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Suffering: Why does God allow it?

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Suffering comes packaged in many ways.  Suffering from diseases, suffering of emotional wounds,  suffering of fatherlessness, suffering from traumatic experiences, physical suffering, and suffering the loss of a loved one from death.   Why do we suffer? 

In Christ’ finished work of redemption, He suffered for our sins.  Didn’t Christ deliver us from sin and disease on the cross which was the healing of both body and soul?  Christ experienced spiritual sufferings (as well as physical sufferings)  in the work of the atonement.  It is held by those who teach this idea that in His work of substittionary sin-bearing, Christ suffered not only physical death, but also something beyond physical death-spiritual seperation from His Father, or spiritual death.  It is held that Christ endured the “cup” of God’s wrath in place of the sinner.

Then came the dreadful hour when 2 Corinthians 5:21 was fulfilled.  “He hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin;  that we might be made the righteousness of God in him”

“He was wounded for our transgressdions, He was bruised for our iniquities:  the chastisement of our peace was upon Him;  and with His stripes we are healed.  All we like sheep have gone astray;  we have turned every one to his own way;  and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all”  (Isaiah 53:5-6)

This spiritual suffering was the heart of Christ’s substitutionary sacrifice.  This was the ultimate outpouring of Christ’s love.  

1)   Didn’t Jesus redeem us from our diseases?

a)       Isaiah 53:4  Surely he took up our (choliy  (khol-ee’)diseases( sick(-ness).)and carried our mak’ob  (mak-obe’)(sorrow, grief, pain,) yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted.

b)       Matthew 8:17  This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah: “He took up our infirmities and carried our diseases.”

c)       The curse of the law in Deuteronomy:  However, if you do not obey the LORD your God and do not carefully follow all his commands and decrees I am giving you today, all these curses will come upon you and overtake you:  You will be cursed in the city and cursed in the country.  Your basket and your kneading trough will be cursed.  The fruit of your womb will be cursed, and the crops of your land, and the calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks.  You will be cursed when you come in and cursed when you go out.  The LORD will send on you curses, confusion and rebuke in everything you put your hand to, until you are destroyed and come to sudden ruin because of the evil you have done in forsaking him.  The LORD will plague you with diseases until he has destroyed you from the land you are entering to possess.  The LORD will strike you with wasting disease, with fever and inflammation, with scorching heat and drought, with blight and mildew, which will plague you until you perish….The LORD will afflict you with the boils of Egypt and with tumors, festering sores and the itch, from which you cannot be cured.  The LORD will afflict you with madness, blindness and confusion of mind….The LORD will afflict your knees and legs with painful boils that cannot be cured, spreading from the soles of your feet to the top of your head.

d)       Galatians 3:13  Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, (every disease) being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangs on a tree:

According to scripture, Jesus redeemed us for our sins and healed us of all diseases.

 So why do we still have suffering

Responses:

Pastor Harold Martin:

When Moses asked God to show him His glory, he was asking to see what made God who He is.  God passed before Moses declaring His name and His nature.  Yahweh – Yahweh –  The self existent, almighty eternal God.  He then declared what His nature was – compassionate, gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.  1 John 4 tells us God is love.  1 corin 13 Defines love as being patient, kind, not envious, not proud, not rude, not self-seeking, not easily angered, keeps no record of wrongs, not delighting in evil but rejoicing with truth, always protecting, trusting, always having hope and perseverance.  Love never fails.  This pretty much gives us a description of the character and nature of God.  We also know Him as a prefect father.  So anything that falls outside these boundaries is not of God.  Hebrews 5 tells us Jesus learned obedience from what he suffered.  This is not talking about the garden , the trial, or the cross but, I think the suffering we go through getting our flesh and soul realm to line up with our spirit man.  I believe the type of suffering you are alluding to here comes from three primary sources – (1) self inflicted – normally caused by disobedience to the laws and word of God we know we should be obeying.  (2) Demonically influenced – which is limited to our will and choice and the doors we open to him.  (3) The result of living in this fallen world – including all the bad things we have done to the environment.  God is good – He works in every situation for our good.  He saved us to restore us to the place of intimacy with Him we were created to live in.  I don’t see Him as the author suffering, trauma, tragedy, natural disasters, disease, plane crashes, train wrecks or anything else that does not fit in the confines of His character and nature as it has been revealed to us. 

