We don’t need the Bible to tell us about the reality of suffering and evil, it’s all too common to us. The Bible says we live in a fallen, broken, scarred world where evil and suffering are prevalent. In fact, the Bible is the only book in our world that can truly explain why the world is like it is.
On the night of 14 April 2014, 276 female students were kidnapped from a School in the town of Chibok in Nigeria by Boko Haram – Muslim Extremists. The vast majority of these girls are still being held as captives, wives and sex slaves.
A few days ago Omran Daqneesh, a 5-year-old boy, was almost killed as the Syrian government again bombed a hospital. You’ve seen his bloody face on TV as he sits in the ambulance – other children, including his brother, weren’t so fortunate.
Last week, a South African couple was found guilty of murdering their 3-month old child.
We know the world is full of suffering and evil
Terrible suffering also happens to Christian people.
A few weeks ago a Christian couple, together with their three children – Ezra, 3, Violet, 1, and 2-month old Calvin, died in a car accident in Nebraska. They were preparing to go as missionaries to Japan.
This is not to mention all the suffering caused by tsunamis, earthquakes, floods and drought.
We may be tempted to ask: can God really exist? What an often-terrible world we live in.
And Christians suffer just as much because we live is the same fallen world, just like every other human being.
“Life is beautiful”, is probably the saddest and most wonderful movie I’ve seen. A Jewish-Italian father and his young son are sent to a Nazi concentration camp. To protect his son from the harsh reality, the father pretends that it’s all a game and puts up an intricate façade
But it becomes harder and harder to keep up this false reality.
There are many churches like this. They would like to deny the harsh reality of suffering and evil. They are known as Prosperity Churches and they teach that Christians should be immune from suffering, sickness and sorrow.
But it becomes harder and harder to deny reality, keep up the façade and live in cuckoo-cuckoo land. Because the reality is that Christians do suffer, do get sick, do get depressed, do get diabetes, do get robbed, do get abandoned by wives, and do get cheated on by husbands.
When Christians leave these churches and join good Bible-teaching, evangelical churches, it’s like a weight has been lifted off their shoulders because they no longer have to pretend that everything is always fine. It’s finally ok to get depressed, or sick or lose your job.
When Christians do suffer in some way in Prosperity Churches they are told it’s because they lack faith, are not Spirit-filled, or there’s some hidden sin – so you keep pretending.
What a terribly bad, cuckoo-cuckoo, demonic theology this is.
Christians in these churches end up being discouraged, disillusioned and disenchanted with God.
Many tend to forget that all the great Christians of the past including the Apostle Paul (and Jesus himself) suffered greatly.
If I was Jesus (which I’m unfortunately not), I would go to these Prosperity Churches, make a whip, overturn their pulpits, throw out the collection bags and say:
“You are turning my Father’s church into cuckoo-cuckoo land.”
A testimony from a motorized wheelchair
John Berry and his wife Wendy are in my Top 5 Christians who I admire and who have significantly helped me in my spiritual development. Wendy passed away a few years back and is with her Lord. Wendy was one of the most dynamic Christians I ever meet: she was loving, caring, hospitable, gracious, humble, never complained, and zealous for world-missions. She was also the short-term mission coordinator for SIM (Serving in Mission).
For example, she organized for me and others to go to South Sudan to teach at a poor Bible College in a poor village. We also gave at least 100 sets of theological book-sets to pastors who had no books to aid them in ministry.
You may not know that Wendy was a quadriplegic who spent most of her life in a motorized wheelchair.
Please don’t tell me Christians don’t suffer or face hardships.
We live in the gap between Jesus’ atonement and final victory. Lasting freedom from sin, suffering and evil has not come yet. It is coming, but it’s not here yet.
Life in this in-between time can be tough, extremely tough
And yet Lamentations 5:19 remains true:
But you, O Lord, reign forever;
your throne endures to all generations.
Who sits on a throne? A king does. The Bible teaches us that despite a world characterized by sin, evil, extreme difficulty, rape, kidnapping, illness, cancer, disease, economic hardship, tsunamis, terrorism, deep sorrow, robbery, and war, the Heavenly King is still reigning from his throne, forever, to all generations.
Living in a fallen world, often causes us to ask,
“Why are all these bad things happening?”
We must remember that the Heavenly King is still seated on his throne. He is working out his good plans and purposes, despite what circumstances may cause us to think.
We must remember that final release from suffering and evil is still coming.
We must remember to mind the gap.
PS What can we do about all the suffering while we live in the gap? One thing we can do is ask God to remember, to look, to see, to restore people to himself, and to renew (cf. Lamentations 5: 1, 21).