The Shepherd of Hope blog is here to serve you, to help you know Jesus better and to find hope in Him. This blog relies on the Spirit of God using the word of God to build people of God. All material has been prayerfully submitted for your encouragement and spiritual edification. Your questions and comments are welcome.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Why Does God Allow Accidents and Suffering? Part 2

Why does God allow accidents? Why does He allow tragedies that cause deep pain? Why does he allow suffering? Does God enjoy causing pain? Does he enjoy the plight of humanity? No. In this part of our series we will continue to address these questions.

Because God allows suffering doesn’t mean He enjoys suffering. God takes no joy in the suffering of people. Through Jeremiah the Lord's feelings are stated:

  • Lamentations 3:31-33 – “For the Lord will not cast off forever.32 Though He causes grief, Yet He will show compassion According to the multitude of His mercies.33 For He does not afflict willingly, Nor grieve the children of men.”

The Living Bible translates verse 33, "For He does not enjoy afflicting men and causing sorrow."

If God doesn’t enjoy suffering, then why does He allow it? If God dislikes suffering, why does He allow it, even will it? To answer that question we need to understand the root and result of suffering.

First, the root of suffering is sin. Sin in its most basic form is PLANETARY and PERSONAL. Personal sin is disobeying God. This is the sin that leads a person to hell and eternal separation from God in isolation and darkness. Personal sin is what we need to repent of and seek forgiveness for from God. But sin is also planetary meaning it impacted the creation itself. Suffering entered the Creation when Adam took Satan's alternative advice and disobeyed God (Genesis 3; Romans 5). Humankind became separated relationally, spiritually, from God by willful sin. But the material aspects of God's Creation were impacted too.

Secondly, the result of suffering is death. The Bible says the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). There is a temporal and eternal aspect of death. Humanity dies once and then is judged as to their eternal salvation or eternal damnation (Hebrews 9:27). But there is an aspect of death that we see all around us in nature, in our bodies right now. It is a kind of eroding of the physical. It involves a breakdown an out of kilter out of sync aspect of the world. The material Creation of God literally groans under the weight of sin's infection (Rom. 8:18-25).

Because our bodies are a part of God's Creation wracked by planetary sin, they groan too. From the time you are born and throughout your life, cells die in your body. From the point of birth to approximately age 25, your body produces more cells than are dying and so you grow and develop in a good way. But at age 25 your body turns a corner and no longer produces enough cells to replace the dying cells. At age 25, for all intents and purposes, you begin the slow process of death. Your rate of cell replenishing is in the deficit from that point on. Those of you who have reached middle age and experience the creeks and cramps of rising each day know exactly what I am talking about.

Understanding this helps us understanding why accidents like car accidents occur. Planetary sin extends to the natural world. The world is breaking down. The Second Law of Thermodynamics tells us that energy exhausts itself over time. Nature under the influence of sin is breaking down. Bodies decay and become diseased. The natural order is not what God originally created it to be. Since the Fall nature is no longer “good’ or “very good” as originally assessed by God (Genesis 1:25, 31). We can still the residue of the beauty of the nature as originally created by God. Anyone who has gone to the Grand Canyon or seen a beautiful sunset can attest to this. But nothing we see now comes close to what God originally created. (Kind of makes you hungry for a New Heaven and New Earth doesn’t it?)

Our human bodies and their senses are greatly affected by the planetary influence of sin. Our minds are not adamically perfect, nor are our senses. This leads to unintentional misjudgments that lead to accidents, even car accidents. You may misjudge your speed or another car’s speed while driving. You may take a turn too wide or too short. You may think you can get through an opening but you can’t. You may be the victim of someone else’s miscalculation. An accident occurs. And all of it can be unintentional and due to the planetary effects of sin. Add intentional and willful sin acts to this equation like speeding or the disregard to traffic laws and you can see how accidents happen.

All of this and the victim’s left in its wake grieves the Lord. But it won’t always be this way. God has a plan that is out of this world.

