Lecture 18: Hurting (2)
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"God who Meets the Hurting (continued)."
Course: Old Testament Theology
Lecture: Hurting - Part 2
In the writings we have more examples of people who suffer to serve, maybe more because the last recipients of biblical revelation in the Old Testament were people either in exile or who were not able to govern their own affairs.
But you see Job, and in Chapter One of Job all the possible causes of suffering we’ve already seen, plus at least one, are involved. He suffers for the sins of the Chaldeans who raid his property. He suffers natural disaster. He suffers emotional pain. He suffers in all these different ways.
Plus we find out that there is a metaphysical source of suffering, not just your own sins, not just the sins of others, not just for doing good, not just for redemptive purpose, but there is a metaphysical cause. There is evil out there. And I don’t know all of what to say about it, and if I did say a lot, it would probably still be a – a very, very incomplete picture.
But there’s an adversary, a Satan, whose role seems to be to accuse, to condemn and harm. Satan’s role in Job, his – his desire to harm is limited by God’s permission. That’s the good news. The bad news in Job’s case was he was permitted to do quite a bit.
I will state my opinion from the very beginning. How is Job’s suffering redemptive? It is for all of us who read and for all of those friends of his who came and saw and dialogued and found what God – it is as a long-time testimony that God is worth serving because God is in control of creation even when it seems that He is not. That seems to be the thrust of God’s speech at the end of the book.
This too must be received by faith, because it does not always seem so that God is in control of the creation that He created and that He has a purpose. That’s what Job was called upon to believe.
He finds out in the end of his book in chapters 38 to 42 that God cares enough to come and respond. He responds to Job’s pain. He responds to Job’s questions. He largely responds with creation theology, but He still knows how to handle the exigencies of the universe. He is still handling things and Job is reassured of that, and Job believes.
And our biblical witness already has been that God is with him, that there is redemptive purpose for it, that this can indeed be a witness to others, and Job chooses to receive it that way. But Job asks some probing questions, and he makes some accusatory statements about God. And yet when the book is over, what does God say of Job, or rather to the friends? “Job needs to pray for you because you have not spoken well of me as has my servant Job.”
They acted as if the way God ran the universe was as follows: You always get what’s coming to you, so if you are suffering, it is because you’ve sinned. That’s the way God runs the universe.
They also said – they asked a question with the expectation of a negative answer: Can a man be justified before God? Their answer was no. This is not God’s answer biblically. So they also seemed to argue that God is impersonal. He will not come, He will not speak, He will not answer.
Job’s answer is different: He could if He would, but He hasn’t. And then God answers. Job said even if God kills me, I’ll believe in Him. I know my redeemer lives. He will vindicate me. He refused to believe that you always get what you deserve in life, partly because he was observant.
He said I’ve seen plenty of sinners die fat with their family all around. So Job, having heard the friends say the – only the evil sufferer – you are suffering, you must be evil. He said I see that the wicked prosper. You’re prospering, you must be wicked. That’s what he says to his friends, so two can play at this game.
If we’re just going to talk about what we’ve observed, he said, we come to an inconclusive point. We don’t know what’s going, so we need God to tell us. We need God’s revelation.
And so Job believed that God vindicated the righteous and God does justify, He does vindicate, He does redeem. And Job is vindicated. He is rebuked to believe in the God of creation, trusting, and he is worthy of this trust.
But God never says to him, now, Job, I’m about to tell you why you suffered. Let me recite to you chapters 1 and 2 of a book that’s gonna come under your name.
Job is asked to receive by faith some of the principles we’ve already outlined. And again, with appreciation, we can know from Job that just because we’re suffering, it may not be because of our sins. There may be a greater purpose to it. There may be a purpose of witness to it.
If no one else learned, Job’s first four friends did, didn’t they? Have we ever thought that our suffering might have an instructive purpose to the good people around us? It’s easy to criticize Job’s friends. There’s so much to criticize, but when he was hurting and when he was harmed, they did come to see him.
