Monday, December 26, 2011

Why is there so much Suffering?

I just read an article that came in the pre-Christmas mail from RZIM. It was written by Michael Ramsden--the  director of the Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics. In the article he makes two points I find fascinating:
1. When he travels to the parts of the world where suffering seems most severe, he fields no questions about suffering and the moral character of God. The nationals, it seems, trust God in everything, even when things are going well. It is here in the western part of the world that the questions about evil and pain are loudest. Why is this so? That leads to the second point, which is really an observation mixed with hypothesis (but fascinating none-the-less),
2. "Maybe we struggle with suffering so much in the West because we are so comfortable most of the time that we feel we don't need God. We don't rely on Him on a daily basis, and so we don't really know Him as we should. When suffering comes along, therefore, it is not so much that it takes us away from God, but that it reveals to us that we haven't really been close to Him in the first place."

When I pray in times of difficulty it is helpful to remember that in praying to Jesus, I am praying to one who has suffered on an incalculable scale himself. Isaiah says of him:
"He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed" (53:3-5 NIV).
To pull these threads together, it seems to me we must, if we are Christians, live in fellowship with the "Suffering Savior" whether in good or bad times. Are you in a "sunny" phase of life? Be grounding your faith in his word. Store up spiritual strength for the times of clouds and rain. And if you are in a storm, cling to him. "The Lord's our Rock, in Him we hide, A shelter in the time of storm; Secure whatever ill betide, A Shelter in the time of storm" ("A Shelter in the Time of Storm" by Vernon J. Charlesworth).