Posts belonging to Category Suffering

A Pastor’s First-Hand Response from Newtown, CT

For those of you who have been praying for the Newtown community in the wake of Friday’s shooting, I recommend this first-hand account from Pastor Joey Newton, pastor-teacher of Newtown Bible Church in Newtown, Connecticut.

Weeping with those who weep–a first-hand response from Newtown:

The church I pastor is three miles from the site of Friday’s slaughter, where 26 people were murdered. Certainly this event will in some way define and shape the spiritual life of the community for decades to come. I know it will profoundly affect my family; many of those killed were the same age as one of my three daughters.

I spent last Friday in the counseling center the town set up, where families had gathered waiting to hear the names of their child, or to see if any new information came out. (Click here to read the full article.)

Prayer Suggestions for Newtown, CT

We are all grieving over the shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT this morning. My sister Sharon, who is the USA National Director at Moms in Prayer International, sent out the following prayer suggestions which I recommend to you as you pray for those affected by this terrible tragedy.

Please pray for:

  • The families of those who lost their lives.
  • The family of the troubled soul who did this.
  • The students, faculty, and administration of Sandy Hook Elementary School as they cope with what happened.
  • All our schools and communities across the USA especially during this time of year.
  • Revival among our young people, that every student will have an opportunity to hear of the mercy and grace afforded us through Jesus Christ.

Bart’s Problem

James Howell, senior minister at Myers Park UMC in Charlotte, responds to Bart Erhman’s new book, God’s Problem (subtitled: How the Bible Fails to Answer Our Most Important Question — Why We Suffer).

I was shocked by this book, but not because Ehrman rejects God. Ehrman is a very fine scholar, and a task incumbent upon a scholar is to engage the best scholarship written on a subject. Christians have known for 2,000 years that suffering happens, and theologians have grappled with many wise, meaningful approaches to how we believe in a good God in a world where bad things happen. Ehrman seems not to have made himself aware of any of them, or he ridiculously misrepresents various ways we understand the intersection of God and suffering. None of the great theologians who have deftly explored these matters is ever mentioned.

HT: Ben Witherington

Eight Kinds of Suffering

I am going through the book of Job with my boys during our evening Bible time, so I found Walter Kaiser’s article on “where Job’s friends went wrong about suffering” very interesting. In the article, Kaiser identifies eight types of suffering mentioned in the Bible.

  1. retributive suffering (caused by sin and disobedience to God)
  2. educational or disciplinary suffering (as in Proverbs 3:11 or Hebrews 12:5-6)
  3. vicarious suffering (as in the case of our Lord’s death on the cross)
  4. empathetic suffering (where one person’s grief affects many others, as Isaiah 63:9 illustrates)
  5. evidential or testimonial suffering (as in the first two chapters of Job)
  6. doxological suffering for the glory of God (as in the man born blind in John 9)
  7. revelational suffering (as in the case of the prophet Hosea’s wife abandoning him)
  8. apocalyptic or eschatological suffering (that will come at the end of this age)

“The epilogue of Job 42:8 indicts Job’s three friends (but not Elihu, who argued that Job’s suffering was instructive) for wrongly applying to Job the doctrine of retributive suffering. ‘You have not spoken of me what is right as my servant Job has,’ concluded the Lord. Where then did Job’s three friends go wrong? They reduced all evil to ‘retributive suffering,’ which is caused by sin and disobedience to God.”

HT: Between Two Worlds

Blogging with Habakkuk (21) – Trusting God No Matter What

(Part 21 in a series of posts on Habakkuk.)

Habakkuk 3:16-19

This is the final week in our Blogging with Habakkuk series. Throughout this series of posts, we have been tracing Habakkuk’s journey from doubt to faith. In these final verses Habakkuk makes one of the strongest statements of faith you will find in all of Scripture. This statement makes a fitting climax to the whole book, and in many ways we have saved the best for last with these verses.

When we started this series back in April, we began by first looking at the prophetic books in general, and we asked the question, “Why are the prophetic books important for us to read and study today?” One of the reasons we gave was this:

The prophets deal with the weighty issues of life – things like God’s character, God’s uniqueness, God’s sovereignty over the nations, God’s requirements for his people, the importance of justice and righteousness. Without the prophets our faith can grow shallow and weak, unable to stand up to the rigors and challenges of life. (Reading the Prophets 3)

This is certainly true with the book of Habakkuk. The book of Habakkuk is all about faith in God. In fact we saw that the key verse of the whole book was Habakkuk 2:4: “The righteous will live by faith.”

We live in a day and age where the best-selling Christian books seem to be the ones that tell you how to prosper, succeed and live the good life. And I would guess that most of us would probably find it easy to exercise faith in God when we are prospering, when life is going well and according to our plans.

But the book of Habakkuk challenges us to put our faith in God even during the worst of times. When Habakkuk reached the end of his journey, he had moved from a place of doubting God to a place of trusting God no matter what. And that “no matter what” was a serious issue for Habakkuk, far more serious than most of the issues we deal with on a daily basis.


Blogging with Habakkuk (5) – Does God Care?

(Part 5 in a series of posts on Habakkuk.)