They got thrown by some of the things he said. Their theology wasn’t all intact, but they did come. They cared enough to show up and to sit with him and to be appalled at what had happened to him, so let’s give them their due.
But even people like that sometimes need to be instructed, and our suffering may have a purpose in that. And keep it in mind the next time you see your friend suffering, it may not be because they did something stupid or wrong.
One reason some friends of mine have stated that they no longer attend certain meetings of the Southern Baptist Church and Convention is that they got tired of going to meetings and being told if you were doing the right thing, your church would be bigger. If you’d just follow certain methods everything will be better and all right.
Well, don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of us dunderheads in ministry, but I’ve seen some awfully faithful people pound away at it for year after year after year, faithful, seasons of blessing, seasons of torment [chuckles], but their faithfulness was not the problem in their numerical church growth.
So the theology of Job’s friends is all around you. It’s out there. Not only that, some hurting people have accepted that theology and so they’re in trouble. Their kid lies in the funeral home because of a bad choice or somebody left them or abandoned them or did this or did that and the other, and they are certain they must have done Thing A that led to Thing B.
So Job has a host of things to help you: a theology of suffering, yes, a theology of friendship, yes, some concerns about how to handle the hurting and deal with them. Asking the right sort of questions, you can learn a lot from Job about ministry, but the truth about Job was he found out he could suffer for reasons beyond his control that were really metaphysical.
It had to do with God, it had to do with Satan, and if you think it was difficult for me to explain the first three or four types of suffering and sources of them, and we can observe them, this one is the hardest of all. We have the least information about it, though there is information in the Bible.
So Job learned some of these things. A happier ending, though, Ruth, Naomi, described the suffering for me. Ruth Chapter 1, what happens to Naomi? What are some of her woes?
Audience Member: A disaster.
One’s a natural disaster. That’s the first thing that happened.
Audience Member: Famine.
Famine. What else then you got?
Audience Member: [Inaudible].
So she’s displaced because of the famine. Next –
Audience Members: She loses her husband and sons.
Husband, sons. She endures death. For her in that setting to have lost her husband and sons means she’s lost what? She’s alone, and she’s lost what besides family?
Audience Members: [Inaudible] security.
Right, finances. Social security.
She’s got a few problems there, doesn’t she?
I once heard a sermon criticizing her for being bitter at the end of that chapter.
Now I’m not saying that was her best moment when she says don’t call me pleasant, Naomi, call me Marah, bitter, but let’s be serious here. She had some reasons. And let’s also be serious: She comes out of it.
And Ruth doesn’t berate her for her attitude, commits herself to her and to her God. Ruth 1 is a conversion story of a gentile. She sides with Naomi and with her people and with her God. Maybe she sides with her people and with her God because of Naomi. So Ruth does that.
And of course, Ruth herself has lost homeland, family, husband, and out of commitment and loyalty she attaches herself to a woman she’s not strictly related to and in a relationship that historically throughout the centuries has not always been the closest.
For a variety of reasons. God, see – Boyd Luter, L-U-T-E-R, Boyd Luter has this book called “The God Behind the Seen,” S-E-E-N, but there’s no overt statements about what God is doing except in the blessings offered in this book. May the Lord bless you and do all this and keep you and – and it comes about that Boaz becomes the solution to the problem, and in the meantime his life gets better, too.
So I’ve laughed and said the joy of Ruth is that the story line is old guy gets girl.
Solves everybody’s problems, everybody’s needs, and Ruth bears a son, puts into Naomi’s lap, why? To show her that her future is secure. It’s as if the child has been borne by Naomi.
So then you say, well, this is – this is a happy ending, but never forget the death of the three was no small matter. The famine was no small matter. And not only that, I doubt that all the problems were over. In what era did they live?
Thank you very much. Those were not easy times to live now, were they? So God works with them in this. In a little-known book that I am spending a lot of time with these days because of an assignment, Lamentations comes after Jeremiah in the English Bible but is in the writings in the Hebrew bible.
