Tragedy and Suffering Part 2 – A Fallen World
WE LIVE IN A FALLEN WORLD – “WHY IS THERE SO MUCH SUFFERING IN THE WORLD?”
Prior to “the fall,” the world was a place where pain, death, and loss did not exist. There was no such thing as tragedy and suffering. One day Paradise will be restored. Until then, tragedy and suffering are a part of the world we live in and personally experience. We do not have to look far to see those who are experiencing excruciating circumstances, and some of you are currently in the midst of such circumstances. Your heart aches because of a loss or tragic event, and that ache likely leads to difficult questions.
The creation account in Genesis tells us that as God reflected on what He had created, He concluded that it was very good. Genesis 1:31 “And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.” Prior to Adam and Eve disobeying God, they did not know of or experience tragedy. They lived in a world where there was no pain, death, or loss. Adam and Eve’s disobedience to God is the first tragedy recorded in Scripture; and one that affects each one of us. Romans 5:18 “Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; …” When sin entered the world, it led to the corruption of creation which includes our bodies, the earth, etc. Romans 8:22-23 “For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.” Sin has led to the presence of suffering in the world. It would be correct to say that all tragedy can be traced back to the sin of Satan, Adam, and Eve. However, the suffering we see all around us today may or may not be directly linked to sin.
Tragedy and suffering have one source but different causes: The source of all tragedy is Adam and Eve’s sin. Their sin has affected the whole of God’s creation (i.e., We live in a fallen world.) Therefore, we experience natural disasters, disease, death, etc. In this general sense, all of mankind experiences suffering in that we live in a fallen world. Sin’s direct and indirect causes of tragedy. Direct is when someone’s sin leads to a tragedy, such as a drunk driver killing someone, murder, rape, etc. or lying, deceit, etc. Indirect is when tragedy occurs but not as a direct result of someone’s sin. Examples of indirection is when a child is killed in an accident, a tornado, or cancer.
Sometimes tragedy occurs as direct punishment by God (e.g., see the story of Korah in Numbers 16) or a consequence of an individual’s sin (e.g., consequences in the life of King David), but other times tragedy occurs simply as a result of living in a fallen world where death and sorrow are a reality. For example, a natural disaster may not be the result of God punishing the sin of those who experience it. Tragedy can also occur from sinning against each other. More often than not, we are not able to determine a specific cause of suffering. Therefore, we must be very careful about assigning blame or labeling the causes of suffering. For example, those who came to be with Job blamed him for his suffering, but they were wrong in assuming Job had done something which was leading to the suffering he was experiencing and were chastised by God for it (Job 42:7-9). In another instance (John 9-2-3), the disciples asked Jesus about whose sin caused blindness in a man, his sin or his parents’ sin. Jesus responded, “Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.”
While these truths do not diminish the pain of tragedy, they can be helpful to focus the believer from trying to identify the source of tragedy to acknowledging that pain occurs in a fallen world. Not only does pain occur in a fallen world, but we are not due answers about why tragedy occurs (Job 38-42). Instead, we are to be pointed to God through our pain and long for a day when we will be in the presence of our great God.
Philippians 3:20-4:1 “For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ:Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself. Therefore, my brethren dearly beloved and longed for, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, my dearly beloved.”
GOD LOVES HIS PEOPLE – “DOES GOD CARE ABOUT MY PAIN? IS GOD GOOD?”
Scripture paints a picture of God as being loving (1 John 4:10 & 16), abundantly merciful (1 Chronicles 16:34), and deeply connected to His people (Jeremiah 29:11, John 11:33-35). We must hold onto this view of God as it is how He describes Himself in Scripture. We don’t find a distant God in the Bible; instead, we find a people who feel pain and distance from God. This is consistent with our experiences today. Many who are hurting wonder where God is and feel as though He may have left them. Job certainly felt like God’s presence was very elusive, despite his belief that God was there. In Job 23:8-10 he expressed it this way, “Behold, I [Job] go forward, but he [God] is not there; and backward, but I cannot perceive him: on the left hand, where he doth work, but I cannot behold him: he hideth himself on the right hand, that I cannot see him: But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.”
We can take courage and comfort in the fact that we do not find an abandoning God in Scripture. Instead, we find a God whose ultimate desire is to care for and heal our wounds.
Isaiah 61:1-3 “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD , and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn; To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD , that he might be glorified.”
The gospel message is that God desired to reconcile His people to Himself and was willing to do so even though He knew it would cost Him. The cross is God’s ultimate expression of His love for His people. He knew He would have to allow and destine His Son to bear what was rightfully due those who killed His Son (Acts 2:23). This was God’s plan because of His mercy and love for His creation. There is no more powerful way to demonstrate love for another than to lay down your life for them (John 15:13). There is no clearer display of God’s heart toward us than the cross. Surely we must conclude that God cares more deeply about us than we can imagine and as He was willing to remedy our greatest need through experiencing His greatest pain. Jeremiah captures God’s heart toward His people in one of the Bible’s most familiar verses.
Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.”
These words contain comforting truths. Do you think Jeremiah was feeling good at the time he penned these words? While we don’t know for sure, we do know that Jeremiah faced difficult circumstances when these verses were written. In fact, Jeremiah and those he was communicating with were in captivity. False prophets were telling the people lies, one of which was that their captivity would be short (Jeremiah 27:16). Jeremiah responds with the true message from God in chapter 29. Many Christians hold onto the hope and good news from Jeremiah 29:11, and they rightly should. However, what we often don’t remember or realize is that Jeremiah and the people he was sharing this message with were in captivity and were going to be in captivity for some time. Therefore, it is important to remember God’s thoughts toward you are “thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end,” even when finding ourselves feeling difficult emotions and experiencing excruciating circumstances.
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