David Nasser reports the following statistics:
- 820 million people on earth go to bed hungry every night, and this number grows by 4 million every year.
- 200 million children are homeless. " 143 million children are orphans.
- Every 6 seconds someone is infected with HIV. Every 11 seconds someone dies of HIV/AIDS.
- 2 million children have been sold into sexual slavery and another 250,000 children are enslaved as soldiers fighting on the battlefields of the world.
- And roughly once a decade a race of people disappears from the face of the earth because another race has decided, for whatever reason, they don't
deserve to live.
Most of these statistics come from places like Africa, Central America, and Asia where poverty levels are high and the quality of life is very poor. Clearly
suffering is not only a part of their life it is the way of their life.
But consider this from our country, a country that lifts up the phrase "One Nation Under God."
- 37 million people live in poverty
- 7.5 percent of young girls starve themselves because they believe their too ugly to eat.
- 17,000 people are killed in drunk driving accidents every year.
- 17,000 children are injured in school bus accidents every year.
- 1 in 4 women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime. For men it's 1 in 6.
- 43,000 of our mothers, sisters, and daughters will die from breast cancer.
- And 1 out of every 2 marriages will end in divorce.
Now consider the suffering each of us experience, which is wide and varied.
The fact is suffering is all around us and will always be with us, it's a part of life. It's an inescapable reality that comes by living on this planet. And
it doesn't matter where we live, it doesn't matter how we live, suffering is something we all will experience at one time or another, and our response to the situations we encounter
will be different. Also, what is suffering to one person my not be suffering to another.
So what is suffering? Well suffering is defined as bearing pain, distress, or injury.
Bad things will happen, and no matter what we do to prevent them from happening the truth is not all bad things are preventable and then suffering can follow.
And when we find ourselves in the middle of suffering without a reasonable explanation for it, it can be one of the loneliest places imaginable.
This was the case for Job. Through no fault of his own, Job lost his wealth, his family, and his health. Even his friends were convinced that Job has brought
the suffering he was experience upon himself, because he sinned. You see many people believe that suffering is the result of our sin and its God's way of punishing us. Conversely if
we're doing well people just assume we are right with God.
Neither of these statements is true. We can be the biggest sinner on earth and not be suffering. And we can be the most righteous of God's followers and be in
immense pain. The story of Job is a great witness to these two truths.
Job was a model of trust and obedience to God, yet God permitted suffering to come to him by way of Satan. Although God loves us, believing and obeying him
does not shelter us from life's misfortunes. Setbacks, tragedies, and sorrows strike both Christians and non-Christians alike.
And for Job, the greatest trial he experienced was not the pain or the loss; it was not being able to understand why God allowed him to suffer.
Now there are four sources of our suffering:
- Things that we do to ourselves (may be sin) that then leads to our suffering. For example, unfaithfulness which leads to broken relationships.
- Things which other's do (may be sin) that now causes our suffering. For example, a drunk driver ramming us with their car, that leaves us paralyzed.
- Avoidable physical or natural disasters, suffering results because we ignored or refused to take precautions. For example, ignoring a warning to take
shelter during a thunder storm and we end up getting struck by lightening.
- Unavoidable physical or natural disaster. For example, an earthquake that leads to the total destruction of our home.
The truth is suffering can be, but certainly isn't always a result of sin. In the same way prosperity is not always a reward for being "good."
And those who love God and strive to follow God aren't exempt from trouble. Although we may not be able to understand fully the pain we experience, it can
lead us to rediscover God, as his glory is revealed in the midst of our suffering.
But regardless of situation the one thing I have concluded is that no one can solve our dilemma with suffering, no one can sure us from the pain, but others
can walk with us during our times of suffering.
This is what can happen when suffering takes hold of us. Consider the light… (WALKING illustration) Walking backwards away from lit candle (represents the
Light of the World), we eventually turn into our shadow and away from God and then we engage in the if only's.
When we engage in the "if only's" we move further and further away from the light (give examples). We turn into our shadows. But as we recognize God in the
midst of our suffering we turn away from the dark shadows and we walk back to the light. We turn back to God, and we begin to see things in God's light. His glory is revealed to us.
This doesn't mean our suffering ceases, but it does mean we can see God in the midst of it and be reminded we're not alone, and that God does walk with us. And perhaps we begin to
see what God has in store for us as we make our way out of suffering.
Illus. Consider a limitless dark room with a cracked door the where the light shines through. We move around in the dark room, stumble over the chairs, etc.
But the light is always there. So we know what direction we need to move is, and then as we get closer we begin to see things in the room with us, they are no longer obstacles, but
are manageable because we can see with better clarity what's going on and what's all around us.
Job was able to do this. Even in the midst of his suffering he was able to stay focus on the Light. He remained focused on God in the midst of his suffering,
and by the end of his life, he may not have understood completely why he suffered, but he did realize that God didn't abandon him and that God was with him throughout his ordeal.
So in the midst of our suffering how do we stay focused on the light, how do we keep from walking in our shadows, how do we keep from engaging in the "if
Well, we must stay connected to God, and the best way to do that is through worship (which places emphasis on God), studying God's Word so we better
understand our Creator, being in fellowship with other Christians so we can share stories, encourage and walk with one another, and prayer.
In other words if we engage in the disciplines of the faith we will grow our faith and have a stronger connection with God. And the stronger our connection,
the better we will be able to weather the storms and suffering of life when they come blowing our way.
Hear the words of Job's friend Zophar again from Peterson's The Message.
"Still if you set your heart on God and reach out to him, if you scrub your hands of sin and refuse to entertain evil in your home, you'll be able to face the
world unashamed and keep a firm grip on life, guiltless and fearless. You'll forget your troubles; they'll be like old, faded photographs. Your world will be washed in sunshine,
every shadow dispersed by dayspring. Full of hope, you'll relax, confident again; you'll look around, sit back, and take it easy. Expansive, without care in the world, you'll be
hunted out by many for your blessing. But the wicked will see none of this. They're headed down a dead-end road with nothing to look forward to - nothing." (Job 11:13-20)
Remember, God knows first-hand what it means to suffer as he suffered in the brutal death of Jesus. God knows what's it's like to be disconnected, but God in
Jesus also knows what it's like to be connected to God and to bask in his glory. We too can bask in God's glory, even in our suffering if we remain forever focused on the Light.