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Eric's Sunday Sermon; Why Does God Let Us Suffer?

Updated on October 4, 2015

This bouquet is for a sad occasion.

Beauty exists among the tragedies.
Beauty exists among the tragedies. | Source

Tragedy

There has been a great tragedy this past week. A terrible shooting in a town called Roseburg Oregon. At a community college named Umpqua. Lives taken as they sought a path toward higher learning. During the shootings apparently Christians were somehow called out for death. Clearly guns were involved. Clearly a very mentally ill person committed the atrocity.

In such times the preacher is called to “help make sense of the senseless horror”. The preacher endeavors to somehow explain why a God would let such terrible things happen to His children. The preacher fails miserably most the time.

The question remains and always will. What possible omnipotent God would let His children suffer? And the answer is just plain frustrating. It is simply not enough for us and never will be. We look toward the Bible and we look directly toward God seeking an answer that fills us with a better feeling. Perhaps you are a lucky one and are blessed to find solace there. But most likely in our human condition you find no answer satisfactory. Sorrow runs deep and no matter how hard you try to deny or avoid it you are left with a bitter sorrow that includes anger with God, your God.

Let us go together down this path toward understanding our anger and perhaps appreciating our God a little more.

Sometimes it just don't make no sense to take it easy. Sometimes you just got to take it hard.

There are some hard times.

Life is hard suffering is optional.
Life is hard suffering is optional. | Source

Utopia

u·to·pi·a (yo͞oˈtōpēə) noun: Utopia; an imagined place or state of things in which everything is perfect. First used in the book Utopia (1516) by Sir Thomas More. Synonyms: paradise, heaven (on earth), Eden, Garden of Eden, Shangri-La, Elysium; idyll, nirvana, God's country.

Hopefully you comment to yourself: “what a strange sermon to start out with a definition.” Indeed it is a look at the notion of what is the exact opposite of where suffering occurs. And so we confront ourselves with the idea of “would I want to live in Utopia?” It sounds so blissful. It sounds so…. Perfect. A world without tragedy. A world of perfection. It is with great sadness that I tell you that if you go there I cannot follow. For I am far, far, far from perfect. I would not and could not reside in such bliss.

Would I change myself to be perfect in order to go to this place and space of perfection? No I would not. You see I am hopelessly in love with striving. Other than my children, I find no greater joy than I do in overcoming. And truthfully in my children I find no greater joy than in watching them overcome.

We humans are just plain hardwired and softwired to grow. It seems to be an organism thing. A natural fact. Have you ever considered the concept of “graduating” from life? Wouldn’t that mean you are done with life?

Man as a whole is really not that much different than man as an individual. There are bits and pieces of all man in each one of us. And there is a bit of us in all man. So what does it mean when “we” fail?

Someday. Give me your hand.

Don't make the moon shine above, let it shine above.

From somewhere in the middle of nowhere Arizona
From somewhere in the middle of nowhere Arizona | Source

Please God remove the struggle?

This is a football Sunday. Millions will watch grown outstanding athletes compete on a field of misery. As I was given the opportunity to play this wonderful sport as a youth I am familiar with the physical aspect thereof. Imagine getting up from your chair and running full speed into a 200+ pound man doing the same thing. If that does not hurt you, you are numb. Being slammed to the ground is painful.

Just assume that I am over a half a century old. I try to workout 5 days a week. My thirty year old son is a cheerleader, mentor and coach in this seemingly futile endeavor of mine to stay in shape. He asked me point blank just last week if it hurt the next day. I immediately responded that I live to avoid pain. He told me to get over it and push harder. To set goals and achieve them. No more pansy ass just doing the exercise but bump it up a level and look forward to getting stronger.

There is a good writer buddy of mine who is aggressively pushing me to publish a book. Oh sure I can write. But publishing a book is way outside of my comfort zone. It will require hard work, sacrifice and painful activities that I do not want to undertake. But dang it I want to grow in writing so I will suck it up and do the do. He says “spread your wings and fly” I say Icarus was a fool. But I will feel the burning sun melt my wings or fly no matter the suffering.

So what of this thing when man creates suffering on man? Do we not do it also to ourselves? Do we not intentionally set out to struggle? And in taking the risks required to grow do we not sometimes unintentionally fall and suffer the wounds of living? And is it not in the rising again and continuing the growth that we find the greatest achievement?

Can we have freedom for free?

