The Purpose of Suffering

>> Sunday, October 24, 2010

Charlie Albright has posted (or re-posted...not sure which) an excellent fundamental examination of the purpose of suffering. I would like to post some of that article with preliminary thoughts and comments prompted in my mind by Charlie's post.

When approaching the issue of suffering, if we are to benefit from suffering, we need to first think about what suffering actually is. I don't pretend or aim to have a full answer to that question, but I would suggest that there are two basic types of suffering: the physical and the spiritual, and that both these kinds of suffering are designed to accomplish common goals in our life (dealt with later in this post). Physical suffering is usually pretty obvious. It can be sickness, injury, disease, pain, persecution and other such things. Then there is spiritual suffering, or "affliction". This can include depression, doubts, unrest, sorrow, etc.

One article on suffering I read described it in a way I found thought provoking and insightful: "It is a tool God uses to get our attention and to accomplish His purposes in our lives in a way that would never occur without the trial or irritation."

I personally like that definition and believe it is very much in line with Biblical teachings on suffering.

Suffering can be for disciplinary purposes. We know that God chastises those He loves (Hebrews 12:4-7) to purify them (Zechariah 13:8-9) and to bring them back to Him. We also know that what we sow will be reaped (Galatians 6:7-8). I make these points because as young Christians it's important that we understand this truth so we will know to examine ourselves (II Corinthians 13) in the face of suffering and not assume that our suffering is unrelated to our sin.

Suffering can also happen for reasons we cannot see or understand. This is where Christians can (and frequently do) become easily discouraged and disheartened. Just ask Job. He suffered more than I can imagine for reasons he never fully understood. Yet, the fruit of his suffering was clearly evident. Thank God we can always be assured by the truth of Romans 5:3-5 but must understand that we don't always know why we suffer.

Because we can't know why we suffer, it is imperative that we understand and cling to the promises of what is accomplished through suffering. That is why posts such as Charlie's are important and why we are posting it here. So, without further ado, here is an abridged version of Charlie’s post. If you would like to read the rest (and I would encourage you to) please hop over to Renewing Thoughts and read it there.

The Purpose of Suffering

Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises dead. 2 Corinthians 1:9

The suffering Paul and his companions were experiencing at this time felt like a death sentence. The burden of their suffering had driven them to the point that they had believed the time had come for them to lose their lives.

In the midst of the despair and sorrow that surround Paul and his companions the God of all comfort came to them. The experience does not end in despair. Though, it does not end in immediate physical deliverance either. Comfort comes by the means of truth. There is a truth attained by the experience which Paul explains in the last sentence, “to make us;” This tremendous burden of suffering had a purpose. There was an aim, a goal that it was set out to accomplish. No suffering is purposeless. Far be it from that! Instead the very creator and sustainer of ever molecule has a purpose in every affliction in our lives. What is that purpose?

It is theological in giving us a correct vision of God

to make us rely not on ourselves;” The first aspect of this correction is in making us see that we are not God. We are not lords over our lives. We like to think that we are. We like to think that we are in control of each and every day. But suffering is the clearest demonstration that this is not the case. We are not in control.

but on God;” When suffering removes our reliance from ourselves the only place that is a sufficient rock is none other than God. Suffering brings us to the place where the only stable and sure foundation is the Lord of the universe. This is why God brings suffering, that it might drives us to Him!

who raises the dead.” It is not: rarely, maybe, sometimes. Our Lord always moves and works for His children. Our God is one who does mighty deeds and glorious works for His children. He never leaves them behind, but always fulfills the plan which he set out to do for them. Now, His plans are not our plans. Faith is holding on to this truth while waiting for the glorious plan of God to come to fruition.

Suffering is hard and painful, yet by faith we can hold to the truth that the purpose is more glorious than a life of ease. Let suffering drive us to Christ and His love!

To those words of wisdom I heartily say amen!

God bless and veritas supra omnis!


No, Mr. President. Killing Is Killing No Matter What We Call It.

>> Friday, October 22, 2010

No, Mr. President. Killing Is Killing No Matter What We Call It.: "No, Mr. President. Killing Is Killing No Matter What We Call It. from the Desiring God blog."


You "want" to help, but are you looking to help?

>> Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Hello all,

Good intentions are wonderful. I think we can all agree with that. However, good intentions are not enough unless they translate into action. The Bible clearly teaches in Matthew 7 that the measure of a person’s intentions and heart is no less than their actions.

15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. 16 You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? 17 Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Therefore by their fruits you will know them. (Matthew 7:15-20, New King James Version)

I was really blessed and challenged this week by a story I ran across on about a man who exemplified the union of "intent" and action. The story begins with the following:

"They call retired salesman Don Ritchie "the watchman." Each day, as he sits in his favorite chair at his cliffside home, he looks up and scans the precipice that takes the lives of approximately 50 suicide jumpers each year, trying to discern the intentions of visitors.

When somebody seems to be lingering too long at the cliff, he walks out to talk to him.

