Suffering Saints

The earthquakes in Haiti and Chile caused great suffering. The work being done in Haiti is rather to be observed not in destroyed buildings and human suffering. It is distinct in the many acts of mercy and kindness being shown by faith based groups, secular organizations, and our government.

The mercy of God is demonstrated in compassion shown by the many faith based organizations offering solace and providing for needs. The Red Cross is an admirable manifestation of mercy. God’s love is to be seen in the Israeli army field hospital set up on the island as a medical oasis. Franklin Graham’s “Samaritan’s Purse” with a base of operation already in Haiti has expanded its humanitarian efforts. The Southern Baptist Disaster Relief Agency is actively engaged in acts of mercy.

Why is there such suffering in the world? Why do the innocent suffer? Since the days of Job people have searched for an answer to those issues.

We paint with a brush too broad in speaking of “the reason why.”. There is not a single reason people suffer. There are some reasons but by no means do they provide an exhaustive answer to the question. At best there are gray areas and unknowns.

God gets a bum rap at times. Involving Him entitles a spiritual answer. Job clued us: “Far be it from God to do wickedness.” God created a perfect world and it remained that way until man sinned. The result was an imperfect world: “The whole creation groans….” The flawed world became susceptible to natural disasters, germs, viruses, bacteria, etc.

Certain laws of nature intended for our good when violated cause suffering. An elemental example is gravity. Defying it can be dangerous and often deadly.

Some suffering is because of sin. I know of a situation in which a guy mixed alcohol and drugs in a night of debauchery. Speeding on the way home he crashed into a tree. His companion was killed and he broke almost every bone in his body. When his pastor visited him he asked, “Why did God do this?” What?

Some suffering involves the fellowship of Christ’s suffering. The Apostle Paul was encouraged to think he was considered worthy of sharing the suffering of Jesus. In such an occasion it gives the one suffering an opportunity to show God is all sufficient. Observers seeing the grace of God at work in such lives are often drawn to God to meet their needs. I have two delightful young friends now in the vicious vice of cancer who by their response have caused others to embrace their faith.
Simon Peter summed it up well. “That the trial of your faith, being more precious than gold which perishes, even though tried by fire, may be proven genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed” (I Peter 1:7).

Dispute it if you want but we all suffer. I am not bragging or throwing a pity party but I am a member of that society also. I find it best not to ask why but how. How can it develop in me qualities pleasing to God? How can it be used to help me become all God has given me the capacity to be?

Perhaps our best response might be not to engage in endless debate regarding the theology of suffering but to engage in efforts to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, council the wayward, heal the sick, and comfort the dying. Thus, we become the hands of God among the suffering.