Level of suffering

I was fortunate enough one time to be on a dirty muddy polluted backroad in an overpopulated city in a “developing” country in Southeast Asia. We happened upon a small, about 12 year old boy who was not begging but instead weeping on a filthy curb next to filthy sewage running down the street. I begged my moto driver/friend/interpreter to help me to talk to the boy to find out what in this squalor, muck and human suffering could make a boy cry. Turned out that he had dropped a single loaf of bread into the river of sewer and it had been carried away. The dropping of something so small and “meaningless” caused this boy to suffer within suffering. Of course my man Manh and I understood immediately. That bread may be the only thing his family had to eat for the day. The boy suffered over letting the family down not the hunger in his belly. *

You just suffered the loss of a spouse due to cancer. You are suffering. Do you suffer more for the loss of a life than the boy suffers over the loss of a single loaf of bread? You are the one who died. Do you suffer more than the wife with an alcoholic abusive husband? Suffering is real and it is real personal.

Would we insist on a God that made it so our hand does not slip and drop a piece of bread? Do we want no control over our lives?

Control or freedom?

Do we desire a control freak for a God? I do not. I want a God who is like a parent that I could never be. Somehow knowing exactly when to pull in the reins and when to let them out. I will make mistakes. My mistakes will cause others to suffer. A lone deranged gunmen bent on killing will kill. It will cause others to die and to suffer. Damn I wish it were not so. I wish I could live in Utopia. But I cannot.

That horrible day when we take the training wheels of our child’s bike. And we finally let go. And that horrible day when we wipe the tears away, bandage the wounds and console our child when they made a mistake and fell hard with their bike. Just somebody tell me it does not have to be this way. But in the end it must. A good parent does not prevent the fall of man, he is simply there to help the man get back up and ride again.

So the presence or absence of God does not prevent or relieve suffering. That is a man deal. In this sermon we approached the anger. Not by confronting the anger but rather by thinking of the basis for that anger. God is not a control freak. He will let us make mistakes. Do we think that we should be control freaks about God? Funny how we can understand about not judging our fellow man but the moment a tragedy happens we can blame and judge God.

I leave you in your sorrow. It is your sorrow. It would be wrong of me to interfere with your sorrow, you own it. But let me lift you up a bit out of anger. And by that I mean let me help dissuade your anger at God. You and I can do better. One by one we can do something.

*By the by, of course we got that boy some bread. But we got him a shoeshine kit. Not exactly a prize present. But last I checked in with Manh in April while I was there visiting family, the boy now 15 years later, has a little street front kiosk for shining shoes and two boys of his own. Life goes on.

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    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 21 months ago from sunny Florida

      Yes yes and yes....and go for it with the book publishing....

      You are so right....we will make mistakes and they will have an affect on others ...there is no Utopia...and

      one person at a time we can make this crazy complex sometimes frightening world a better place....God is in the house.

      Angels are on the way to you Eric....hoping you have had a lovely day ps shared pinned g+ tweeted

    • profile image

      Eric 21 months ago

      "God is in the house"

      Right on !

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 21 months ago from southern USA

      Dear Eric,

      Thank you for yet another powerfully expressed sermon here this Sunday.

      I will confess that I would not want the sweet Lord God to remove any of my past struggles or trails in this life because then I might not know of His great love for me ...sounds a bit out there, doesn't it? Well, it's the truth. In looking back through this sometimes brutal life, I see the hand of the Almighty God working in my life and no doubt His great love for me. Beauty truly exists among the tragedies.

      "God is in the house." Amen, on that one! As He tells us in His Word, there is a time to laugh, a time to cry, a time to die and a time to morn ...

      God bless you and yours always and keep you,

      Theresa

    • clivewilliams profile image

      Clive Williams 21 months ago from Nibiru

      God lets us do a lot of questionable things, makes us wonder if we are one our own

    • B. Leekley profile image

      Brian Leekley 21 months ago from Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA

      Good points well expressed.

      Another problem is where to draw the Why Does God Allow Suffering line. Some accept the suffering of adults but not of children. Some resent God's allowing the younger than average death of a loved one. Others ask why God created the Onchocerca volvulus worm. But the why question is as applicable to why God allows my scalp to feel itchy as it is to why God allowed my sister's son to die in his prime by speeding and going into the oncoming highway lane on his motorcycle or as it is to why God allows children to be burned, dismembered, and killed as collateral damage of war or as it is to why God allows tree-climbing kids to fall and hurt themselves or as it is to why God allows a sadist to torture a child to death or as it is to why God allows a baby to be born with a painful and fatal condition or as it is to why God allowed me to feel slightly bored briefly today. The basic question is why, God, are we born on earth as humans as it is and we are.