I hate to be critical because I know Jason’s already found two more typos in my book [members chuckle]. Don’t want to be too critical of the editors, but I’m gonna say Lamentations is so little read, so far it’s the only book in my Bible that is misspelled by the editors. I – I first saw this, I laughed cuz – and you know this is – you know, they had to be embarrassed – the Laminations.
There’s old plastic Jeremiah, boy. Laminations. It’s spelled right in all the headings, but see, this is why I say always proofread your headings first. Smart alecks like me tend to see it [laughter] and Jason found a heading wrong in my book, try to get it fixed.
This book is written in the aftermath of 587 and the destruction and it starts with how lonely sits the city that was full of people. She’s become like a widow who was once great among the nation. She who was a princess among the provinces has become a forced laborer.
She weeps bitterly in the night, her tears are on her cheeks, and it goes on. Weeping and terror. Now why? Verse 18 of Chapter 1: “The Lord is righteous, for I have rebelled against His command. Hear now all peoples and behold my pain. My virgins and my young men have gone into captivity. I called to my lovers, but they deceived me. My priests and my elders perished in the city while they sought food to restore their strength themselves.”
Literally, it’s lovers.
In actuality, it’s an interpretation. The allies is a correct interpretation of who the lovers are. Remember in Jeremiah, and there are also passages in Ezekiel where Israel said you – you acted like a prostitute except you didn’t charge and you called your lovers in? And the lovers are people like Egypt and Assyria and folks like that?
So instead of trusting in God, they trusted in these other nations and the Bible also calls them the lovers. So the one’s a literal translation; the other one’s a – a correct interpretation of it.
Man: Where – where’s that other thing [inaudible]?
[17:11] Oh, Jeremiah 2 to 6 has it. Ezekiel has three of these passages, 16, 20 and 23, where they take in the lovers. Ezekiel gets really graphic.
That’s one to watch your life verse on, you know, be careful.
But I mean it’s extraordinary, but the lovers are the ones – here she’s like a widow. She’s supposed to be – there – there are a lot of these metaphors just keep turning and mixing in, but Israel’s supposed to be married to God and yet they gave themselves to all these other nations and these other gods and they can’t save you.
Verse 20: “See, oh Lord, for I’m in distress. My spirit is greatly troubled. My heart is overturned within me, for I have been very rebellious.” She is suffering for her own sins. Is the pain still horrible? Sometimes – and this is where I can talk about innocent suffering a lot. Sometimes in our own life and that of others, whether we’re observing, teaching, doing whatever, and it’s best to warn people before it’s an issue. Sometimes we must suffer a great deal for what we’ve done because of what we’ve put into motion.
This is frightening. Some of our sins have relatively – this is again relatively – minor implications to ourselves and to others. Others are far-reaching and horrible. Some of them leave you like David at Absalom’s death. “Oh, Absalom, my son, my son, would that I had died for you.”
He knew his own mistakes and failures had led to this. The implications of David’s sins and failures were borne out right before his eyes. It’s a horrible thing, and so Israel, what she did led to terrible pain.
Chapter 2 is a great deal like Chapter 1. Chapter 3 is really the crux of the book. The first 18 verses of Chapter 3 is talking about how this individual – Verse 1 starts, “I’m the man who has seen affliction.” Sounds like an old Albert Brumley song.
"I’m a man of constant sorrow.” He says in Verse 3, “God has turned His hand against me.” Verse 7, “... made my chain heavy.” You just read all that. I mean this is sorrow, this is woe, this is pain.
Verse 18, he concludes it: “So I say my strength has perished and so has my hope from the Lord.” Verse 19: “Remember my affliction and my wandering.” What do you do when this is the truth? He prays to God. He prays to the one who has laid this upon him.
“Remember my affliction, my wandering, the wormwood and the bitterness. Surely my soul remembers and is bowed down within me, but this I recall to my mind. Therefore, I have hope. The Lord’s loving kindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail.”
