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Where is God in Suffering?
The Holy Trinity
With all the shootings going on in Orlando, Dallas, New York, and people dying with civilians being killed by the police and civilians killing the police along with war going on in the Middle East and other parts of the world, it is easy to say, "Where is God in all this?" There is enormous suffering which has happened throughout history like in the time of the Holocaust and conflict in Modern Ireland. In Ireland during the 1970's a bomb would go off in a Protestant neighborhood and then a bomb would go off in a Catholic neighborhood. It was ongoing warfare among the people. It is easy to think that in times like the one we are living in, you are a persecuted righteous person or being victimized in some manner as Job was in the Bible. The story of Job consisted of a battle between Satan And God. Satan told God that the only reason Job was loyal to him was because God protected him. God wanted to test Job's character. So, he let Satan take away his wealth, his children, and his health, although not his life.
Never Lose Hope
Job reacted to what was being done by not cursing God but cursing the day of his birth. The majority of the book consists of a debate between Job and three of his friends, who think Job brought punishment on himself. The situation is very realistic. When someone gets into legal problems, drug problems, or ill health, people often blame the parents of the person even if the person is grown. They want to blame someone for problems and consequences even when they were not brought on by parents or in the case of Job, Job himself. The friends of Job basically told him that it was his fault he had all the problems he did. They were passing judgement on him. Job basically stands up for himself and tells them that they are wrong for criticizing him and condemning him. Upon him doing this God appears and says,
"Who is this that obscures my plans with words without knowledge? Prepare to defend yourself; I will question you, and you shall answer me.."--- Job 38:2-3
Earthly Gains and Losses
When Job heard the Lord he replied, "Behold I am vile; what shall I answer thee? I will lay my hand upon my mouth. Once I have spoken, but I will not answer; yea, twice; but I will proceed no further."---- Job 40:4
Job appeared to be discombobulated. However, he was not questioning the Lord. The whole point of the book was that although he was in turmoil and suffering he did not take it out on God. The statement aligns itself with Job's prior argument on judgement, that he was not at fault for his suffering. Job believed that one should not argue with God. He also assured that people do not know the will of God and should not align earthly gains and losses with righteousness and wickedness. Due to the fact that Job stayed silent before God, Job really acknowledged the point that although he was greatly troubled by his earthly losses and did not know why what was happening was going on, he did not curse God. The basic message of the book is that regardless of race, occupation, wealth, poverty, age, etc. everyone should respect the Lord and depart from evil no matter their situation or what is going on in their lives.
And unto man he said, Behold the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding."--Job 28:28
It is said that Jesus' birth was an answer to Job. Long before the birth of the Messiah it was predicted in the book of Isaiah.
"Surely he took up our pain
and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
Stricken by him, and afflicted."- Isaiah 53:4 NIV
When Jesus was in the garden of Gesthame praying and knowing he was going to be crucified, he begged God, "Father if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done." Angels came to him and strengthened him. When he prayed harder than before, it was noticed by Luke that his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. The medical condition is known as "hematohidrosis" and happens when someone is under great anxiety and the blood vessels dilate to the point where they burst. The blood then intermixes with sweat and the blood is pushed to the surface. It is argued that what was really upsetting Jesus was not the fact that he was going to be crucified but that he knew God was going to forsake him and he would take on a Hell for all the sins of the world. Our God is a suffering God. He suffers with us. The reason for sending his only son was to teach us to be more like him. Yet, he was crucified and suffered immensely.
The Spirit of Truth
The Holy Spirit
Jesus informed his followers that upon his leaving he would leave the Holy Spirit with us. The Holy Spirit intercedes for us to God and is our advocate. "And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of Truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you."---John 14:16-18.The Holy Spirit is like a lawyer who intercedes on our behalf. Jesus went on to further describe the spirit, "But, the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled neither let them be afraid,"---John 14: 26-27 Jesus went to the garden to pray before he was crucified. He was suffering for us. Upon his departure the Holy Spirit took over to aid us in our suffering. "And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don't know what God wants us to pray for. But, the Holy Spirit prays for us with groaning that cannot be expressed in words."--Romans 8:26 Our God is still suffering with us even today so that we are never really alone in our troubles.
Victories of the Soul
Suffering turns Into Strength
One of the questions I struggle with is how does suffering make us stronger? Well, when Job was sick, poor, and destitute and all his friends were telling him that it was his fault because somehow they thought he brought it on himself he said, "Miserable comforters are you all."--Job 16:2 If someone has done their own share of going through something similar to the other person they are more likely to know how to comfort that person. As it says in 2 Corinthians 1: 3-4, "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from."
"If there is meaning in life at all, there must be a meaning in suffering. Suffering is an eradicable part of life, even as fate and death. Without suffering and death human life cannot be complete."--Victor Frankl (Auschwitz survivior)
All But My Life
I still remember the day April 20, 1999, when the Columbine massacre happened. Gerda Weissmann Klein, a Holocaust survivor and author, went to the school to comfort the people. When she was 15 in 1939, the Nazis invaded Poland and took her brother away and eventually sent her to a number of slave labor camps for three years. She never saw her family again. She the same as Job was stripped of her family, her money, her health, and everything but her life. When I heard Gerda Weissmann Klein speak, she told the story of how during her three years of being in a concentration camp called "Grunberg" one day her friend Iles found a raspberry in a gutter on their way to work in a factory. Iles carried it in her pocket all day until she presented it to Gerda that night. Gerda remembered how even under terrible circumstances kindness and compassion can still exist. Later, when she and Iles were both on the death March, Iles died. When Gerda, who survived the death march, and later relocated to the United States went to Columbine to comfort the people she not only held the kids in her arms, she told them her story. A female student, Melissa Pillow, said that upon hearing her story she filled "with this feeling of hope that love can overcome evil, that love can overcome hate." Many students wrote letters of gratitude to this woman. From her home in Scotsdale, Arizona, Gerda said in an interview, "I can never minimize their pain. I was their age. I know exactly how it was. It is a balm on my wounds to think that my own pain has helped someone else. And they have helped me - by their response to my feelings they have done incredible good. Then, you somehow feel it wasn't totally in vain. Today, when you say Columbine you think of a day of horror and loss and destruction. I hope it can be turned around, that today each of those young people will do something good, something kind, and that they will become the leaders of hope and reconciliation."
When Gerda was in the concentration camps what she really missed was a "boring evening at home" where her family lived. It was the little things in life that were important, as noted by Melissa Powers, something as small as a raspberry. Melissa believed, "I can just love, maybe I can make changes, even if only in one person's life." This is not to suggest we trivialize evil. It can be argued that evil does prevail like coming to the realization that the concentration camp guards usually ended up better off after World War II than the inmates of the camps. Gerda had a different message. She pointed out that now there is no memorial to honor Adolf Hitler or Sadaam Hussein. But, there is a message about the Raspberry in the New England Holocaust Memorial.
The Fruit of the Spirit
As Christians we are supposed to take on our sufferings and bear them "Carry each other's burdens and in this way, you will fulfill the law of Christ."---Galations 6:2 It is within my opinion that this was demonstrated by Gerda Weissman Klein with all of her philanthropy as well as many people who draw from their own suffering to ease that of others. "Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured out into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us."--Romans 5 3-5 The Holy Spirit interacts with our lives as we are supposed to bare it's fruits. "But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control."---Galations 5:22-23