more loving toward those who have offended us.

Returning to atheists and their hyper allergic reaction to suffering. One of Jesus' disciples, Peter, writes about suffering, “To this you were called because Jesus suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in His steps. When they hurled their insults at Him, He did not retaliate; when He suffered He made no threats. Instead, He entrusted Himself to Him who judges justly. So do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing because to this your were called.” 1st Peter 2: 20-23,3:9.

This from the book that atheists say can be used to justify violence toward others.

. Our suffering is not an accident. Using the suffering that humans invited into the world for our growth and development is part of God's plan for us.
. Jesus didn't retaliate when insulted. We are to follow His example.
. Jesus didn't fight back when He suffered. God will make things right in the end. 

On atheism there is no ultimate justice. 
On Christianity ultimate justice is guaranteed.

. Jesus set the example we're to follow. If we love Jesus we will obey Him.

God uses difficult people and events to raise to our awareness our fears and insecurities, our irritability / anger / rage and bitterness, our dependencies / addictions, our selfishness, corrupt self-love and unwillingness to forgive.

These are the things that God wants to remove from your life! And when He does remove this crud, what's left is the ability to love others as He loves us.

Don't run from your pain. Don't try to destroy those who cause you pain. Instead, grab hold of Jesus' hand and with your eyes wide open and your chest bared to the blast of life's pain, step into your pain with the knowledge that in all things God will, if you allow Him, transform your character into that of Jesus the Christ.

Oh and for what it's worth. The only way that suffering can be pointless is if God does not exist. 

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