by Dr. Brad Strait, Lead Pastor at CCPC
“Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example that we should follow His steps.” (1 Peter 2:21)
“May the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you.” (1 Peter 5:10)
Yesterday, we looked at how science tells us that our world has all the necessary conditions for species like Homo sapiens to survive and endure. But these conditions bring with them inherent difficulties and dangers. Our life on this planet requires oxygen and a warming sun and water, and we appreciate this, even though we recognize that people will get sunstroke and drown in the ocean. So, too, it seems that plate tectonics, and the earthquakes and tsunamis they cause, are a central requirement for life as we know it. Romans 8:22-24 says it this way:
We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved.
The Fall of our planet and humanity’s sin nature has increased the severity of human suffering, but we still gain much from difficulties as creation groans.
This Christian apologetic is called theodicy. It states that our good and all-powerful Father God allows suffering in our lives. Why?
We need things which are painful in our world if we are to flourish as people.
For example, natural disasters and difficulties:
- Remind us that we are not in control of all things,
- Provide moral instruction about life lessons, allowing us to see action and consequences
- Help us turn our eyes toward God, our Steady Place
- Allow us to better understand Jesus, our Suffering Savior
- Refine our faith
- Reveal our sins and weaknesses
- Produce stability and resolve in us
- Teach us to hope
- Show us we need others in our lives, and draw people together
- Give us opportunities to serve and love others
- Refine and reveal our character
Suffering is a “profitable” part of the Christian life.
Christian theologians like C. S. Lewis noted that much good can come out of human suffering. Lewis believed that God brought more good out of a world with evil than if he had created an all-good, “silver spoon” world without evil. Almost every parent knows that a coddled and overprotected child does not grow and flourish completely. They become fearful, or selfish, or entitled adults. Kids need a reasonably safe environment, but also they need to experience skinned knees, failure, and tearful rejection from a friend. So do we.
The pain is real, but so is the growth. Difficulties and suffering allow the greatest human characteristics—like deep love, sacrifice for another, nobility, endurance, heroic effort, unquenchable persistence, team work, the ability to overcome, and unshakable faith–to develop and be demonstrated. We inspire others when we suffer well, and continue to battle. James says we will be rewarded with the crown of life (James 1:12). Paul says, we are joint heirs with Christ “if so be that we suffer with him, that we may also be glorified together with him.” He goes on to say, “the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed” (Romans 8:17-18). The Apostle Peter notes that suffering well can bring praise and glory to God! He writes:
“Wherein you greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, you are in heaviness through manifold temptations: The trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perishes, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 1:6-7)
The bottom line is this: pain and struggle help shape humanity into more than a sedentary, risk-free world would. Without earthquakes and such, we could not become what God intended us to be—moral and free sons and daughters of God.
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