Suffering

Curbing Our Complaints: Lessons for the Church in the Desert

"Because the water was bitter, everything was viewed through the spectacles of bitterness.... Pessimism is where one takes the worst perspective on a situation and then from that perspective extrapolates out their entire disposition, their worldview, and even their understanding of God. For Israel, bitterness not only defines the water or the region, it defines them." - Ref21

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This Is a Good Time to Bolster Your Theology of Suffering, Part 2

We humans have a hard time dealing with uncertainty. When too much change is happening too fast, the temptations to choose certainty over truth and comfort over honest struggle are greatly intensified.

We want it all to make sense. We want it to be simple. We want someone or some group to be clearly to blame—maybe because that’s easier than seeing the difficulty as a mess too complex to understand. A villain provides certainty and feels like a measure of control.

It’s a very human thing to do, but it’s not a very Christian thing to do. We’re called to prize truth and face it, even when the truth to be faced is, “I don’t how this happened or what’s coming next … and it could be really bad.”

The Christian way is to face disaster with all it’s complexities and uncertainties, but—in our hearts and minds—anchor it all to rock-solid, unchanging, big-picture realities. Because these realities are revealed to us by God in Scripture, we properly call this anchoring faith.

In part 1, we pondered two of seven certainties regarding suffering: our suffering is never meaningless and our suffering is never solitary. These certainties, and others, are pillars in our theology of suffering. Here we consider two more.

3. Our suffering is never payback.

“So much is going wrong in my life! Is God punishing me?”

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This Is a Good Time to Bolster Your Theology of Suffering

If you’ve been reading the economic news, you’ve been seeing the same things I have. Much of the forecasting is dire, and the numbers right now are beyond disturbing.1  There’s a wide range of predictions, and even the best-case scenarios aren’t fun to think about.

Like many of you, I’m more afraid of poverty than I am of COVID-19. This could be temporary. Nobody close to me has developed the disease. People close to me have lost their jobs.

This fear doesn’t make me less supportive of government rules aimed at slowing the disease, though. I don’t believe there ever was a non-catastrophic path through this. It was going to be a disaster, no matter what, and better decisions here and there would only have made it a slightly smaller disaster.2

So we have entered a time of suffering, and it might get a lot worse before it gets better. What that means for me is that I need to stir myself up by way of reminder (2 Pet. 1:13, 3:1). Maybe some of you will find these meditations helpful too.

Uncertainties and certainties

The platitude says fear of the unknown is the worst fear. I’m not so sure. Some things I fear only because they are known. I’ve experienced them before and dread going there again. Being unemployed is one of them.

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Does Scripture Promise that “No Virus can Touch your House” as a Believer?

"If physical safety and protection in this life are God’s promises to us, we would have to admit that God has not fulfilled His promises in a way that is clear to all of us. Honestly, if God fulfills His promises in the way that many religious teachers are claiming that He fulfills His promises, I’m not sure what we mean by promises anymore." - The Cripplegate

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“Perspective isn’t always gained amid suffering. Sometimes it comes much later.”

"When all you see is disappointment, ruined plans, and heartache, ask God to focus your mind on what you cannot see. Remember, the cross on Friday must have seemed like the end of the world; the disciples couldn’t see its horrific necessity until Sunday." - TGC

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Let Not Your Heart Be Troubled

Sermon No. 730 delivered on Lord’s-day Morning, January 20, 1867, by C.H.Spurgeon at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington

“Let not your heart be troubled: you believe in God, believe also in Me.” — John 14:1.

THE DISCIPLES had been like lambs carried in the warm bosom of a loving Shepherd. They were now about to be left by Him and would hear the howling of the wolves and endure the terrors of the snowstorm. They had been like tender plants conserved in a hothouse, a warm and genial atmosphere had always surrounded them—they were now to endure the wintry world with its nipping frosts. And so it was to be proven whether or not they had an inward vitality which could exist when outward protections were withdrawn.

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Spurgeon on Suffering Depression and Trials

Perhaps it isn’t commonly known that Charles Spurgeon suffered from depression. In his book, Spurgeon on the Christian Life, Michael Reeves notes that today he would most certainly be diagnosed as clinically depressed.

At age twenty-two he was the pastor of a large church and the father of twin babies. While he was preaching to thousands of people, some pranksters began yelling “fire.” They created a stampede killing seven people and severely injuring twenty-eight others. Reeves cites his wife Susannah,

My beloved’s anguish was so deep and violent, that reason seemed to totter in her throne, and we sometimes feared that he would never preach again.

According to Mike Reeves Spurgeon also suffered from burning kidney inflammation, gout, rheumatism and neuritis. He was also constantly assailed by opposition preachers who took a liberal view of God’s Word. See The Downgrade Controversy.

It may then surprise us that Spurgeon “was a man who crackled with life.” Apparently he also had a hearty sense of humor. And despite the many trials he bore, he saw them as necessary. Michael Reeves notes that, according to Spurgeon, “Uninterrupted success and unfading joy in it would be more than our weak heads could bear.”

I found this very encouraging – Reeves also notes that,

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