The Mystery of Pain and Suffering

 May 1, 2003

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 diagnosis 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.

The second thing we see in our text is that Jesus rejected the doctrine that all suffering is due to sin committed by the sufferer.

Jesus lived in a time when people had a very simple solution to the problem of suffering. 

They believed that people suffered because either they or their parents had sinned. 

They were concerned about fixing the responsibility for suffering, because many times that would do away with the need to help those who suffered. 

But Jesus categorically denied that suffering can be traced directly to some sin in the life of the sufferer. 

He had said to them earlier that we cannot judge the sins of others by their sufferings in this world, because many are thrown into the furnace, like gold to be purified.

In other words, sometimes God brings the hardships for our own good.

Therefore, we shouldn’t look down on those who have more troubles than we do. 

Job’s friends made that mistake when they were critical of him and questioned his integrity and accused him of secret sins. 

In Matthew, Jesus warned, “Judge not, that ye be not judged” (Matt. 7:1). 

Instead, when we see the suffering of others, it should be a loud call for us to repent. 

Repentance is the only way to escape God’s judgment against sin. 

The Bible teaches that those who fail to repent and turn to Christ will perish. 

Jesus began His ministry preaching repentance, the same message that was preached by John the Baptist. 

Their message was, “Repent because the kingdom of God is at hand.” 

All of us have a choice between life and death, good and evil. 

Those who choose wrong will perish, but those who follow Christ have eternal life.

Many of us have responded to unexpected and undeserved pain with the question, “What have I done to deserve this?” 

Often, when we witness the undeserved suffering of others, we ask the question, “Why does a good person have to suffer while others are spared?”

To explain the problem of pain as always being the result of sin that has been committed by the sufferer is inaccurate and contradicts the teachings of Jesus Christ.

In the passage in Luke that I read, there is the mention of a group of Galileans who were killed by Pilate. 

The incident is not reported by historians, but there are many explanations offered for what happened. 

One such explanation is that these particular Galileans were themselves killing the sacrifices which they had brought to Jerusalem. 

By tradition, that is one of the responsibilities that the priests carry out. 

And when Pilate’s officers came upon them by surprise, they mingled the blood of the sacrifices with the blood of the sacrificers. 

Perhaps Jesus had not heard about the incident, since His disciples informed Him of the tragedy, but the manner of their talk was spiteful. 

Perhaps, they believed that although Pilate was unjust in killing them, that they were undoubtedly bad men, otherwise God would not have permitted Pilate to murder them. 

Jesus followed their story with another story, which like it, was one more instance of people taken away by sudden death. 

He reminded them that it had not been long since the tower of Siloam fell, and there were eighteen persons killed and buried in the debris. 

This was an accident that was caused by the faulty construction of the tower, and that’s what led to its collapsed. 

It is believed that the tower joined the pool of Siloam, where Jesus had healed a man, who had been afflicted for thirty-eight years. 

There were lots of impotent folk, who waited patiently in the porches around the pool for the troubling of the waters. 

Perhaps some of those unfortunate persons had also been killed. 

It was a sad story, but even today we are given daily reports of similar tragedies on the nightly news. 

I recall a time when I lived in Kansas City that there was a terrible tragedy. 

It was a holiday weekend and people were celebrating by drinking and dancing at one of the prestige hotels. 

That night, they overloaded a walkway and it gave way, killing many and injuring hundreds. 

No doubt, you could tell similar stories. 

Jesus cautioned the disciples not to think that the killing of the Galileans and the deaths caused by the collapse of the tower were similar events; and that they should not assume that any of those who died were great sinners. 

He said, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things?” 

Another notion to think about is that Jesus would have us reject the idea that pain is an allusion. 

Some people believe that there is no such thing as pain, instead they believe that it is mere illusion; and they suggest that we use our minds to eliminate the negative thoughts that produce pain.

It is true that for many of us our ills are in our minds. 

Psychosomatic illness affects many people. 

Much suffering would be eliminated if we would think correctly and eliminate negative and destructive ways of thinking, and instead fill our minds and hearts with positive and affirmative thoughts.

However, to make pain an allusion is a form of escape from reality that will ultimately disappoint and lead to tragedy. 

Many have suffered indescribable pain and anguish because they accepted this inadequate and inaccurate solution to the mystery of pain and suffering.

Finally, Jesus would have us reject the idea that present suffering is due to evil done in a previous existence.

In many parts of the world, people believe they have no personal responsibility for the suffering they endure in this life. 

Rather, they believe that pain in the present is due to a life of cruelty and evil and selfishness in a previous existence. 

This belief leads to an attitude of fatalism and helplessness. 

Those who agree with this philosophy know nothing about the joy that can be experienced as a result of God’s forgiveness.

There is no one simple solution that is always satisfactory regarding the mystery of pain and suffering. 

But we can be assured that our Heavenly Father will not permit any pain to enter our lives that He will not help us bear.

Our God is no stranger to suffering. 

His heart has hurt with the hurt of all humankind. 

Our Savior is no stranger to suffering. 

He suffered the pain of misunderstanding, loneliness, criticism, rejection, humiliation, and crucifixion. 

Because our Savior has experienced pain and suffering, He is able to sympathize with us in what ever life may bring to us. 

Paul wrote these words in Hebrews, “For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted” (Heb. 2:18). 

The suggestion here is that Christ’s suffering was necessary, so that He might come to our aid and help us. 

It is so much easier to come to the aid of someone, when we ourselves have experienced similar pain and suffering. 

How wonderful it is to know that Christ was fully man, and because of what he experienced, He is able to provide comfort when we need it. 

So what is the answer, “How can we cope with the mystery of pain and undeserved suffering?” 

Let us recognize and grasp the truth that God loves us and that He cares and wants to help us. 

Let us remember that our Lord himself has suffered. 

Let us respond to His precious promise to be with us until the end of the age. 

Let us secure medical services, and let us pray for our doctors and for all of those who give themselves to the healing ministry. 

Let us make the best of each day as we live one day at a time.

How easy it is to ask questions about others’ tragedies and fail to learn the lessons they teach!

The big question is not “Why do people die in tragic and seemingly meaningless ways?” but “Why does God keep me alive?”

Am I really worth it?

Am I bearing fruit or just taking up space?

The answer to the first question is yes. 

If you are a child of God, you were purchased with a price.

Jesus died for you.

You have great value, because God believed you were worth the blood of Christ.

And if you are a Christian, you are to bear fruit by doing good works, which shows your love for Jesus.

But if you don’t know Jesus as your Savior, it’s not too late. 

He died for you too.

He loves you too.

Accept His gift of Love.

He can save you today, and He can save you forever.

Amen.

Do you have any questions or comments?

 There are 5 websites by this author:

http://harmonyofthegospels.yolasite.com (Life of Christ)

http://teachingsermonsforpastorsandlaymen.yolasite.com (sermons)

http://theepistlesofpaul.yolasite.com (Titus and Jude)

http://paulsepistletotheromans.yolasite.com (Romans)

http://theperiodofthejudges.yolasite.com (Judges)

Please review them and use them as the Lord leads you.

May God bless His precious word!!

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