Now here’s someone sitting around a devastated city in which people are starving to death, people have been killed and raped and murdered, mothers have eaten their children, and he says, “Even if we’ve sunk this low, even if our actions have led to this” – and again, this is different than knowing that someone else has come against you for no – they know that in some manner their actions have led to a chain of events that have ended with this.
So it wasn’t just one thing and, wham, it happened to them. This is a series of events that they set in motion that, here, this is the end product.
Remember we talked about Zedekiah yesterday, the last king of Judah? How by refusing to do, eventually he was able to make the following trade: He traded losing the government for a [sic.] absolutely devastated city and himself having his sons hung and his eyes put out.
He traded bad for worse and worse and worse. Talk – this guy – this – uh, I knew a preacher in Missouri who came to Missouri in a pretty good car. Two car trades later, he was on foot [laughter].
You know, we know what can happen, but – and this is a serious issue for him, so at the bottom, you remember God’s compassions never fail. Kind of reminds you of the prodigal son, doesn’t it?
He came to himself and remembered things about his father. “The Lord’s loving kindnesses indeed never cease. His compassions never fail. They are new every morning. Great is your faithfulness. ‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul. Therefore, I have hope in Him. The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the person who seeks Him. It is good that he waits silently for the salvation of the Lord.”
“It is good” – notice all the good – “It is good for a man that he should bear the yoke in his youth. Let him sit alone and be silence [sic.] since He has laid it on him. Let him put his mouth in dust. Perhaps there is hope. Let him give cheek to the smiter. Let him be filled with reproach, for the Lord will not reject forever.”
This is hope. And you’d say, oh my, what a severe mercy that is. Yes, it is. Particularly for those who are suffering for their sins, but even those – this might be one of the points we’re talking about from Valerie’s ministry at that church. You can take the worst sort of sin that would cause – you just name whatever you think the worst sort of sin is.
I know it’s been a sensation in the country, this woman who drowned her children. Everybody’s been shocked by the notion that anything, even depression, if that’s what caused it, would drive somebody to that. Or just out of personal actions.
Now, whatever we find to be to us the most heinous act, even at the bottom, the Lord’s compassion doesn’t fail. So if that’s the case, much less for someone who is suffering for their sins in a lesser manner.
See, if that’s true – we argue from the greater to the lesser – if it’s true and God could forgive Saul of Tarsus – he says, “I persecuted the church. I’m the greatest of sinners. God saved me to demonstrate how great His grace is.”
If that’s true, he’s saying – he says it other places. Some of us were blasphemers, some of us were this, some of us were that. If it’s true, then how much more truer is it if you are suffering for something that does not entail those sorts of consequences?
“God’s compassion never fails. Great is his faithfulness.” However, the book of Lamentations, there’s one other point I’d make and make it from Chapter 4 cuz it talks about children being eaten by their mothers, it talks about the weak, suffering, people without resources. Chapter 5 talks about horrors such as rape and other sorts of atrocities.
So there are those who suffer for the sins of others and can suffer horribly. It’s at this point that we realize that they offer testimony of the horrors of sin. At the very least, and there’s much more to say, and they are demonstrating to the world what sin is and what it’s like.
And the world doesn’t want to look at it that way. We hardly ever look and see, uh, this is what people are capable of. It shows us something my grandfather illustrated if you’ll permit me one expletive. I want to quote it exactly. It kind of loses its force unless I do it.
I was talking to him and I can only remember the subject, but it was about someone who had done something that was pretty bad, and I was saying this and that, and he said, “Yeah, but one of these days you’ll learn, boy, that some people are no damn good.”
There is that. Yes, there is depression. Yes, there is mental illness. And then there are cruel, horrible people who show us what we are capable of. This is a terrible realization, but back to what we need to understand.
Lamentations would show us that even if we are at the very bottom of suffering because of our sins, maybe we’re still – we’re at the bottom and what we have done is causing other people to suffer greatly. Is there hope in the Lord then? Is there faithfulness of God to count on then? The answer is yes.
