Suffering is not the starting point for the Christian worldview, but, nevertheless, it throbs in its philosophical marrow. Blood is shed everywhere, but that blood is not without a voice. Humans did not just appear without forethought or purpose, but are integral to a divine plan. But this plan is fully made known—and often largely obscured—to erring mortals.
Sometimes, you can be right about something, and yet still be completely wrong.
When I was a criminal investigator with the Military Police, I had a case involving a Sailor who might have faked his promotion and been receiving extra pay for the past three years. That’s a lot of money. Add to it that your cost of living allowances change depending on your rank, and you’re looking at even more money. This was a good case.
Everything pointed to the conclusion that he had forged paperwork, and somehow gotten it past Personnel. We interviewed the Personnel Officer for several hours, wondering how it could have been done. We had the admin guys calculate a dollar figure. We briefed the Staff Judge Advocate, who began salivating with glee and plotting a general courts-martial. We were just missing the one thing. We needed confirmation from a training school back in Texas that they did not promote the guy.
You recall how the story goes—God and Satan are having a discussion about a man named Job. He was a man of great character whom God had given much wealth and blessing. God commends Job, and Satan accuses Job, betting that Job would deny God if God would simply allow difficulty in Job’s life (1:7-12). God allows Satan to test Job, and Job loses all of his wealth, most of his family, and his health.
Job is, of course, unaware that he is being tested, and is deeply frustrated by his change of fortune. He feels that he has done nothing to deserve these tragedies, and he speaks out—essentially proclaiming his innocence and the unfairness of the situation. Thankfully, Job has three friends who come to the rescue. They all have the same message: this could only be happening to Job if he had done something wrong. They understood that God would not allow such things to happen to an innocent person.
The ministry and pain—especially emotional pain—go together. Except for a few Pollyanna types who keep their heads buried in the sand, most of us know that times of suffering, sorrow, despair, grief, depression, and heartache are part of life. It is not until one is privy to many lives, however, that it becomes clear how pervasive these experiences are.
Fortunately, for most of us, not all of life is miserable. For many of us, life is mostly a positive experience. If we are particularly fortunate, we may escape the traumas of abuse, divorce, a straying child, extreme poverty, or a debilitating physical condition.
"47 years ago, I took a reckless dive into shallow water – it was a fateful dive which completely altered my life."