Translating Suffering

admin —  September 13, 2011

Image courtesy of Laura Griffith

Editor’s Note: It’s been ten years since 9/11, and I still can’t fathom the depth of suffering endured by the victims, their families and friends. Our only hope is in the Lord, and in His unfailing love. Please take time today to examine your perspective on suffering in the light of a Biblical worldview.

By Beth Groh

Hurricanes. Floods. Earthquakes. Tornadoes.

We can’t escape one 24-hour news cycle without seeing TV images of one of these natural disasters ravishing the properties—and lives—of countless souls.

Divorce. Illness. Conflict. Death.

We can’t always escape one 24-hour cycle in our own family or circle of friends without seeing the devastating effects of one of these manmade (or, rather “sin-made”) disasters.

As Christians, we often struggle with what to say—or even think—about what can seem to be senseless suffering.

Sometimes, we utter simplistic-sounding clichés that may offer little comfort to those hurting: “Well, God is in control.” Or, “He has a plan.”

We feel a need to say something, even if we’re not sure what to say.

We feel an added burden to translate meaning in suffering when we’re parents, grandparents or those who have influence in the lives of children. We’re often these children’s filter on what, at times to us, can seem like meaningless misery.

So that’s why having a proper biblical worldview on suffering is so important…especially when we realize that often it’s in times of suffering that people will either (a) lean in and feel the comfort of God’s presence and promises, or (b) pull away from our Lord out of anger and confusion.

We must get this right, if we’re going to be His effective witnesses.

We also must get this right if we’re going to equip our children to see their world—both the good and the bad—from God’s view as expressed in His Word.

And, to get it right, we must start at the beginning. Yes, the literal beginning, Genesis 1:1. “In the beginning, God created…”

A sound biblical view of creation offers the only lens through which we can see an explanation for the suffering that swirls around us.

How? Well, we start with the foundational knowledge that God created this world—and it was GOOD. God’s original design and handiwork was perfect: “God saw all that He had made, and it was very good.” (Gen. 1:31)

No sin. No death. No sickness. No suffering.

THAT was God’s plan. He placed Adam in His garden of perfection, even creating for him a “suitable” helper (NIV translation), Eve. They had all they needed—including the freewill they later used to disobey God’s one command. That act of disobedience introduced sin into the world…and we’ve all been paying the price ever since.

The Apostle Paul sums it up quite clearly: “[S]in entered the world through one man [Adam], and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned …” (Rom. 5:12)

A fallen man…a fall world…that was NOT God’s plan for His creation.

But the Good News is that He also provided a path out of our world of sin and suffering—His Son, Jesus. “For just as through the disobedience of one man [Adam] the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man [Jesus] the many will be made righteous.” (Rom. 5:19)

So what can we learn in God’s Word…to both frame our understanding of suffering and to place it in context to our children?

1) God created a perfect world, free of sin and suffering.

2) God allowed his handiwork, man, to have freewill…which introduced sin into the world.

3) God provided a path out of that sin through the sacrificial gift of His Son, Jesus.

4) And God can use our trials and suffering as part of His plan to bring us—and others—closer to Him. (Rom 8:28)

Often we hear well-meaning Christians dismiss the importance of believing God’s Word when it comes to creation, believing it has little impact on their everyday faith walk.

But a confused—or man-centered—view of God’s creation can truly distort our ability to understand the suffering we see around us. And that can have eternal consequences for those left wounded by hollow answers devoid of God’s Word.