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Posts Tagged ‘Suffering and a loving God’

We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance,  

and endurance produces character, and character produces hope. (1)

 

Christiaan Beker, the Dutch theologian and one of the most respected Pauline scholars of the 20th century, advised his students to never quote this passage when ministering to the suffering unless you want the sufferer to spit in your face.

 

Dr. Beker suffered through the Nazi destruction of Europe during the reign of Hitler.  He had zero tolerance for anyone who thought we should welcome suffering into our lives as a gift from God.

 

As a passionate believer who clung to God through his own difficulties in life, Dr. Beker was never able to justify human suffering with a loving God.

 

If nothing else, Dr. Beker taught me to walk through the valley of the shadow of death with others with tender compassion and with my lips sealed.  He was an advocate of silent compassion as opposed to know-it-all comfort.  Your presence is more helpful than pitter-patter.

 

Why does a loving God permit suffering?  

 

My stock answer is, “I do not know, but I do know that God loves you! I know that God is hurting with you!”

 

Today I read a quote of Frederick William Robertson, which looks at suffering, not from it’s cause or purpose, but from what it does for us.  He speaks about how suffering makes us a better and more compassionate person.  He writes:

 

If you aspire to be a person of consolation, if you want to share the priestly gift of sympathy, if you desire to go beyond giving commonplace comfort to a heart that is tempted, and if you long to go through the daily exchanges of life with the kind of tact that never inflicts pain, then you must be prepared to pay the price for a costly education, for like Christ, you must suffer. (2)

 

While Robertson avoids answering our why questions about suffering, like Paul, he points us to one of the hidden blessings of suffering.  

 

The most compassionate people I know are those who have personally experienced the horror of unexplained and undeserved suffering.

 

Perhaps we will never find comfort in suffering, until it allows us to compassionately comfort those who suffer.

 

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  1. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Romans 5:3–4.
  2. Reimann, Jim; Cowman, L. B. E. (2008-09-02). Streams in the Desert: 366 Daily Devotional Readings (p. 313). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.
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