Habakkuk 1:2-4

Habakkuk was a prophet who struggled with questions about evil in the world and why God permits evil. Habakkuk’s three big questions were: “Does God care? Is God fair? Is God there?” People are still asking the same questions today. The book of Habakkuk traces the prophet’s journey from doubt to faith as he brought his complaints to God and found satisfying answers to his questions.

Habakkuk 1:2-11 deals with the first of these questions: Does God care? We will just look at verses 2-4 today.

Habakkuk 1:2-4 – 2 How long, O LORD, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, “Violence!” but you do not save? 3 Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrong? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds. 4 herefore the law is paralyzed, and justice never prevails. The wicked hem in the righteous, so that justice is perverted. (NIV)

“Does God care?” It is a question that has haunted countless persons over the ages as they have grappled with the problem of evil in the world. “If God is all powerful, then why does he allow evil and suffering? Is God concerned about us? Does he notice all the troubles that take place on our planet? Does God care?” If you have ever asked questions similar to these, then you are not alone. Habakkuk struggled with the same questions and doubts, and he was a prophet!


Virginia Tech, God, Suffering, and Faith

Pastor Mark Roberts shares some helpful resources for thinking about suffering and evil in the wake of the killings at Virginia Tech.

In light of the tragedy at Virginia Tech, I thought it might be helpful to put up some resources for people who are looking for answers to the tough questions having to do with suffering, evil, God, and faith. Though there are limits to our understanding, and thus to the satisfaction [we] will find in this conversation, nevertheless I believe there are some truths we can know that will help us find guidance and even solace.

Mark’s post provides links to some helpful articles, books and sermons discussing God and the problem of suffering and evil in the world. You can link to the resource page here.

Mark also has an excellent post today on caring for people who are grieving.

The most important thing we can do is be present with those who hurt. Sometimes our presence will be literal. Sometimes it will be expressed through a card or a letter or a meal. Presence says “I am with you. And I will be with you through this process.” Presence doesn’t try to make things better. It doesn’t offer explanations or solutions. Presence doesn’t try to fix things. Rather, it offers love in tangible, faithful, and non-invasive ways.

Our American tendency is to want to help people feel better, to take away their pain. Thus we’re often tempted to “cheer people up.” We want to say things like, “I’m sure God will work good things out of this tragedy.” Now this might be true. Indeed, I believe it is. But when people are in the midst of deep grief, such words, even when true, can seem terribly superficial.

I appreciate Mark’s unique blend of compassion, wisdom, and insight. I enjoy reading his blog and recommend it to you.

Sunday Morning Soundbytes 4/8/2007

Yesterday for Easter service the teens in the church put on a mini-passion play accompanied by the song “The Via Dolorosa.” The morning message followed up on the drama by exploring The Three Ways of Easter that Jesus spoke about in Matthew 16:21:

“From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.” (Matthew 16:21)

The main idea of the message was that although we celebrate the resurrection of Christ on Easter, for Jesus the way of resurrection required that he first walk the ways of suffering and death. And so there are really three ways of Easter.

    1) The way of suffering and sorrow.

    2) The way of death and judgment.

    3) The way of resurrection and life.

These are the three ways that Jesus had to walk, and they are three ways that we also walk as Christians. Being a Christian means following Jesus. And following Jesus means walking the path that he walked, following in his ways.

This third way, the way of resurrection and life, is what we normally focus on at Easter. This is the way that we all want to take. But you can’t get there from here. There are three ways of Easter, and you cannot walk the way of resurrection and life without passing through the other ways first.

Jesus rose triumphant from the grave. The good news of Easter is that he offers to share his victory with you. Will you accept his offer?

Note: To read the complete message, go to the Sermons tab at the top of the blog.

(Continue reading for the song lyrics to “The Via Dolorosa” as sung by Sandi Patti.)


John Stott on Human Suffering and the Cross

Here is an excerpt on human suffering and the cross from John Stott’s landmark book, The Cross of Christ:

I could never myself believe in God if it were not for the cross. The only God I believe in is the One Nietzsche ridiculed as ‘God on the cross’. In the real world of pain, how could one worship a God who was immune to it? I have entered many Buddhist temples in different Asian countries and stood respectfully before the statue of Buddha, his legs crossed, arms folded, eyes closed, the ghost of a smile playing round his mouth, a remote look on his face, detached from the agonies of the world. But each time after awhile I have had to turn away. And in imagination, I have turned instead to that lonely, twisted, tortured figure on the cross, nails through his hands and feet, back lacerated, limbs wrenched, brow bleeding from thorn pricks, mouth dry and intolerably thirsty, plunged in God-forsaken darkness. That is the God for me! He laid aside his immunity to pain. He entered our world of flesh and blood, tears and death. He suffered for us. Our sufferings become more manageable in the light of his. There is still a question mark against human suffering, but over it we boldly stamp another mark, the cross which symbolizes divine suffering. ‘The cross of Christ … is God’s only self justification in such a world’ as ours.1 (John Stott, The Cross of Christ, pp. 335-336)

1 P.T. Forsyth, Justification of God, p. 32.