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That is a Great Question -Week 8: Why Does God Allow So Much Suffering?
Richard Root
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That is a Great Question -Week 8: Why Does God Allow So Much Suffering? Nov 8, 2020
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Sermon -Sunday Online -2020/11/08 11am -Richard Root
-"That is a Great Question -Week 8: Why Does God Allow So Much Suffering?"

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8. Why Does God Allow So Much Suffering?

November 8, 2020

This is the last week in our series on the tough questions. And today, we are dealing with what may be the toughest question of them all, certainly the most personal: Why does God allow so much suffering in the world?
“For hardship does not spring from the soil, nor does trouble sprout from the ground. Yet man is born to trouble as surely as sparks fly upward.” (Job 5:6-7)
• We want to believe that all the pain, all the suffering of our lives, will somehow make us more fruitful, more productive, but what we know for sure is trouble comes.
• If it were possible to measure units of pain like we measure the depth of the ocean, how large would the sea of human sorrows be? This is from the book of Job:
“If only my anguish could be weighed and all my misery be placed on the scales!
It would surely outweigh the sand of the seas…
The arrows of the Almighty are in me, my spirit drinks in their poison.” (Job 6:2-4)
• The classic question of “Theodicy” is put like this:
Can we believe in a God who is all-loving (so he wants what is good) and all-powerful (so he’s able to make it happen) in a world with so much suffering and so much evil?

1. Suffering in the Bible
• One of the books that is most troubled and perplexed by human suffering is the Bible. The Bible has an awful lot to say about suffering.
o The first two chapters in the Bible are about the world before suffering.
o The last is about the world post-suffering
o Most of what is in between is about suffering.
• Sometimes, maybe most of the time, we bring suffering on ourselves as a consequence of our actions. In the Bible, there are places, like the book of Proverbs, that offer wisdom about this.
• Don’t blame God or the universe or other people if you’ve made your own mess. We all do, and we all need that wisdom.
• Yet there are a lot more passages in the Bible that wrestle with the mystery of suffering. For the most part, biblical writers don’t explain suffering. Mostly, they protest suffering to God.
• The Bible is not written by philosophers who explain evil and prove God’s existence. It is written by people who are disoriented, who are overwhelmed, who are troubled by suffering and evil, like us.

2. Suffering in Other Religions
• All of us...Christian, Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim, atheist, skeptic, none of the above...are united in the fellowship of grief and hurt and pain.
• If you ask people why they don’t believe in God, the existence of pain and suffering is probably the number-one answer, and yet most religions are actually born from suffering.

3. Suffering in the Secular World
• Our outrage at unjust suffering actually points toward the existence of God.
• C.S. Lewis wrote how, for many years, his main reason for being an atheist was that the universe was so cruel and so unjust and so unfair, but over time he came to realize that if atheism were true there would be no grounds for this complaint. There would be no reason to expect justice in the first place.
• Deep down, we know there is such a thing as justice, there is such a thing as fairness, and it is not arbitrary. We are rightly angered when it is violated, and we demand justice.
• Often, we want to make sense of suffering, because we think if we can make sense of it then we can avoid it, we can control it.
• Ironically, we suffer way less than people in the ancient world did, but we fear suffering way more than they did.

4. “Suffering From” and “Suffering With”
• We can distinguish between two primary ways of suffering, and this is where suffering and hope begin to intersect. There’s “suffering from” and then there’s “suffering with.”
We can “suffer from something”; we can “suffer with someone.”
• Rarely do we choose to “suffer from” something, but “suffering with is voluntary.”
• “Suffering with” can hurt every bit as much as “suffering from”, but it often involves a breathtaking kind of goodness and nobility, and it brings us to the heart of the story about Jesus. Jesus was the master of suffering with.
• We wonder in our pain and suffering, “Where is God?” He is there on a cross. Only Jesus reveals to us what no human being had ever imagined before him: a wounded God, a broken God, a scarred God.
“He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” (Isaiah 53:6)
• We do not honor life, we do not honor those we love, we do not honor the courage of so many who have borne loss nobly before us by capitulating to despair, so we fight.
Jesus does not tell us we will not suffer; he says we will not suffer alone.
• In his resurrected body Jesus retained his scars. His early followers were staggered by this, and they wrote that maybe Jesus retained his scars, not because he couldn’t heal them, but because they reflected his love more than unwounded hands ever could.
“The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we [suffer with him] in order that we may [be glorified with him].” (Romans 8:16-17)
• There is suffering from, and there is suffering with. We are called to suffer with. How do we suffer with somebody who lived 2,000 years ago? Jesus told us how.
“Whatever you do for the least of these you do for me.” (Matthew 25:40)
Jesus points to suffering human beings, every one of them, and says, “I’m there. I’m there. I’m there. I’m there. I weep. I bleed. I hurt. I die.”

5. Suffering and Hope
• The movement of Jesus got started with two moments: ultimate suffering in the crucifixion and then the ultimate hope of the resurrection.
“Therefore we do not lose heart. [...] For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-17)
• What Paul is saying is this: you put them all on one side of the scale—every tear shed by every broken heart—and then on the other side you place a radiant, unending, eternal goodness that Jesus promises is coming. Paul calls that eternal glory.
• It’s not just that suffering is going to end, although it will. It will be healed. It will be reversed. It will be undone. Everything sad is going to come untrue. Heaven will work backward. It has already started.
• Heaven has already turned the cross, which was the ultimate instrument of violent hate and injustice, into the ultimate expression of triumphant love, and it will one day turn agony...every agony, your agony...into glory, endless glory, unimaginable glory, an eternal weight of glory.

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