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 21 months ago from Queensland Australia

      Excellent sermon once again Eric, I can't wait to read the book. It may not outsell the Bible but you certainly having a way of selling the message to a wider demographic. "Utopia" sounds like the perfect place in theory, but there are no perfect people to run it....look at the Governments all around the word. I can't think of any that even come close.

      I will just continue to be imperfect in this imperfect world (though I will continue to strive to improve..that's the fun part). Blaming God for letting bad things happen is like blaming McDonalds because you are fat.

    • Ericdierker profile image
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      Eric Dierker 21 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Faith we are somewhat the sum total of our experiences. Struggle certainly has been a part of my life. And like you I would not have it any other way. I hope you have a great overcoming week.

    • Ericdierker profile image
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      Eric Dierker 21 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Clive,

      It is a strange truth that we have to feel on our own. I can still remember many times in my life facing up to the reality that it was now up to me. Growth moments in the physical. In the spiritual never alone or on my own.

    • Ericdierker profile image
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      Eric Dierker 21 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Brian,

      The big "WHY" is a worthy question always. I try to instill in my children an automatic reflex to ask why. It just seems to me that the question is worth a thousand answers. It also often occurs to me that I really don't need an answer. Sometimes when I go hiking or swimming in the ocean I do not have a destination. I just go for the swimming and hiking. Sometimes my inquiries of God are not really meant to be answered.

    • Ericdierker profile image
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      Eric Dierker 21 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      John,

      I admit to still playing the blame game. I am happy to report that in the past it was a marathon, now it is a short sprint from one ear to the other and gone. A sensei once explained to me that it was always better to accept fault as your own. That way you can do something about it. My ability may have limits but my responsibility is endless.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 21 months ago from Olympia, WA

      I don't think I'm aggressively pushing you. :) More like a loving nudge.

      Great message....I figure God's got his job to do and we have ours. If we do ours as a society then tragedies like the one in Oregon will diminish...but what the heck do I know?

    • Ericdierker profile image
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      Eric Dierker 21 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Bill, thanks for the nudges!

      Doing good has it's own rewards. But there is a wonderful bonus. Like a synergism of love. I think God knows we need that and so He leaves it to us.

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Fuller 21 months ago from Southern Illinois

      I read this and wanted to say " Amen " each time you asked a question. We blame God for so many things. God allows us to live our lives, hoping we will do the right thing. My minister had to turn away from the congregation Sunday morning because he broke down full of gratitude for the pouring out of love and money given to his family when his home burned last week. Bad things happen to good people as well as good things happen to bad people. Do you think God likes to see people starving? Of course not, but he does like to see people help the needy. I hear so many say how terrible it is that people are hungry here in America but do they give? I hope so. Great message, heartfelt.

    • Dana Tate profile image

      Dana Tate 21 months ago from LOS ANGELES

      Another wonderful and timely Sermon. "Why does God allow us to suffer?" It seems we can find many answers in the bible, our pastors and others; but the truth is no answer seems to be satisfactory when you are suffering. I'm not going to pretend to know the answer. I will say, that I have found it brings awarness of some kind- even the sensless death of innocent children. Look at the Amber alert- which was born from a child being abducted. The girls mother- bless her heart- turned her pain into something good and today many lives are saved because of her suffering. I was watching television the other day and saw a celebrity who started a foundation for children with some sort of illness ( can't remember the name) because her child was born with it and because of that shes using her star power to bring awarness and many other children will benefit from it. I can go on and on but I guess I'm trying to say is- great change came from the suffering of others. I guess in the end only God truly knows and we will know when it's time for us to know. These are just some ways I have justified the question "Why does God allow us to suffer?" for myself. As always it's been a pleasure.

    • justthemessenger profile image

      James C Moore 21 months ago from The Great Midwest

      Great analogy God and parent. After all, we do refer to God as our heavenly father. As long as He lets us make our own choices some of these will be good and others bad. This latest mass shooting represent another bad choice.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Isaac Weithers 21 months ago from The Caribbean

      Like you said, Eric, there is no satisfactory answer to the cause of suffering, but the thought of God's presence even "in the valley of the shadow of death" is a comfortable distraction. Thanks for helping us feel. My heart goes out in sympathy and prayer for the victims and their loved ones in this recent tragedy.

