The circular reasoning of suffering

Being one who attended church for many years before my own conversion, I'd heard for years this thing people would say to me or others who were suffering hardship: "The Lord is going to use this to make you better able to help others who are going through the same thing." Now, I had the good sense not to say it out loud, but every time I heard this I would think, "Well, that's a bit of circular reasoning: God helping one person suffer so they can help the next person suffer, so they can help.....What's the point of all that? What I want is for the suffering to end! If God's so great and good, why doesn't He just make everyone stop hurting."

Well, I don't claim to have it all figured out now. If I did I think I would be entitled to a lot of money. But I don't. What I do understand now is this little bit: that suffering, for reasons only barely comprehensible to me, is part of God's eternal plan. When He created this earth, He was not taken aback by what became of it. He created it knowing full well all that would transpire, and with the full intention of revealing Himself as a God who is Himself willing to suffer for and alongside His creatures. God sent His Son to be "the first-born among many brethren" (Romans 8:29). In Christ, our purpose in creation is fulfilled - if indeed we suffer with Him (Romans 8:7). God intends to have many sons who, like Christ, reflect the image of God as the God who sacrifices Himself. God is interested in seeing this unique characteristic of His glory reflected in those of us who are truly created in His image and after His likeness. God is creating a people of Christ-like character. He is adopting people of every race and tongue and transforming them into sons of God.

Comments

Andy C said…
At chapel service yesterday the speaker was preaching from Job. His point was we can never understand God totally, but we know Him, and He would not allow suffering without a good reason.

And that was enough for Job, and needs to be for us.
Deb said…
The only thing to say is, Amen! Thanks Laurie!
karin said…
I've occasionally grappled with this topic. That's when I read 2 Cor 1:3ff again. He will end all of our suffering at the end of time. We live in that hope!
Laurie M. said…
Andy, I just read a book by Os Guinness about this subject. It was an amazing and devastating work called Unspeakable. It was written from a Christian perspective although not specifically to Christians (ala C.S. Lewis). His point was much like yours and I'm in whole-hearted agreement. Those of us who are in Christ even have the advantage over Job in the form of God's revelation in Scripture - words of God's intent given specifically to us to give us incredible hope in suffering (even though in this life we will likely get very few answers as to "why"). At the end of Job's suffering He got God. If the end of my suffering is to see God, then when that day comes I don't think I'll find fault with God either!
Sherri Ward said…
Great insight in this devotional! If we could really understand His own reasons for HIS suffering "for and alongside us," maybe we would not be so quick to blame and judge Him for our own suffering.
Laurie M. said…
Sherri,
Thanks for stopping by, and taking a moment to comment. I find it's a lot easier to be angry at God for our suffering when we forget that He was willing to subject Himself to it as well, and through no sinfulness of His own. Truly we should identify with that thief on the cross, "We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong." (That's NOT to say our suffering bears a direct one-to-one relationship to our sin. Clearly, that's not the case either as we often see the innocent suffer at the hands of others.)

But as you say, the kind of love and compassion that would bring such a God to do such a thing is almost unthinkable. I know it's a struggle for me just to believe it.

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