A Chorus of Chaos
Recent events have been numbingly destructive. “Nature” has produced a string of devastating hurricanes and a devastating earthquake. “Human nature” has taken a toll of 58 lives ended and over 500 injured during the siege in Los Vegas. The rapid sequence of these events has magnified the sense of confusion and outrage that flood our thoughts in such times. These, combined with the individual struggles and suffering of life, are challenging to say the least.
As followers of Jesus, we have a double challenge. First, we face the same confusion and outrage for the level of suffering we see. We have to return to the foundations of human life—our origins as beings created by God in His image. Then we consider the flow of human life—our history of moral failure as individuals, communities, nations and mankind collectively.
Finally we must look to the future—how will this all finish. Fortunately for us Scripture provides clear answers that correlate with reality. We can face challenging times in light of God’s eternal plans for goodness and glory. A missionary friend who has spent over 30 years in South America recently pointed out the incisive truths of Psalm 46 as an aid to our thinking in such times…
God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
3 though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging….
10 He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”
11 The Lord Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.
Psalm 46:1-3, 10-11 (NIV)
Even with these assurances, we struggle to gain the eternal perspective.
The other part of the challenge is our interactions with others who do not believe as we do about God. They may disregard God altogether or see God as incompetent for the big things. In times like these, the challenges of intellectual issues is further complicated by the emotional impact of the suffering. How are we to represent the Lord in this?
First, I believe we need to acknowledge our own struggles with understanding suffering and let them know we resonate with theirs. I think we need to serve and love others in any way we can to show God’s goodness in the midst of suffering. Finally I think we need to face the issues honestly ourselves, grow in our capacity to understand it and invite others into dialogue about it.
What are the alternatives for explaining suffering? What does it change by posing a world without God? Does it help or make things more hopeless? What answers can we find in Scripture?
Sin—disregard for God and disobedience to His standards and disconnection from His holiness; is a hideously destructive influence that pays out a wage of death (Rom. 6:23). It has been operating this way since the fall in Eden and continues. But 2000 years ago, a pivotal event set the stage for a glorious future. Sin was defeated by the sacrificial death and glorious resurrection of Jesus.
God has sustained the opportunity for humanity to grasp the significance if this and has drawn millions to Jesus for safe passage to a perfect, eternal destiny with Him. We live in that window of opportunity pointing ourselves and others beyond the darkness and destruction to the gift of grace and glory God has planned.
This weekend we will begin a series entitled “Answers to Troubling Questions”, similar to the ones considered in this memo. The Apostle Peter challenged his disciples with these words…
“Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect” 1 Peter 3:15b (NIV)
Looking forward to seeing you!