Just a side note – Deut 28 is not describing the curse of the law – it is describing the natural results of disobedience.  We see these results vividly played out it history of Israel as they disobeyed God.  Not His fault – was His warning.  Same scenario in Matt 24 when Jesus told the disciples all that was about to happen to Jerusalem – vividly fulfilled in the destruction in 70 AD. 

The true curse of the law was its inability to provide salvation. Romans 8 – what the law was powerless to do God did by sending His own son.  Jesus redeemed us from the curse of the law by everything He accomplished in the process of His death, burial and resurrection. 

The Suffering of the Righteous

Ruth Thompson, Pastor, New Hope Worship Center  

website:  ww.nhwcenter.net

The Psalmist said, “Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivereth them out of them all.”  Jesus said He will send rain on the just and the unjust.  Faithfulness to God doesn’t guarantee Christians freedom from trouble, pain and suffering in our lives.

For instance, Paul wanted to preach inRome, and it was God’s will that he preach inRome, however he arrived there in chains.  On the way, he had many setbacks, storms, shipwreck and trials beyond measure.  (Acts 28:16; 2 Cor. 11:23-27)

Paul was faithful through it all, even though God didn’t make his way easy and trouble free.  In the same way, we can be smack dab in the middle of God’s will, totally faithful to Him and still experience trouble.  In fact, Jesus Himself said to expect it.  John16:33, “In the world ye will have tribulation: but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”  Peter, inspired by the Spirit, told us we would endure trials.  1 Pet. 4:12-16

Over and over in the Bible there are examples of godly people who experience massive, overwhelming trouble and suffering; Joseph, for instance and David, Job, Jeremiah and Paul, who was just mentioned. To make matters worse, they suffered for no apparent reason.

So why do God’s people suffer?  The answer is as simple as Adam and Eve.  Because of their fall, sin entered the world.  As a result, in Genesis 3, pain, sorrow, conflict and eventual death came.  In fact, according to Romans 8:20-23 and 2 Peter 3:10-13, the entire universe groans under the effects of sin and longs for the time of the new heaven and new earth.

Some of God’s people suffer for the same reason as unbelievers.  Christians, as well as non-Christians must suffer the consequences of their actions.  Galatians 6:7&8, “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.  For he that soweth to the flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.”  And Hosea 8:7, tells us that if we sow to the wind, we’ll reap a whirlwind.  For instance, if we drive recklessly, we risk having a serious accident.  If we have bad eating habits, we risk having health problems, etc.

Sometimes God allows suffering in order to discipline us and bring about the “peaceable fruit of righteousness” spoken of in Hebrews 12.  Notice I said, allows and not causes or brings suffering. 

Probably the most common cause of suffering is the fact that we live in a sinful and corrupt world.  The effects of sin are all around us.  We experience distress and anguish as we see the power that evil has over so many people, but remember, we are to be of good cheer, because Jesus has already overcome the world.

Believers sometimes suffer at the hands of Satan.  1 John 5:9 tells us that Satan controls this present evil age.  Scripture also tells us that he has been allowed to afflict us in many ways.  (1 Pet. 5:8-9)  Aside from our own trials as proof, we see the story of Job, the woman in Luke 13 who was bound with a spirit of infirmity.  In 2 Cor. 12, Paul speaks of his thorn in the flesh, which he describes as a messenger of Satan, and as we engage in spiritual warfare, we battle against the rulers of the darkness of this world.  We also suffer at the hands of some of Satan’s followers who enjoy persecuting Christians.

Believe it or not, many times God allows suffering to bring about change in the lives of His people who have strayed (Ps. 119:67) and spiritual growth (1 Pet. 1:6-7; Jms. 1:2-4; Rom. 5:3-5; 2 Cor. 4:17).