What is the remedy at that point? So whereas Job gives us evidence that if you’re not suffering for your sins, the Lord has a purpose in it and the Lord has a way out of it. Lamentations would show us the same thing.
In a way it says to us if you are not motivated by passages of blessing and consequence like Deuteronomy 27 and 28, let me show you the consequences of sin. Let me show you clear to the bottom of it. But let me show you that at the bottom there is the faithfulness of God. To those who turn to Him, there is a remedy.
So Lamentations is a sobering book, but if you understand the depth of it, the next time you sing “Great is Thy Faithfulness,” I think it’ll mean a little bit more to you.
Also, when you have need of a serious lament, the typical psalm won’t do. The Lamentations are there. I’ve been very interested in doing Lamentations research, that at the end of his life in 1563 John Calvin offered 18 lectures on the book of Lamentations and his written pages run nearly 300 pages. Calvin understood suffering.
He had endured it, he had caused it, and I think he understood it. But a lot of times we read this and we turn away. We can’t stand to look at it and – or we just read it and say, hoo, that was bad, 587, that was a rough time. Or we only know a couple of the verses.
We are correct to point out Lamentations 3, 21, 22 and 23 as the heart of the book, the hope of the book, but don’t forget the depth, and don’t forget that the book ends with a prayer, Verse 19, “You, oh Lord, rule forever. Your throne is from generation to generation.”
This Verse 19 of Chapter 5 sounds like Psalm 90. “Why do you forget us forever? Why do you forsake us so long? Restorest ye, oh Lord, that we may be restored. Renew our days as of old unless you have utterly rejected us and are exceedingly angry with us.”
And there’s no way to really translate exceedingly angry. You’d – you’d think, well, duh, read the book. It – it’s hard to translate. You – basically said unless you just have no more use for us.
And we know that’s not the truth. Sometimes you have to get clear to the bottom of your theology before you understand. You say, okay, does God cast off his people? No. Okay, so that from the bottom rung where you are, that’s where you start.
I once so got discouraged with the concept of church that I had to start with the gates of Hell won’t prevail against it.
Do you believe that or not?
Well, okay, I’m willing to believe that. Let me start up. But that was the basement. You either had to believe that or there wasn’t any point. And so you start at the basement here, is God’s wrath a rejection? No. Okay, so they can pray to him and they can know that Chapter 3, the heart of that’s true, but still, how long is the question that we don’t know the answer to.
And they’re suffering physically, spiritually, emotionally. Jerusalem is suffering for its own sins, the elders and the priests and the leaders, but some of the – the little ones are suffering for the sins of others.
And so this is just kind of a survey of suffering, but I think a theology of redemptive suffering and a god who is always working even the most extreme circumstances for good is in keeping with what we see here and what we see in keeping with Romans 8, “God works all things together for the good of those who are the called.”
But I’m gonna say again that is a statement that must be received by faith. Sometimes you have enough information to see how that is true, either enough information right now or enough information down the line.
But that is true. It is not true if someone’s suffering that you’re going to be able to say to them, “This won’t last long.” You don’t know that. You better be sure of that if you tell people that. I mean I can tell you this – the suffering in this class will end tomorrow. I know that. I know that, but I don’t know some other things. So be careful what you tell people.
Don’t tell them “This isn’t as bad as you think it is.” It may be worse than they think it is. And you speak for God when you go in there. Never forget that. They think you’re the oracle of God. You can say I hope this won’t be anymore, and I hope and pray that this isn’t as bad as we think it is. But you don’t know that.
You don’t know how God will answer the prayer. It took my mother years and years to recover from, as a 4-year-old girl, having people tell her – her mother had cancer – if you’ll pray for your mother, God will heal her.
God could have healed her mother, but it was not His choice. They didn’t explain that to her. We’ll prayer for your mother. He has the power to heal her, but we don’t know if that’s what’s going to occur. But God loves you and God loves her. You better fill that out a little bit.
