DayBreaks for 9/13/16 – Suffering, Control…and Faith
From our worship bulletin 9/11/16:
Most mornings, I read a bit from The Gospel According to Job, a book I discovered a number of years ago and it’s been a tremendous help, as I have wrestled with questions about pain and suffering (Galen’s note: I concur, this is a great book!) Job, of course, is the book of the Old Testament which tells the story of a man who experiences suffering and the journey he’s on to make sense of it. So, as I was reading this morning, the author, Mike Mason, says this: Whatever our theology might be, in any tragedy there is just something in our finite minds, that gravitates immediately toward the theory of human causes. If human beings bear direct responsibility for everything bad that happens to them, then the plain corollary of these theses is that we also have the power to affect our own good. Such a thoroughly watertight system of cause and effect, Job correctly sees, leaves no room for dependent faith, no room for the gospel.
Now, of course we have to bear responsibility for our actions, and yes, some of our “suffering” is the result of our sin. However, belief that every bad thing that happens to us is a product of our personal sin is just not in the bible. Still, you will find people who teach that it all comes back to us. A friend of mine lost a child to sudden infant death, and at that time he and his wife were involved in a church (or a cult) which believed one’s suffering was always the result of their sin. So, his child died, and it was believed he and/or his wife had some un-confessed sin in their life. When my friend shared this with me, I was incredulous. I asked him how he dealt with this accusation. He said they first left the church. Good! Second, he said he figure out something. If the people (particularly the leaders) in that church could blame the death of his child on the sin of the parents, then that meant other parents could avoid a similar tragedy by “obeying” God. Of course, if it wasn’t their sin that caused the child’s death (which it wasn’t) then those parents had to face the reality that something like this could happen to them.
You see, I think it gets back to us having the control and not God. With that theology comes the mistaken belief that somehow we have the ability to ward off all suffering. Now, do I wish I had the power to do that? Absolutely! (Galen’s note: when I’m asked what super power I would have if I could, I inevitably reply with the power to take away suffering.) But that is not the way of the Lord. Would I like to have answers to every question I pose to God? Yes, but in the end, if all suffering is a result of my choices, the maybe it isn’t about my faith but more about finding a way to gain control. Perhaps, if we get control, we can eliminate any walk of faith. Mason goes on to say: Job knows he can neither reason his way out of it (though he may realize how irrational his negative thoughts are), nor pray his way out (thought he continues to pray automatically), nor run away (though he may be sorely tempted to try), nor do anything whatsoever to ameliorate his circumstances. He knows he is powerless to help himself, and so it is up to God to help him. To adopt such a stance under conditions of trauma is the highest kind of faith.
PRAYER: Father, we don’t want trauma, suffering or pain. But when it comes our way, may we seek You and Your help! In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Copyright 2016, Galen C. Dalrymple. All rights reserved.