How do we approach suffering?

Man, who is born of a woman is few of days, and full of trouble

Job 14:1


This is a verse that probably isn’t enshrined on a plaque in your living room or bathroom, but it perhaps best explains the world we all live in. Every one of us was born with a limited lifespan and the promise of suffering. That isn’t encouraging, but it is truthful. We are all going to face some evil, even if that evil isn’t the same in type or extent, we are all going to face it. The question is: how do we face it? I want to share this with you, my beloved church family to deeply consider and meditate upon during yet another tragic time in the life of our church. In order to do that, I need to make a distinction, so please follow along.


There are 2 types of evil or suffering. There is evil that is committed, and evil that happens. Let me give you examples:


1st example: Adam Lanza steals a firearm from his mother, travels to a nearby school and then takes that gun and slaughters 20 small children and 6 adults. This is a type of evil which has a simple explanation: Adam Lanza acted under the influence of true evil and commit atrocities. Just because this can be explained easily, does not make this any less a tragedy. This is a true tragedy by any measure.


2nd example: In an example of the second type, we have an incident in which there has been no malicious attempt at evil. A tree falls onto a person in their yard, a child is accidentally killed. There is no way to point out the evil act committed. We call it senseless and pointless. There is no account that seems to be given for it. These types of incidents seem to be the worst, because they come only with questions, and no answers. 


The second type is what we have seen now, and what is being faced. This indeed is tragedy and needs to be seen as such. So how do we give an appropriate response to such evil? I want to give you 6 things to do in light of such suffering;

1- We hurt. When we encounter such suffering and evil, it is imperative that we step into it, and not avoid it. When such a horrific thing has happened, it is necessary and right for us to be deeply touched by it. In fact, I would argue that for us to write it off or ignore it would be to be less than human. Everyone of us needs to join in the hurt and suffering of loss in this world. We cry, we grieve, and we mourn. 


2-Be sensitive. The tragedy that others face is real, even if it seems distant from us. This is where I’ve seen social media be used for good and bad. Last night as news was spreading, I politely asked you not to post, but I feel I must explain why. I asked that first because news was still not complete. There was important information that had not yet been shared that needed to be handled very delicately. Secondly there are many individuals involved, not just a few. There are entire families that need to be considered, and social media is vastly uncontrollable and ripe to be abused. The issue is to be very sensitive. Are my actions going to help, or could they hurt? 


3- Be prayerful. This might seemingly need to go without saying, but it needs to be said. I’ve found out that we tend to say “prayers going up” without following through. Pray first, announce it last (or not at all). But what do we pray for? We pray for God’s comfort, His presence and His mercy for all involved. We pray that God would show us how to pray for the situation, and then we pray, and we pray hard and often. 


4- Be silent. This is the most important action, so please pay attention. I am pursuing (although I’m currently on a sabbatical) a Masters in Apologetics. The point of that degree is to study how to give a firm explanation and defense of what Christianity teaches. It is meant to equip me to give good answers to hard questions. So know that my first desire in every situation is to be helpful in giving out biblical counsel. However there are times that suffering and evil defy any and every explanation. Think about the second scenario I gave, someone loses their life with no malicious cause. What is there you or I can say that will help? Nothing at all. The problem is within us. We feel as though we need to say something to comfort or soothe. and there is nothing to be said. It is at times like these we are in danger of saying the most unbiblical and most unhelpful things. Pray as I and one my deacons did last night, “God shut my mouth unless YOU have something to say”. More than likely, saying nothing is better than saying something.


Don’t say things like 

“It’s all in God’s plan” (unless you alone in the universe know what that plan is)

“Everything happens for a reason” (really, please don’t ever say this to anyone, ever)

“This was the Lord’s will” (again, unless you feel you are privy to God’s mind)

“One day, God will show you why” (never promised to anyone by God, anywhere)


5-We love. The greatest act against suffering is to show love. We show love by our presence (being there). We show love by continually reaching out. We show love by acts of love. Love is the greatest antidote to evil



6-We remember. We always keep in mind that this world is not even close to the way God created it. We tend to have this Thomas Kinkade view of the world, that all is beautiful and magnificent and as it should be, perfect. However, we quickly find that it isn’t. A lot has happened between Genesis 1-2 and Job 14. But the good news is that Christ is going to one day return, and when He does He is going to redeem this world. Every act of evil and suffering will be dealt with, God will right every wrong, and heal every hurt for those who believe. God will reset the created order and for eternity, suffering will be no more.


CS Lewis masterfully put it this way in a quote from God in the Dock


Imagine a set of people all living in the same building. Half of them think it is a hotel, the other half think it is a prison. Those who think it a hotel might regard it as quite intolerable, and those who thought it was a prison might decide that it was really surprisingly comfortable. 




Beloved, not right now, but in a little while………………





Posted on March 5, 2015 .