Woman: Could you elaborate a little on the illness factor. It’s so common. People get sick, you know, if you had caught it earlier, it might have been cured. I mean is that a metaphysical thing or –
That’s the timing of it. I don’t know the timing of it.
Woman: I mean I’ve having trouble fitting that into the category of the, you know, the sins of others, your own.
Illness is a part of the human condition necessitated by sin. You will die of something. And eventually if you caught it earlier isn’t going to get it. It – it – timing in one sense – this is the problem because this is the part that sounds so cruel when I say it, but once we know we’re gonna die, period, end of story, the rest of it is timing and circumstances.
And what I have to trust is that I’m supposed to take care of my obligations, so I oughta want to live, right? If I have certain obligations – I have a wife, I have a daughter – I’m supposed to stir up the gift that is within me. I have responsibilities here so I want to live.
That’s been given to me. I’m supposed to persevere. Paul tells us that, Jesus, everybody, so I know that’s my role, but I also know I’m gonna die, so the circumstances, I have to leave the timing and circumstances to God and that’s the tough part for me.
But I do know that the reason I’m going to die is because I’m a sinner and on the flipside is because God loves me too much to let me endure, you know, linger on in this forever. But I don’t like the timing of it, I’m almost certain, no matter what it’s going to be, and the timing of a lot less.
See, here’s the other thing. When I say had you caught it earlier, you’d be all right, I don’t know that, first of all. And here’s something else I don’t know, since I’m pretty good at disaster possibilities. You say all he needed was 13 trips to the doctor to take care of this. For all I know on the seventh trip you’d been hit by a truck.
See I don’t know that. That’s my problem. I know enough about that treatment to want it early because I have responsibilities and I want to live. But I don’t know enough about the future to guarantee that if I had gone and gotten that treatment I’d be alive today, much less longer. I don’t know that, see. That’s my problem.
But I have to operate because of my responsibilities and my charge to persevere and because God provided this for us, but I oughta operate like if that treatment will heal, I need to take it.
Woman: That’s right. You know [inaudible] hearing everything that is supposed to be, how do you comfort that child?
Well, I would try to build into the church a long time before the moment occurs, first of all. The church that does not talk about death and why it happens and how it occurs is not doing its job. I’m going to be blunt about that.
No, no. No, I’m –
Woman: [Inaudible] – with my, um, family, it’s –
Yeah, I don’t know how young my daughter was when I tried to introduce her to the fact that people die. Three, I think. One of the things that a children’s ministry oughta figure out a way to know is their grandparents they die, they see it, they see it on TV, they know this happens, they need to know what the source of that is, and it’s not just people ran into bad luck or, gosh, we didn’t know what to do.
Modern medicine has not ever found a cure for death. It’s going to happen. Now once that’s true, then we can talk about a stewardship of life. That’s where I think this – it’s stewardship.
Woman: But you can’t guarantee it’s a good stewardship [crosstalk] when we’re going through a time that you – that will not [inaudible] –
That is in God’s hands. That is in God’s hands.
Man:There are also situations where it’s not just – isn’t even known about it, that there are situations where people know about it and the cure is available and they just simply don’t have the resources.
Woman: That – that’s – that’s – that’s a societal [inaudible] as well.
It’s another – yeah, it’s another issue, but it’s related. Correct. Now what I’m trying to say is I think children see death, they need to know what it is, and I think they need to know the remedy for it, but I also think simple things.
Billy’s not in Sunday school today. Where’s Billy? Billy’s sick. Well, Billy’s not feeling well. Physically, he’s having trouble. That’s part of life. We’ll pray for Billy, and God will probably heal him and everything will be all right. But we need to know, that’s in God’s hand. Start telling the kids early on, this in God’s hand, and God loves Billy more than you do.
God will do what is best according to Genesis 50 and Romans 8. In a way, I start with Genesis 50 and Romans 8 and ask how is this true and how can I explain it to people.