Although we too will experience suffering in our lives, we have a hope that unbelievers do not.  First, 1 Cor. 10:13 tell us we won’t be tried beyond the breaking point.  Rom.8:28says God will bring about good even in our suffering.  As referenced at the beginning, although the righteous will have many afflictions, the Lord will deliver them out of them all.  

Lastly, remember, in all our suffering, His grace is sufficient.  Also remember that Jesus Himself shares our pain (Heb.4:15; Isa. 53:3-5) and our Father loves us regardless how painful the situation.  (Rom.8:35-39)

Dana Solla, Minister/ Author, For-A-Purpose Ministries

 Website: for-a-purpose.com

This, in my opinion right next to the actual resurrection itself, is the most astonishing part of the redemption plan. That God, rather than wiping out everything , as He had with Noah, made Himself the Word made man, come to earth and replaced Himself as for us as payment for His own law and standards. But then, how could He ask us to hold to those standards if He couldn’t do it either? Isn’t the sign of every good leader to lead by example? So now Jesus comes and stands in our place to fulfill this plan of redemption and it is perfect because He has the ability to overcome death. He not only gives us example of how to deal with these two contrary forces of spirit and physical but shows us that that they can be controlled as one. That in fact the body can be taken with you; even though the bible would say that we will receive a new heavenly body, Jesus took His body with Him and ascended into heaven with it,  came back and was seen by others with His  new heavenly body. Jesus always gave us examples of dealing with the flesh or physical world from the spiritual world perspective in how to bring the flesh/physical into accord and submission to the will of the Father God thereby giving and having control over it. Symbolically the three on the hill that day represent these very elements, in the middle of it all you have Jesus giving the options/choices, on one hand you have a choice of listening and accepting and the promise of God and a spiritual truth, life eternal;  or being bound by the facts of the physical evidence of your finite fate. Not seeing past that very moment, holding onto the physical and not embracing the concept that we are eternal beings. Do you think that when you go to meet the Father in heaven for your judgment and see Jesus for the first time that he would show you a place on His body and say “do you see this strip right here?” and point to a place on His body,  “I took that one for you. Do you see this bruise here and this one  here? I took those for you also.”Then to have Him  look you straight in the eyes and asks  “what you did to the least of them you also did unto me, were you your brothers keeper? Did you tell them of me and just how much I truly love them and what I have done for them?” These are not just interesting stories of prophecy and  intrigue,  they are a message, a letter directly from God to you; a call to action and a rally point for your faith.

 –Jim Good, Christian author of ‘Selected to Suffer.’  Visit me at jimgood.tatepublishing.net

It’s my belief that we suffer for a variety of reasons. One could be to humble us, and to help us realize that we are nothing without Christ and desperately need him. In 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 Paul says, “To keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me—to keep me from exalting myself! Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. And he has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.” The lord gives us all “thorns in the flesh,” that is, some types of suffering throughout our lives to humble us, to show his might, and to bring us closer to Jesus. This is also demonstrated in 1 Peter 5:10 that says, “After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, support, strengthen and establish you.” Another reason there is suffering may be that since Christ suffered a horrific death for our sakes and took our sins upon himself, both believers and non-believers must suffer, too. The world hated him and persecuted him says John 15:18-20 and Matthew 10:22. That passage in John also says that a “slave is not greater than his master.” (We being the slaves, and Jesus the master. Thus, we must suffer, too, as did Christ.)

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FORGIVENESS: THE ROAD TO HEALING

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 Forgiveness begins by admitting you have been offended. At this point you start with acknowledging the offense. You cannot quickly rid yourself of the offense until you bring it to the surface and call it for what it is. Forgiveness doesn’t remove or delete offenses from our lives. Forgiveness doesn’t mean that you go into denial and forget this ever happened to you. Forgiveness will not erase your memory clean. What forgiveness does is to remove the power of that memory over your life.

Forgiveness doesn’t declare that what the offenders did is now OK. Instead, forgiveness takes an offense seriously, without trying to pass it off as an insignificant and trivial matter. Every wrong produces an indebtedness that we feel. Have you ever heard someone say, “You owe me an apology!”? If I offend you, then I have created a debt and am obligated to pay it. Forgiveness means that you must release what you are owed and not give your offenders what they deserve. Forgiveness acknowledges the debt but you are choosing to cancel it. This is the essence of forgiveness – releasing the other person’s indebtedness to you.

