The Mystery of Pain and Suffering Part 1
by John Lowe
(Laurens SC, USA)
Title: The Mystery of Pain and Suffering
Text: “And Jesus answered and said to them, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things?”
Scripture Reading: Luke 13:1-5
Some people see no mystery about the problem of suffering.
They believe that suffering is the result of an unavoidable law that every cause produces an effect.
They would reason that suffering is due to some great sin the sufferer has committed.
However, Christians have a problem with suffering that non-Christians don’t have.
Christianity proclaims that God is love and that He loves the whole world.
But, if this is true, why does He permit undeserved suffering?
If God loves, and He has all power, then He should protect us from pain and suffering.
Some have sought to solve this problem by saying that those who suffer have been guilty of some sin and have brought God’s judgment on themselves.
This simplistic solution to a complex question is unsatisfactory and incorrect.
Between our entrance into life and our exit from life, we experience many kinds of pain and suffering: physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, visible, invisible, recognized, and unrecognized.
Many suffer because of natural disasters.
Many suffer because of historical events and decisions that were made in the past.
Many suffer because of choices made by their ancestors.
We must also recognize that much suffering comes to us because of our personal choices and the choices of others.
But what I want to know is, “What does Jesus teach about pain and suffering? Does Jesus have any good news for those who suffer?”
The answers are in God’s Word.
Let’s look at what the Bible has to say on this subject, and let’s begin our study by reading our text; Luke 13:1-5.
There were present at that season some who told Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And Jesus answered and said to them, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.”
We see from our text that Jesus rejected the thought that all suffering came from God.
Jesus lived in a time when people were making false diagnoses of the problems they confronted in daily life.
Because they believed that sin resulted in suffering and that God was a just God who would punish the wicked, they reasoned that all suffering was due to God’s anger.
The end result of this incorrect way of thinking served to deprive believers of the comfort and encouragement they needed in times of weakness, pain, and insecurity.
John 11 records that Jesus wept in sorrow when Mary and Martha were grief-stricken over the death of their brother, Lazarus.
We must have faith to believe that the Lord weeps with us when we experience the pain of sorrow.
The fact that our Lord ministered to those whose bodies were racked with pain and whose minds were tormented with insecurity should encourage us to believe that He comes to us as well in the midst of our sufferings.
Jesus’ compassion for those who suffer could certainly be seen when He met a bent-over woman who had spent the previous eighteen years staring at the floor, unable to stand or sit, or even to straighten her crooked back.
Only Luke records this incident, in the thirteenth chapter of his gospel.
Jesus and His disciples had traveled through her city on their way from Galilee to Judea.
They entered the synagogue on the Sabbath to teach.
Jesus had deep compassion for this tragic woman.
He touched her and healed her.
After Jesus’ tender touch, for the first time in eighteen years, this “daughter of Abraham” straightened her back, stretched to her full height, and, she held her head high to the glory of God.
The prophet Isaiah had proclaimed in regard to the suffering of God’s people that God responded to their plight with sympathy and compassion.
He wrote, “In all their distress He too was distressed, and the angel of His presence saved them. In His love and mercy, He redeemed them; He lifted them up and carried them all the days of old” (Isa. 63:9, NIV).
The notion that is conveyed here is that in all of our suffering, God bears the same sorrows.
In the notes made by John Calvin (p. 839) we find this explanation: “In order to move us more powerfully and draw us to Himself, the Lord accommodates Himself to the manner of man, by attributing to Himself all the affection, love and compassion which a father can have.”
This angel of His Presence, whom Isaiah referred to, is a direct reference to Jesus Christ.
He redeemed them, and he bared them and carried them.
The picture that comes to mind is a mother who carefully carries and cares for her children; in the same way, the Lord carried and cared for His people.
This deliverance is rooted in His love toward His people.
We must reject every proposed solution to the mystery of suffering that denies us of the compassionate presence and grace of our loving God.