Theology of Suffering – Part 2

Continuing from Theology of Suffering – Part 1

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I’m currently teaching Genesis at our midweek study. Last week we were in Genesis 45. We finally got to hear Joseph’s own interpretation of all that he went through up to this point. We got to hear how he saw all the wrongdoings he received (e.g., wrongly imprisoned, false accusations, mistreatment, injustice) from others, including his own brothers!

If there’s someone who had legitimate reason to complain, it would have been Joseph. If there’s someone who had legitimate reason to retaliate or revenge, it would have been Joseph. Yet he did none of that. Rather, he viewed the whole thing in utterly theocentric ways!

Joseph exemplifies a man who trusts in the sovereignty of God. The narrative doesn’t depict a man who is consumed with himself, how he feels, or how he’s hurt though he’s painfully aware of what he went through. At the end of the day, he realized that God had a bigger plan and purpose. According to Joseph, he suffered in order that others would greatly benefit (vv. 5, 7, 8, 9). And that is theology of suffering!

I’m not sure how many of us think of suffering that way, namely, we suffer so that others would become the beneficiaries!

Yet, this isn’t a foreign concept in the redemptive history. Jesus said, “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (John 12:24). This is certainly true of the voluntary, sacrificial, and substitutionary death of Jesus. He died so that we would become the beneficiaries.

All that to say, theology of suffering is real and relevant. And this doctrine must have a strong grip on God’s people because he promised that his people will suffer.

Theology of Suffering – Part 1

I am convinced that what Christians/churches desperately need today (especially, here in North America) is to understand the inseparable connection between the sovereignty of God and theology of suffering.

Perhaps one of the loving things a pastor can do for his congregation is to help disciple and help others to disciple such reality – that because God is sovereign he will use sufferings to treasure him and to enjoy him alone, and that God be glorified in and through sufferings.

Theology of Suffering – Part 2

Don’t Waste Your Kidney Stones!

For about a week now I have been suffering from kidney stones.  Unfortunately this has been a reoccurring event in my life over the last three years.  And during my current bout with stones my wife has asked me on two occasions, “What do you think the Lord is trying to teach you through this?”  Hmm, now that’s a good question.

My title for this post is sort of borrowed from John Piper who has written a book entitled Don’t Waste Your Life and an article Don’t Waste Your Cancer, both of which I heartily commend to you.  But the point is this, how are Christians to view suffering, whether it is cancer, kidney stones, persecution, financial, etc?  As I have considered my wife’s question, here are some thoughts.  Please keep in mind this is by no means an exhaustive list:

1.  Suffering is the result of Adam’s sin and thus is an intrusion in God’s perfect world (Rom. 5:12; Gen. 1:31).

2.  As sinners living in a sinful world, suffering is now a natural part of life (Job 5:7; 14:1; John 16:33).

3.  Suffering reminds us of the sinfulness of sin (Rom. 5:12, 18).

4.  While suffering in and of itself is not good, God intends to use it for our good (Rom. 8:28; James 1:2-4).

5.  Some suffering is considered to be a gift from God (Acts 5:41; Phil. 1:29).

6.  Suffering weans us from self-dependence and teaches us to trust in God (2 Cor. 1:8-9).

7.  Suffering reminds us to put our hope in God and the world to come rather than in this world (Rev. 21:4; 22:3-5).

8.  Suffering should cause us to examine our lives and consider if it be the result of the Father’s gracious discipline (Heb. 12:4-11).  If our suffering is the result of God’s discipline, we should be quick to repent and seek His mercy (Prov. 28:13; 1 John 1:9).

9.  Periods of suffering are the most fertile times of spiritual growth (Job 42:5-6; 2 Cor. 12:7-10).

10.  Exalting Christ is more important than personal comfort in our time of suffering (Phil. 1:20-21).

11.  Suffering should cause us to meditate upon God’s mercy since no amount of suffering that we experience in this world is what we truly deserve, namely hell (Rom. 6:23).

12.  When we suffer God is still in control of our lives as much as when we don’t suffer (Job 1:6-12; 42:2).

13.  When we suffer God is still worthy of our worship and trust (Job 1:21-22; 13:15).

14.  Suffering should remind us of the cross, where the sinless Son of God suffered God’s wrath for our sins (1 Cor. 15:3; 1 Pet. 2:24).

Everything that God does (including bitter providence) is wise, right, and good.  And so may we not waste our sufferings by failing to see them as a means of grace and growth from our gracious Father’s hand.