Tuesday, April 04, 2006
As you're no doubt aware at least 23 people died in Sunday's outbreak of tornados and severe thunderstorms. After such events we may wonder why God permits such things to take place, even why God allows suffering at all, especially for His children. Obviously we don't know all the answers, but His Word does reveal some.
Suffering should serve to draw us closer to God. In the face of a tornado, hurricane, earthquake, or other natural disaster we are powerless to protect ourselves, much less stop it. God repeatedly allowed Israel to suffer, to the end that they would return to Him--in the book of Judges it seems to have had the desired effect, but later on nothing seemed able to turn Israel back to Jehovah, so they were finally carried into captivity as punishment for their sins. God never promised He would remove suffering from this world or His children. You may remember in Num. 21 when God sent the serpents among Israel in punishment for their murmuring. Quickly they repented and asked Moses to pray so that God would get rid of the serpents. God responded to their prayer, but not by removing the serpents, He just gave a remedy for the snake bite--look upon the brazen serpent Moses had placed on a pole. In a similar way He answered the apostle Paul's prayer concerning his "thorn in the flesh"--rather than healing Paul's infirmity He told him, "My grace is sufficient for you". God has made the same promises to us--"If you'll depend on me, I'll see you through any trial, no matter what it is." He has also promised that He will not allow us to be tempted above what we are able to bear (1 Cor. 10:13) One of the reasons that God allows suffering in this world is to keep us mindful of our need for Him--He's the only one who controls this world. Modern man may think he has it all figured out, but even the things we do understand often are not under our control.
Much of our suffering is the result of our own actions and sins. For example, if I jump off the roof of a building on to a blacktop parking lot I will likely be injured and suffer as a result--my suffering is a direct result of my actions. We know sin has eternal consequences, but it often has earthly consequences as well. As our Heavenly Father God KNOWS the results of our actions, so had declared certain actions "off limits" or "sins", wanting to spare us their consequences. Fornication may be pleasurable for a little while but it always produces painful results--the "gay" lifestyle is definitely not happy or gay; the rate of attempted suicide is 25 % or more and over 60 % have thought about taking their own life. Why has God forbidden homosexuality? Not only is it against nature, but He knows the results it will bring--unhappiness, early death due to AIDS, etc.
And yet perhaps the pain of sin serves a purpose. Not only can fear of its consequences restrain us, but it can also serve as a deterrent to our continuing in sin. When we burn our hand by picking up something hot we drop it right away. The burn we receive is minor and will heal quickly. If we did not feel this minor burn we could be seriously injured by a major burn. In much the same way the consequences of sin, although ever so painful in this world, may cause us to cease from sin and avoid having to eternal consequences. Just as a child learns after one or maybe two encounters that a hot stove will burn you and avoids it, let us learn from the "burns" we get from sin to stay away from it.