God promises something new. The good news is that in Christ, a glorious provision has been given! In chapter 15 of Paul's first letter to the Corinthians Paul explains that sin and death have been dealt a fatal blow at the cross and resurrection of Christ.

  • 1 Corinthians 15:54 – “So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.”

But it is important to recognize that Paul is speaking in terms of the future in regards to receiving our "immortal bodies" (15:54). We can be saved now by faith, but we will not receive our heavenly immortal perfect bodies until later. While the outcome is secure, there still remains time in the game to play. In Christ we have an insurmountable lead, but the game is not yet over. The victory is as good as ours, but we still have a few minutes to play out. And while we play, we need to keep these soiled uniforms on, our bodies that are wracked by planetary sin and breaking down.

And God’s end game plan involves the casting away of the present earth and heaven and establishing new ones. Just read the last two chapters of the book of Revelation and you’ll see God’s plan of total renewal. In Revelation 21:1 it states, "Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away.” (Revelation 21:1a). It is then that God will “wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away. Then He who sat on the throne said, ‘Behold, I make all things new.’ And He said to me, ‘Write, for these words are true and faithful.’” (Revelation 21:4-5). Those are sweet words and a blessed hope for those who have felt the sharp edge of this fallen world. Cling to those words if you’ve suffered.

We Suffer Because God Loves Us. We suffer because God loves us? "What?!" some of you are saying. You may even be adding, "That's ridiculous! You've lost me now." Well, hear me out. When a game ends, the statistics go into the books and the result is permanent. In the same way, when death is literally "swallowed up in victory" and thrown into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:11-15) there will be no more opportunity for salvation. Once a person dies, there is no longer an opportunity to make a decision to accept Jesus and be saved (Hebrews 9:27). God's love for humankind is such that He desires none to perish. This is what Peter states in response to mockers who haughtily chide, “Where is the promise of His coming?” (2 Peter 3:4). To those who accuse God of inactivity and blame Him as uncaring and unloving for allowing evil to go on in the world; to those who call on God to stop all evil now; Peter states:

  • 2 Peter 3:9 – “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.”

God offers salvation to all (John 3:16) and His love for us is unmatched (Romans 5:8; 8:32). The price of God's loving, patient prolonging of the final judgment is the temporary continuation of a world, as is, wracked with the painful planetary and personal effects of sin. This is not an easy choice. It is a choice only God in His omnipotent sovereign just authority can make. If we have to encounter suffering temporarily because God is waiting on the eternal salvation of others, then that is the price that must be paid. The eternal salvation of souls is of greater priority and import than the temporary discomfort due to evil and suffering.

The presence of suffering in the world is actually then proof of God’s love in that He patiently waits for the sinner to repent and be saved while pain and suffering continue on. God is love and truly in this sense, “Love suffers long” (1 Corinthians 13:4a).

Yes, sometimes God will heal the afflicted, but sometimes He will not. In both cases He will always pour out His love and grace on the trusting soul. Why does God protect some and not others? Why are there survivors and mortalities? Only God knows the answer to that. His ways are higher than our ways. From His perspective He has a good reason for what happens. When we come to what we don’t understand we need to fall on what we do understand. We can’t always answer the “why?” question, but we can answer the “Who?” question. God is good, just, faithful, compassionate, longsuffering and loving. We will just have to trust His judgment in the things He does.

Whatever God chooses we need to understand something very important about Him. If you have ever suffered or are suffering or know someone who is suffering you need to listen very closely now. The truth is that even when we suffer, God is for us. This is what Paul was inspired to write in Romans where it states:

  • Romans 8:31-39 – “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?33 Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.34 Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?36 As it is written: 1 “For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.”37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come,39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Though we continue on in a world that necessarily includes the presence of evil and suffering, nothing can separate us form the love of God.

Remember, if you are suffering as the result of objective or planetary effects of sin or because of the personal effects of sin, I encourage you to look to Jesus. Remember what God tells us in Psalms. In psalms it states, “I will lift up my eyes to the hills – from whence comes my help? My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth” (Ps. 121:1-2). Turn to the Lord in whatever state you are. He is your Source of help.

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