Forgiveness means that you are releasing the offender into the care of Jesus who is our just Judge and our Defender. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord (Romans 12:19).

When we hang on to the offense and refuse to release it, we are deciding that we want to stand in God’s place and take our own revenge rather than let our Just Judge do it. Genuine forgiveness recognizes that we do not have the right to become the enforcers of justice. To render justice to the offender, it would have to pass through us first since we are standing between God and the offender. Having bound ourselves to our offender through retaining the offense and standing in God’s role in seeking to render our own revenge, we position ourselves right in the middle of God’s line of sight standing between Him and the offender. For God to have access to the offender to bring about justice, we must release the offender and the offense out of our hands and into the hands of God, our perfect and holy Judge.

One reason you may not want to forgive is because you fear having to reconcile with the other person. However, forgiving a person doesn’t mean that reconciliation is the inevitable next step. While forgiveness is always necessary, reconciliation is not. Sometimes reconciliation is impossible because the offender is dead or unreachable. In addition, your offender may not even have any desire to be reconciled. Forgiveness depends on the offended releasing the debt of the offender irregardless of whether the relationship is restored. The offender could be a person who sexually molested you, a person who verbally belittled you, one who physically abused you, or one who betrayed you. If you have been wounded and the potential of further wounding is possible or even probable, safe boundaries are necessary.

Here’s the clincher. Your offender still has power over you until you forgive. That ought to irritate you if nothing else. You could be sitting around, angry as you can be, thinking that as long as you do not forgive, you are punishing your offender(s), while in the meantime your offenders can be going about activities of their daily routine enjoying themselves, not even thinking about you, much less concerned about you, and going on with life. But NO! You are punishing them, right? Who really is getting punished?

The result of forgiveness is the freedom to pursue the purposes of God for your life. Unforgiveness stifles God’s destiny for our lives. It clouds our motives. It pollutes our purpose. It tempts us to deviate from our course. When unforgiveness is present, we find ourselves weighed down and easily worn out. When we have a heart that is willing to forgive, then the weights that hinder us are gone.

You can identify the seed of what you have been sowing by examining the fruit of the crop you are harvesting, both good and bad. Whatever we give out, whether good or bad, will be given back to us in greater portions. That is the law of the harvest. We reap back what we sow, we reap later than we sow, and we reap more than what we sow. So, we have a choice in what we reap; the effects of blessing or the effects of cursing. When we suffer the effect of a curse, the suffering is essentially the damage and ruin toward ourselves for not choosing to give what we have received.

We can receive mercy without giving it. We can receive God’s forgiveness of sins without forgiving others who have sinned against us. When we do not give, we shut off the flow of grace from our lives. As a result, spiritual, emotional, and possibly even physical diseases are given permission to operate in us. Another thing that happens when we refuse to forgive is that we are cursing ourselves. Our tongue can bring blessing or it can bring cursing. Whatever we send forth from our tongue is what we reap. Whatever we send forth with our words returns to us. That is why we are told to “bless our enemies” and “bless those who curse you.” James 3:8-10 says, “But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father; and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; from the same mouth came both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way.”

When people have not forgiven their parents for wounding they received earlier in life, they cut themselves off emotionally from their parents, often vowing never again to relate to them or be like them. The effect is that you cut off your inheritance. Your parents, regardless of whether they were good or bad, have a source of blessing that is your rightful godly spiritual inheritance. Even though it is difficult to see it in some parents, there is blessing somewhere up the family line that we need to call down to ourselves. Bitterness puts up a wall that shuts off any spiritual family inheritance because we simply can’t receive. As a part of this same thing, we all have a masculine and feminine heritage that is passed on to us. Bitterness can shut down and your vow can cut off what God would want passed on to you. The same is true if you have bitterness against the pastor or a teacher in your church.

