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If God is All-powerful and as loving as He says is, then why does he allow you to suffer so much? Or as Rabbi Harold Kushner titled his book, "Why do bad things happen to good people?"
Well, I hate to burst your bubble, but you aren't so good of a person as you may think. As Jesus once said, "No one is Good, but God". As you confessed at the beginning of this worship service, you are a sinner, deserving of nothing but God's wrath and punishment!
But, what about the substitutionary death of Jesus on the cross you may ask. Where He made it possible for you to exchange your sins with His sinlessness. And besides, wouldn't it make the Christian faith more attractive if it meant that you never had to suffer for the rest of your life?
Well, even though it is true that God promises to forgive your sins as far as the east is from the west and remember them no more. It doesn't mean that He chooses to somehow reverse time and undo all the consequences of your sins.
However, even though you may have caused of giant mess of things because of your sins, it doesn't mean that God has forsaken you. Or that He loves you any less. For as he says in Jeremiah 31:3 I have loved you with an everlasting love". And just as Saul as the chief of sinners, after encountering the living Lord on the Road to Damascus, was totally transformed into Paul, the greatest missionary in the history of the church. So, God can totally transform your broken life of sin and transform it into a living testimony of His grace and forgiveness.
As you offer up our lives to Him cry out fix me Lord with Your nail scarred hands! Consequently, St. Paul writes in Romans 8:28, For we know that in all things God works together for the good of those who love him and have been called according to his purposes.
But as the story of Job reveals to us, your life's sufferings may not necessarily be a direct result of your sins after all. And so we should use extreme caution when trying to determine the exact cause of sufferings, whether it be our own sufferings or the sufferings of others. And thus make the mistake of Job's friends who went beyond God's revealed will by accusing Job that he obviously must have done something seriously wrong to suffer so much. For God in His providence, may have simply allowed the sufferings in your life for a greater purpose in mind.
As Jesus responded to his disciples when they ask him, "who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind? Neither this man or his parents sinned, but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.
Although in his book, Why Do Bad Things happen to Good People, Kushner writes some very moving passages that we can all relate to as fellow sufferers in this sinful world. His book contains a major fallacy, in that Kushner concludes that God is powerless to stop (and therefore not responsible for) the sufferings we experience in life.
Which is really no comfort at all when you think about it, and can make life seem a lot like flying in an airplane without a pilot. Stop the world, I want to get off! And fails to offer the incredible comfort of knowing that God is still on the throne and nothing can happen in your life without first going through the permission of His nail-scarred hands.
And not only is He aware of what you're going through. He has allowed your sufferings for a loving reason. And while you may never know this side of heaven the exact reasons behind all your sufferings.
As someone once said, the first words when we're in heaven will be, "Oh!" as in Oh, now I get it now I understand. When you read your Bible, you'll soon discover that above all God wants to have a loving and personal relationship with you.
Which is why He sent a Savior that you might be forgiven of all your sins and enjoy perfect fellowship with Him both in this life and for all eternity. As Isaiah 2:5 says, "Oh house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord.
And so you can conclude that the primary reason behind all your sufferings, Is that you would draw even closer to God. Cling to Him with all your might in the midst of life's storms. Study His Word for further understanding of His will and ways. Realize that you're not as strong as you think we are. And that you need the Lord every hour just to get through all the days of your life!
As C.S. Lewis once wrote "Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world. At the same time our sufferings can serve to work in us even further the hope of heaven.
And to realize just how brief this life really is compared to eternity. For what good will it do for you to gain the whole world and lose your soul? Consequently, St. Paul was able to rejoice in His sufferings because through His sufferings not only was He able to more identify with the sufferings of Jesus!
It also helped affirm His identity in the Lord and salvation in Him. As he write in Romans 8:17-18, 17And if we are children, then we are heirs: heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ – if indeed we suffer with Him,so that we may also be glorified with Him. 18I consider that our present sufferings are not comparable to the glory that will be revealed in us Christ Jesus.
To be honest, I really can't give you the exact reasons for all you've been through in your life. Other than to assure you that God is well aware of all you're going through. That He's allowed your sufferings with a loving purpose in mind. And it will be worth it all when you see Jesus!
When He will wipe away all your tears, and you will suffer no more. And that in spite of how things may seem at times, God loves you more than you can ever comprehend, the greatest evidence being sending His Only begotten Son to suffer and die on a cross to be your Savior!
But perhaps, the children's book, The Velveteen Rabbit provides a fitting illustration to conclude this topic of suffering on. Where a young boy is given a toy rabbit as a Christmas present. And the velveteen rabbit ends up in the nursery with all the other toys, waiting for the day when the boy will choose him as a playmate. In time, the shy Rabbit befriends the tattered Skin Horse, the wisest resident of the nursery, who reveals the goal of all nursery toys: to be made "real" through the love of a human.
'What is REAL?' asks the Rabbit, 'Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?'
'Real isn't how you are made,' says the Skin Horse. 'It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.'
'Does it hurt?' asked the Rabbit.
'Sometimes,' says the Skin Horse, "but when you are Real, you don't mind being hurt.'
'Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,' he asked, 'or bit by bit?'
'It doesn't happen all at once,' says the Skin Horse. 'You become. It takes a long time.
That's why it doesn't often happen to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept.
Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off; and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby.
But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real, you can't be ugly except to people who don't understand.'
And so God's loves you much that He allows the sufferings in your life in order you're your faith in Him might be real. And not just empty talk and platitudes. As you prove to Him, others, and yourself the genuineness of your faith.
That you are indeed the real deal loved by God and saved by His grace through faith in Jesus Christ. And thus are able to join St. Paul when he writes at the end of Philippians, saying:
I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
Therefore St. Peter writes in our text,
In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in various trials, 7so that the authenticity of your faith – more precious than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may result inpraise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 8Though you have not seen Him, you love Him; and though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and rejoice with an inexpressible and glorious joy,
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