|Posted by Lorraine Serra on July 22, 2014 at 2:40 PM|
I left you last time considering James 1: " Count it all joy, my brothers when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing."
Ah, the problem of pain and suffering. Why does God allow it, and what can we do with it? Well, James just told us there are great benefits: becoming steadfast, immovable, complete and lacking in nothing. That is an impressive list of good outcomes. But, at what price?
Of course, this has been the subject of theologians and philosophers throughout the ages. I am neither. But, God gave us excellent examples in several Biblical accounts: top of the list, JOB, but also the lives of Moses and David, and let’s not forget Paul who wrote that every trial and suffering, and all that he had lost was merely dung, just nasty garbage, compared to knowing Christ and the glory that awaits those who belong to Him!
Whew! How do we get to that place in our relationship with the Almighty?
I believe part of the answer to the question of why God allows pain and suffering in this world must be to help move us to a place of total dependence on Him and trust in His love.
Life is tough. We don’t have all the answers. We think we can control circumstances, and have plenty of information and technology and knowledge available for any situation. But, life is not so predictable, is it?
We know that this is a fallen, imperfect world; we know that the nature of man is basically evil. (YES, IT IS….. Jesus said, "There is none good, no not one!" And the Jeremiah writes that the heart is desperately wicked, who can know it!) This fact is for another discussion, but, just give it a little thought and you and I will find we definitely come up short in the “always humble, selfless, serving God” department! Amen? Amen! That’s why we need a Savior!!
Anyway, while in this human flesh, it is hard not to be always seeking comfort, ease, peace and tranquility. I mean, when we go on vacation isn’t that some of what we hope to enjoy?
Even Jesus enjoyed times of comfort, ease, peace and tranquility when dining with His chosen twelve and visiting in the homes of other followers. I’m sure He enjoyed sweet times growing up in Joseph's household, learning carpentry, feeling proud of His accomplishments as He grew.
I imagine when He beckoned the little children to come to Him, each gathering up into His lap; the smiles, the laughs, the hugs. I wonder at the joy Jesus must have felt when He invited Zaccheus down from that sycamore tree, to share a glimpse of "the Kingdom of God" and its hope, and saw the transformed tax collector making restitution and blessing others generously.
Even as He rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, taking those first steps toward His ultimate sacrifice, He was celebrated, praised, loved so much. His human heart must have swelled with joy at this outpouring of love.
But, Jesus also suffered loss, sadness, temptation and pain, well before His arrest and crucifixion. He cried over the death of His friend Lazarus. He had compassion for so many who came to Him sickly and hurting, I bring this up because as believers, everything culminates in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. He is our example, our model, our hope. The God-Man who was tempted in every way as we are yet did not sin. He understands our humanity.
Our Lord, Jesus, who suffered more hideously, I dare say, than any one on planet earth, that He might purchase our redemption, felt every bit of physical, emotional and spiritual pain possible to mankind.
Some would say, “Yeah, but He was fully divine, even as He was fully human, so, of course He could handle it all.”
Could He? Was it somehow easier for Christ the Lord?
New to me as I studied scripture was a little verse I had overlooked in the account of Jesus’ passion leading to his crucifixion. See if you ever noticed this. Turn with me to Hebrews 5: 7-9
“ In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. “
What? Jesus had to “learn obedience”? Think about that a minute. Is that what our own suffering is about? I"m not sure I understand.
If we think about it, from the early age of 12 when Jesus taught the rabbis in the temple, He always stated that He came to do the Father’s will. He always reported that He came to speak whatever the Father told Him to speak.
Sounds to me like He was pretty obedient all the time! He even obeyed His mother, Mary, at the wedding feast of Cana, when she asked them to do something about the wine problem! So, how does this idea of obedience play out here?
Let’s remember the account of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. The gospel accounts describe Jesus praying in agony, with deep emotional pain and stress, even sweating drops of blood! He prayed that His Father would somehow change the plan and purpose of His life, the plan He knew about since before time began.
The end of the journey was near. He would be arrested any moment now in the garden, betrayed by one of His chosen friends, Judas Iscariot. He knew very well and clearly the road to the cross just ahead of Him.
What kind of stress and unimaginable internal suffering before the actual torture must Jesus have been suffering? Yet, He said, “Not my will, but Yours be done!”
It seems He was willing to “test” the total power of obedience even in the kind of sufferings you and I will never know. He became personally and practically acquainted with the kind of obedience that bears up under anything...even death He did not deserve.
He came to do His Father’s will. He came to be a pleasing sacrifice taking the place of us poor wretched sinners. He was “all in”, though it would cost Him severely. His most perfect obedience was manifested in the deepest pain and suffering and sorrows of the body and the soul.
Wow. Can afflictions lead us “to obey God”? Do we NEED affliction to draw us closer to God?
What do you think? There is more to come in this discussion, but please share your thoughts on the Facebook Page, or create an account on this website and post as your feelings. God bless you as you seek Him.
Categories: Living the Gospel...Really?