When an ungodly stronghold rules your life, you find yourself becoming a slave to your thoughts and those thoughts controlling you rather than you controlling your thoughts. When I use this term in this section, I am referring to a negative place that rules, controls, or dominates your thoughts and therefore dictates negative behaviors. When you have a stronghold of bitterness you have lost control of how you feel towards another person or situation. Since bitterness is nothing more than unfulfilled revenge, you stay angry or vengeful in your attitudes even though you might even act cordial on the outside. At this point, you have become enslaved to the bitterness, to the person, or to the situation. They have the power over you. As long as you can’t forgive, bondage prevails. Bitterness then becomes the personal damage that you do to yourself because you have chosen to either not forgive or feel powerless to forgive.

It is important to understand that there is a process in which a stronghold is built. Strongholds are not built overnight, but over a period of time when we do not address an issue appropriately by letting grace rule in our hearts. All strongholds begin when we open a door and give the devil a place in which to operate. Ephesians 4:26-27 says, “In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil an opportunity.

The word “opportunity” is defined as “opportunity, power, place of operation, an area of legal control.”It refers to the first step in opening the door to yielding legal jurisdiction. It is also translated in many different ways. It is translated as “foothold” in the New International Version. The King James Version translates it as “place” while the New Revised Standard says, “Do not make room.” The New Century Bible conveys the meaning as it translates the verse – “Do not give the devil a way to defeat you.”

The devil wants a base of operation in our lives. Although we have protection by what Christ did on the cross on our behalf, we can still provide such a place if we choose to harbor sin. Once we surrender some real estate in our hearts, the devil seeks to build on it. He doesn’t rule the whole heart, only the block we let him move into. From there, a stronghold is methodically constructed until this structure of thoughts dominates our minds and is followed by behaviors.

A stronghold of bitterness starts off when we do not deal immediately with offenses. We open the door when we do not forgive and it becomes the devil’s opportunity, his foothold because we gave him room. As long as we allow thoughts of unforgiveness in our heart, we are yielding our thought life to the kingdom of darkness. The demonic thoughts of blame, accusations, self-condemnation, and hate are given the legal right to dwell in our lives. Our demonic adversary wants us to self-destruct with our own bitterness. These thoughts of bitterness are so entrenched in our hearts and mind that we essentially become ruled by them. It is at this point that we can find ourselves helpless to forgive. It is best to be aware of these “opportunities” or “footholds” that open the door and give permission for a stronghold of darkness to become eventually built. Retaining an offense rather than releasing an offense is the first open door.

We can open doors when we entertain a lie and lies become embedded when we believe them. The progression could happen like this: an event occurs in which there is a wounding of the heart. It may have been an actual malicious action that wounded you, or you may have been hurt by your perception of the event as viewed through your filters. Either way, the kingdom of darkness was present to whisper lies into your mind that you received as truth. These lies could be things such as,

“They really don’t care about me…. They think I am worthless…. I am not as loved as my sister (or brother)…. They would rather be married to someone else than to me…. God hates me…. God only created me because He wanted someone to torment…. They only want to destroy me…. I have to punish them… There is no one else to hold this offense against them, so it is up to me…. They don’t deserve to be forgiven…. Someone has to remember what they did.

These thoughts may or may not have actual merit; however, it doesn’t matter because they feel true to you.

When you refuse to forgive, because you have a “right” not to forgive, you not only give the devil a place, or a foothold in an area of your soul, but you are now feeding it. The longer you wait to forgive, the harder it is for you to forgive. The deeper a root grows, the more difficult it is to remove. Though nothing is impossible to God, He demands our cooperation for its removal. The deeper it grows, the more unwilling we become to let the Lord run deep in our lives. To make matters worse, what may reinforce those roots could be the inner vows we make that hold us bondage such as “I will never forgive!’

Excerpts from:

My Father, My Son: Healing the Orphan Heart with the Father’s Love

Author: Bruce Brodowski

ISBN: 9780982658116, Price: $14.99. Format: 250-page trade paperback

Available through: Amazon,Ingram, Spring Arbor, Baker & Taylor

Publisher: CarolinasEcumenical Healing Ministries

Website: http://www.brucebrodowski.com/

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