Why suffering?

Lunch at the church after the service

Lunch at the church after the service

On Dec 30th 2013, I gave my first sermon in Japanese. It was in Asahikawa city on John 9. The title was ‘Why is there suffering?’. My main points were:

 1. Jesus sees

As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. (v1)

Obviously the blind man couldn’t see Jesus, but Jesus saw him. We today can’t see Jesus because He has ascended to heaven, but from heaven He sees us and He knows what we’re going through. What a comfort!

2. Jesus has a good purpose

Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. (v3, emphasis mine)

Also, in Lazarus’ case,

But when Jesus heard it he said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was. …  14 Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus has died, 15 and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. (Jn 11, emphasis mine)

We may not know or understand what the specific reasons for our suffering are until we get to heaven. But what we can know is that Jesus has a good purpose in it, like God’s glory or for us to believe (as above) or making us more like Him (Rom 8:28-30).

There’s no sense that God is not in control of the man’s blindness or any suffering.

Then the Lord said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the Lord? (Ex 4:11)

13 For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well. (Ps 139)

Jesus healed the blind man there & then, but sometimes God allows suffering to continue, as with Paul’s ‘thorn’:

So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Cor 12)

There’s no hint that Paul was not relieved of his suffering due to a lack of faith. And Paul is still able to say:

17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. (2 Cor 4)

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. (Rom 8:18)

Sometimes God’s purposes are worked out through allowing suffering to continue, but we can know that Jesus has a good purpose in it.

3. Jesus heals

Jesus heals the blind man but one day He will heal all illness and take away all suffering.

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Rev 21)

And He won that suffering-free, painless bliss by suffering Himself on the cross for us.

Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed. (Isa 53)

Hallelujah! What a Saviour!

The video below is from the story of Rick Hoyt, born with cerebral palsy and his dedicated loving father. Together they compete in marathons and triathalons, inspiring many across the world. When God knitted Rick together in his mother’s womb, He knew what He was doing. God doesn’t make mistakes.


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