Suffering: The Cause

Almost fourteen years ago, a terrible tragedy occurred. My wife and I lost our child to a miscarriage. It was the second miscarriage we experienced. It was the second straight pregnancy that ended with a miscarriage. We felt crushed. Friends and family tried to comfort us. Some genuinely did, but others exacerbated the pain. There were many questions and comments made, but the question that sticks out in my mind, the question I can still hear echoing was: “What did you do?” I remember that question hitting me like a ton of bricks. What did we do?? Was this our fault? Are they saying the pain we are experiencing and even the death of our child was our fault? Was God punishing us? What did we do? Those questions are often asked during times of suffering. Often the first thought, even of the ones experiencing the suffering, is “why?” and wondering if it is the result of something they did. Does suffering occur because of our actions? Is it our fault? The simple answer is: yes….and no. Not exactly cleared up, but maybe a little more thorough examination will help. Why does suffering occur? When we answer this question, we begin by stating: suffering is not part of God’s original design. I don’t want to say that it is not his plan, as surely he knew it was coming, but it was not part of creation originally. The Bible tells us that when God had finished creation, he looked at it and saw that it was not only good, but it was very good (Genesis 1:31). Suffering, pain, death – those things were not there. They came when Adam and Eve disobeyed God (Genesis 3:1-4). Their disobedience, the entrance of sin, brought with it death (Genesis 3:3, 19), separation from God (Genesis 3:9-10), curses (Genesis 3:14-19), enmity (Genesis 3:15), pain (Genesis 3:16), struggles in personal relationships (Genesis 3:16), and hard work (Genesis 3:17-18). Sin brought with it suffering. Suffering exists because of sin. If you find yourself asking “but why does God allow it? Why is it necessary?”, you will want to make sure you tune into the third part of this series, but, for now, it’s important to note that the cause of suffering is sin. This is important to keep in mind for a couple reasons. First, it reminds us of the goodness of God. When he created everything, suffering was not present. This is vital to recall when we are going through suffering; the goodness of God is our anchor, our hope, our refuge, and our stay. Second, it reminds us of the wickedness, the heinousness of sin. The consequences of an action, can reveal the severity of the action. The consequences of sin is a separation from God that results in death, pain, and suffering. The Fall corrupted creation (Romans 8:22). Things are not as they are supposed to be. We live in a fallen world. Separation from God exists, therefore, death, pain, and suffering also exist. Suffering exists. That means that the suffering we experience is not always a result of individual decisions (see Mark […]

Preview: A Primer on Suffering

In July of this year, my wife decided to go to the doctor. She had been tired and not feeling right for weeks. And then a whirlwind hit our family and our lives were flipped upside down. The doctors told my wife she had Leukemia. She was immediately flown from our home in Uganda to Kenya, and then, a few days later, to the United States, where we are currently living.              Over the last six months, I’ve watched my wife go through multiple rounds of chemotherapy. I’ve watched a woman who has been healthy her whole life, have her body wrecked with fevers, pain, weakness, and blood vessels bursting. On top of that, I’ve had to pull my sons, already feeling the weight of concern for their mother, from their friends and move them across the world – as we remain stranded from our home and ministry in Uganda, in a state of limbo, not knowing for how long or what the outcome will be. All the while, I sit – able to observe, but powerless to change any of these circumstances. On that hand, it has not been a great six months.              But, on the other hand, it has been a great six months. I’ve seen the Church, local and global, act like the Church by grieving with us, but also by encouraging us with prayer and provisions. I’ve seen my wife, my sons, and myself grow more fervent (and frequent) in our prayers to, and dependence upon, God. I’ve watched my wife suffer well and be an encouragement to others. God has taken this horrible curse and made it a blessing.              As I have walked through these last six months, I have spent a lot of time thinking about suffering. I don’t have to tell you about suffering. You know about it. You’ve experienced it. You’ve felt the hunger, fought the sickness, held the dying, and wept with the heartbroken and discouraged. You’ve even been the heartbroken and discouraged.              We all know suffering exists. The questions are “why?” and “for what purpose?”. Many answers to these questions have been given. I am convinced that the answers most frequently being given are often the least Biblical answers that we could give. Therefore, I want to try to explain a Biblical perspective on suffering. I want to give a primer on suffering. This series will consist of four parts: Part 1: The Reason for Suffering Part 2: The Promise of Suffering Part 3: The Blessing of Suffering Part 4: The Faith to Suffer      I hope that you will read along.          

Transaction or True Love?

Do not owe anyone anything, except to love one another, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. (Romans 13:8) “Teacher, which command in the law is the greatest?” He said to him, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important command. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.” (Matthew 22: 36-40) Levels of Christian Maturity: When we come to Christ as Savior and Lord, we begin a journey where we are to obey and follow Him for the rest of our lives. There are different stages of growth in our Christian walk; unfortunately, we tend to get stuck on one plateau or another. I believe that the depth of our Christian commitment can be demonstrated by the kinds of questions we are asking. When we initially come to Christ, most of our focus is on the “what?” questions. What does the bible teach? What am I supposed to do? What does God require of me? We spend a lot of time learning and figuring out what it means to be a believer and “what” the bible teaches. Basically, we have a “just give me the facts” approach where we desire to know the rules and the protocols of being a Christian. When someone becomes more mature and goes deeper theologically, they might also start asking the “how?” questions. Yes, I need to be baptized (the what), but the Scripture teaches I need to be baptized by immersion (the how). We realize as we grow that God desires us to do the right things the right way. For example, we should pray (what) in Jesus’ name (how). We should give our tithes and offerings (what), but we have to give cheerfully and liberally (how). Asking what we must do to serve Him and ensuring we are doing those things God’s way is essential. Yet, there is a third question, and it is probably the most important one. This is the question of “why?” Unfortunately, this is the question that few of us ask, which keeps us immature instead of going on to greater heights with Jesus. The “why?” question is what separates a Pharisee from a devoted disciple of Jesus. It takes a good bit of biblical and theological knowledge to answer the “what” and the “how.” We cannot negate the importance of what and how. However, if you know what to do and how to do it but you have the wrong motives, then you are like the Pharisees who had the correct information but the wrong motivation. Legalists who focus so much on doing the right thing the right way without examining their own heart tend to become unteachable and unpliable. The new Christian is at least open to learning, and open hearts are required for sanctification. A Love Relationship or a Transactional Relationship? When we consider the issue of motives, that is where the rubber meets the road in our Christian walk. The more […]

Book Review of A New Apostolic Reformation

This book surveys the rise of the so-called New Apostolic Reformation (NAR). The NAR movement’s roots can be traced to the 1980s in North America but is now a world-wide phenomenon.

“Discernment is needed if believers are to understand the actual dynamics of the New Apostolic Reformation and identify where it departs from traditional teachings”

Book Review of God, Greed, and the (Prosperity) Gospel

“The prosperity gospel is a disease”
Costi Hinn ends a chapter entitled “A Dangerously Abusive Theology” in his 2019 autobiographical salvo against the Prosperity Gospel with that statement. Throughout this book, Hinn weaves together stories, theology, biblical exposition, and exhortation. In doing so, Hinn answers the question, “So why did you walk away from that life?”