"You can't just sit there and watch them," Ritchie told the AP in a recent interview. "You gotta try and save them. It's pretty simple.

Later in the story:

"According to official estimates, Ritchie and his wife Moya have saved 160 lives during the 45 years they have lived near the Gap Park, a famous cliff frequented by sightseers that affords a beautiful view of the Sydney Harbor. However, the unofficial tally is closer to 400, according to the Sydney Morning Herald."

You can read the rest of the story here.

Cliff 'Watchman' Saves Hundreds From Suicide with Kindness and a Smile

When reading the story, the question posted in the post title came to my mind. I wondered, "Do I really believe the things I espouse?" You see, it's one thing to "believe" and another thing to do. For instance, many people think that to be a Christian you must only believe in God and believe in the Bible. But, even Satan and his demons believe.

19 You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble! 20 But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?[a] (James 2:19-20, New King James Version)
  1. James 2:20 NU-Text reads useless.

Don Ritchie didn't have to talk to these people that most assume to be beyond help (or worse, unworthy of help). But he believes that life is precious and had a sincere love for these desperate people. When he could have sat in his house and just prayed he voluntarily gave time and effort he was under no obligation to give.

Most of us don't live on a cliff popular with suicide jumpers. But, if we care to look, all of us can and will find something we can do to live out our faith; to unify our intentions and actions into a God honoring and glorifying testimony of loving action. It could be giving a smile to a person in the store that has a downcast look (which requires actually noticing other people and thinking about them), it could be stopping to give a meal to a person obviously in need of a meal or it could be sending baby dolls to Mexico for little girls that wouldn't otherwise have them. Maybe it could be volunteering at your local Crisis Pregnancy Center or be-friending the unpopular kid at school who needs a loving friend. It could be any one of these or a million other things. The point is that belief and desires translates into action and action is inherently pro-active. You need to be looking for opportunities to minister. If you just wait for them to come to you innumerable opportunities will be missed.

As I have been challenged recently to test my own beliefs in light of what I do so I also challenge you to test your intents and desires by your deeds and fruit. Ask yourself the question, "Am I really searching for a way to live out my convictions?" And, "If I'm honest with myself...what does my inaction say about my faith?"

May God give us grace and strength to obediently and faithfully follow the path He has set before.

God bless and veritas supra omnis!


Changing focus a little bit

>> Monday, October 18, 2010

Hey all,

Not surprisingly, I've neglected my blog of late. It's not so much that I've forgotten about it, it's mostly that I want to write longer and more thorough blog posts that are more in line with my personality as opposed to more standard and shorter posts. I still hope to be able to put out long thoughtful posts, but in the meantime I'm just not able to write anything more than short posts and since I don't want to let my blog voice go silent I'm just going to start putting out short posts. That's really what I've been doing anyway, thanks to time constraints, so hopefully changing focus will help me to put out better short posts.

They might even be interesting. :-P

Comments are always welcome! I love to interact with my readers and especially love to field and read differing views on issues.

God bless and veritas supra omnis!


Sen. McCaskill: Conway "reasonable" moderate

Hello all,
Imbedded is a clip from Morning Joe containing an interesting round table discussion of the Kentucky Senate race between Rand Paul and Jack Conway. I post it not because I am paying close attention to the race itself, but because it touches more broadly on political discourse and how candidates should conduct themselves.

The portion in question extends to about the 7:00 minute mark. I tried to imbed the video but for some reason the "imbed" link wasn't working so I'm just going to link it the old fashioned way.

Click here to see video

I don’t agree with McCaskill (who btw, I like from what I've seen of her) about shaking opponents’ hands and the respect issue. Yes, there are circumstances in which an opponent can cross the line in attacking you or your family to such a degree that they have lost the privilege of being shown respect and Conway flirted with that line if he didn’t cross it entirely. What was implied in the ad - the innuendos in it - are pretty startling and Paul has a right to be upset about them (unless of course he’s just guilty as charged). Smarmy (or unctuous) is a word that comes to mind as accurately describing that sort of ad. Maybe that’s a bit too extreme on my part though.

Speaking to what McCaskill said regarding Conway being a moderate - while I haven’t followed the Paul/Conway race closely - Conway does appear to have some major inconsistencies in his record past and present (flip flops) that perhaps show Conway to be more politically motivated than “reasonable”.

Irrespective of how true the claims made by the Conway campaign are, the ad in question was an extreme ad making extreme accusations. Hardly something a “reasonable” moderate would put out if they were not thoroughly substantiated.

To the best of my knowledge they aren’t.

McCaskill needs to call out people like Conway even if they are in her party if she wants to have credibility when she speaks of being “reasonable” and of cross aisle collaboration and cooperation. By the same token, Republicans should do the same. This doesn’t mean people pounce on everybody who goes too far (Meghan McCain?) but you have to apply to you and your part the same standard that you apply to the other party.

God bless and veritas supra omnis!


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