I think older people – some people thought I was crazy. The class thought I’d done the right thing, to talk to my 79er class about death. They were all sure thinking about it and suffering. Some of them were suffering daily physically, or emotionally. Some of them had the bad luck to live long enough to have grandkids that were tormenting the family. Just when you thought it was safe to have another generation, there you go.
So I think it needs to be part of a comprehensive teaching program, first of all. That – I mean that – my first line of defense is to tell people the truth and help them with it before something ever happens to them. And I think they need to see what millions of people today know that Americans don’t, that pain and suffering and death are a normal part of life in a world like this sinful world.
But if you live in a pretty good affluent society with resources, you’re saying, wow, sickness is weird, and without saying if it’s weird to us, then we need to explain it. And I think that we need to explain that sin has caused this – yours, mine and ours – but that God in his mercy heals us until it’s time in His wisdom, in His timing for us to go to be with Him.
I think that’s an important overall thing. Now when I comfort people, I think we have to be very – read Job and see, look, the man needed to talk. I think they jumped him a little too early. I think the laments tell us that people need to be able to say their piece about their pain. But when it’s all said and done, you say, take that to God. Take it to God.
Whether you’re mad, whether you’re happy, whether you’re – take it to God. And I think that the average person would be comforted by knowing that prayer would include we are angry about this.
I think the average church is deficient in its teaching about death and suffering. I think we’re deficient in our teaching about prayer at this point. Jesus on the cross takes Psalm 20 to – not just as a prediction of himself but as a lament: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
That’s Psalm 22:1. That’s Jesus. So, understand that this is part of the scripture. Read second Corinthians. See how Paul, he perceived it. So I would make it a – a teaching thing. I would give people their space in stating this is my pain, this is my hurt. That’s the second thing.
The third thing, I would try to keep from lying to them, telling them things we don’t know is true. Don’t tell a kid it’s gonna get better. They’re sitting there hoping their parents will stay together, they’re sitting there hoping their grandmother will live or they’re sitting there hoping – you tell them, well, it’s gonna be all right. You don’t know that. It’s gonna be all right, yes, but you better tell them how it’s gonna be all right.
So you don’t lie to them, but you do tell them that God has a purpose for this and some of it depends on who they are in their situation. They may need to hear your sin didn’t bring this on, don’t do that to yourself.
And, yeah, you talk about kids. You didn’t make your brother die. You didn’t make your mother sick. You didn’t make your dad leave. Or sometimes lovingly say to somebody as they come to the realization, I guess the way I did thus and so has led to this, hasn’t it? You can say gently, yes, but this is not the end.
So again, it kind of depends, but you take these theological principles and – and work with them, but I think a lot of us spiritually get in trouble for the same reason we get in trouble financially or any other way. We didn’t make preparation for things that were going to happen.
I like that commercial now where retirement is dressed up in a T-shirt following this dude around. He tries to get on the elevator with him, he closes him off, and he tries to follow him, he shuts the door. He doesn’t want to think about retirement. But the point is, retirement is there.
Well, so is death, so is suffering, so is explaining it to others, and so I – those are just ideas I start with, but you’re right. If you’re involved in the Lord’s work at all, you’re going to get asked questions about this or you’ll ask the question yourself.
And frankly, my experience has been as bad as short-term tragedy is, I’d prefer that to long-term, low-grade misery and suffering. And you have people involved in both, for their own sins and for the sins of other people, and God has called them to it. That was a tough one.
And I’ve learned in the past that – that if Romans 8 – here’s something else I’d tell – if Romans 8:28 is true, if Genesis 50 is true, then start looking for how it’s true if you’re in a long-term situation. God will send help. He will come himself, He will send friends, He will bring circumstances. He will do things to encourage you and just start looking for how that’s true.
Again, that’s a faith-based state. But I’ve never been disappointed with kids, being able to tell them the truth in the right way. In kindness and in love, and sharing with them. Children don’t understand all of the implications, but they’re willing to deal with it as you help them. But I don’t know how to apply all this to a church. It’s easier in a family. I can tell you what to do in a family. Churches are tougher.