    • Venkatachari M profile image

      Venkatachari M 21 months ago from Hyderabad, India

      A wonderful and intellectual sermon, as always. I think even God is helpless here in preventing or protecting us from sufferings just like parents can't prevent their children from suffering for their mistakes and carelessness. But God is always there to soothe you and pour his love upon you and guide you towards right path. Following his path is the only way for being relieved from pains.

      Thanks a lot for this continuous awakening of our souls.

    • Ericdierker profile image
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      Eric Dierker 21 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Thank you Ruby. Your sentiments are great additions to this sermon. How wonderful to hear of your congregation showing the love to your preacher. And how wonderful that his heart was open to receive it in love. It just makes shout hallelujah.

    • Ericdierker profile image
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      Eric Dierker 21 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Dana, you remind me of a very strange notion. It goes against our grain. Trivialize the suffering. This does not mean that we should not respect and have compassion for other's suffering or even our own. What it means is to create something so good that it makes the tragedy pale in comparison. For me, I had an almost always fatal disease, it was nothing in the shadow of the great love I was shown. Your examples remind us to endeavor.

    • Ericdierker profile image
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      Eric Dierker 21 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      James it is great to hear from you. Sometimes I look inward to get a handle on some big pictures. Try as I might I screw up. In my case I am surrounded by love. Those folks who love me lift me up when I start going in a downward spiral. Without that love, well, there but for the Grace of God go I. Our horrible man in this case was too sick to feel the love.

    • Ericdierker profile image
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      Eric Dierker 21 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Dora,

      While I am the kind of fella to search for the answers I am also the first to admit to Holy mysteries. Our prayers and compassion for victims is not a mystery at all. We simply must have it, do it, and show it. From experience I know that we can lesson another's burden by prayer.

    • Ericdierker profile image
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      Eric Dierker 21 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Thank you Venkatachari, for reading and your comment. I will ponder your thought of God being helpless. It seems contrary to my beliefs. But I can see that there may be a way of looking at it that is well worth considering.

    • denise.w.anderson profile image

      Denise W Anderson 21 months ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

      It is difficult to suffer, but like you said, it is our doing and not God's. He pulls us up whenever we fall down. His love is such a powerful force for good in the world. How can we blame God for our suffering? He weeps when we weep. He cares for us in all we do, no matter what.

    • Ericdierker profile image
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      Eric Dierker 21 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Ain't life grand Denise? Some folks say they like being alone. I wouldn't know about that. God is always with me. Certainly I cannot speak for others but just for me, I need the suffering. I don't listen well and I am hard headed and I have a built in forgettor. Gentle prodding doesn't cut it with me. I am the kind of mule that needs a two by four busted across my hindquarters to get me moving. He knows that.

    • lawrence01 profile image

      Lawrence Hebb 21 months ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

      Eric

      Very good take on a difficult subject. We all strive, we'll fail at times but the biggest thing is to never stop pushing our limits!

      Sometimes when the really nasty things happen our anger would be better used asking "How can I keep my freedom of choice, yet make sure I do everything to prevent it ever happening again?"

      Great hub

      Lawrence

    • Ericdierker profile image
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      Eric Dierker 21 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Hi Lawrence,

      We are fortunate to have the ability to think beyond an immediate "crisis" and keep things in perspective for the future and the now.

    • lawrence01 profile image

      Lawrence Hebb 21 months ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

      Amen to that!

    • Ericdierker profile image
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      Eric Dierker 21 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Thank you friend, I was just feeling a heavy load and you lightened it. Sometimes just a second of attention from a friend can lift us up. You charge me up when batteries are low.

    • lawrence01 profile image

      Lawrence Hebb 21 months ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

      Eric

      So true, Thank you for saying I'm an encouragement. The right word at the right time can be better than any medicine.

      Have a good weekend.

      Lawrence

    • Ericdierker profile image
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      Eric Dierker 21 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Lawrence, it is already the next weekend that I respond to you. Well take me out back whip me and put me up like sweaty horse without a rubdown. I don't do guilt but if I did I would be convicted. You still kept supporting me even with my rudeness. A great physician once quoted a great teacher as saying: ""If you love only those who love you, why should you get credit for that?" You have chosen to love one not worthy and it is very good of you.

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