Sure as the world, you act like grandparents die, boy, somebody’s going to get upset with you. But I think if I were in a children’s ministry, and what I know about wouldn’t fill a bucket, but I would make the prayer time and the prayer requests very vital.
If they prayed my granddad’s sick, if Jason’s got a 3- or 4- or 5-year-old sibling, if he mentioned his granddad or his great-granddad, then I would say let’s pray for him.
I would make sure long-term and – and if somebody’s grandparents die, I would say, now, we all need to pray for so-and-so because their grandparents – and we know people do that, but Jesus died for us so that if we trust in him, we can go to heaven when we die. It’s a teachable moment. And whereas, you know, adults will shift around and, man, they don’t want to hear about it because they’re closer to it, the kid will learn from it.
I attended a funeral I didn’t want to attend here recently. Very painful. But I took stock and I was grateful at least that I wasn’t surprised that somebody my age who was my best friend died. I at least had the comfort of knowing it’s the circumstances and the timing I don’t like.
So at least you can deal with what really bugs you, what’s really bothering you. That’s the other thing. I try to figure out as a pastor, as a minister, what’s actually bothering this person. And when you get right out into it, I’ll never forget what my dad said when my mother was dying. He went and got right down to rock bottom. He said, “I never thought I would grow old without her.” That’s what bothered him most.
There are a hundred other things could have been bothering him, but that’s what was bothering him. So it’s good to know what the issue is so you can actually deal with it. I don’t know if that’s – I just kind of scattered stuff out.
Woman:[Inaudible] – and the church made a big deal, you know, that it was God’s will that saved that child and all of this stuff, and my kids, they’re smart. They said, “Momma, what about [crosstalk] that drowned last week. Did God not love him?”
Absolutely. That’s right. Uh-hmm. That’s right.
Woman: And I had to say to my children, “Those people meant well, but they were wrong.”
What they should have [crosstalk] – sure.
What they should have said was we’re –
Woman: I mean that was [inaudible]. That’s how it goes.
Sure. Yeah, you say, we’re grateful to God that the person was spared.
Woman: So I said that [crosstalk] too but –
But God would have loved him if he had drowned. That’s the part that we just have a heck of a time saying. God would have loved him even if he drowned.
I always have to tell the story about my grandmother, who was – who saw the dark side of things. There was that Jonestown massacre, you know, where the people went down and drank the poison and we were hearing that. Somebody in the house said, “Well, what of the children?”
This is my grandmother all over it. If you want a positive comment, I’m sorry, this won’t be it. My other grandmother could give you that. “They won’t have to grow up in this old, terrible world.” She was about 83 when she said it, or 80 anyway. “They won’t have to grow up in this old, terrible world and they won’t be raised by people who will teach them how to go to Hell.”
Now then that’s not usually the best way to start your theology, but she was absolutely right in so many ways. But it’s hard for us to see that there would ever be anything good in suffering. At the same time I’d say so we need to give a full orb [SP] theology.
God spared them. That’s the truth. God would have loved them, but that is not the evidence that God loved them, which is what you were dealing with. God loves them because they exist, so He does love them.
That is the nub of it. Would God still have loved them if they had drowned? Yeah. For a Christian, death’s not the worst thing that can happen to you.
Woman: And could you say that [inaudible] to figure out why, you know, one was saved by the skin of his teeth and the other one drowned, that that’s metaphysical –
I can only – yes.
Woman: We cannot – we cannot fully understand [inaudible].
We can only speculate at that point. Absolutely. We can only speculate and trust God. There comes a time where you get possibilities as to why that was – and maybe long-term you could see how it was the best use of that person’s life.
But you see, that’s one event. It’s a terrible one. It will stay in that family forever, but if you have a long-term handicapped person in your family like we do, we live every day wondering how 37 years of this works.
So you see it just kind of depends on what — But those things still belong to God, despite the logical, clear theology that James set forth before the break, that do not put us to the test.
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