Thoughts on Death and Suffering

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1 Thoughts on Death and Suffering Prayer/Introduction A Promise! Through the years I have experienced my share of troubled time all of us have. It is one of the liabilities of living in this world. During those times there are several verses in Isaiah 40 and 41 that have been a great comfort to me. There have been times in my life when, for weeks at a time, these were the only passages of Scripture that I read and meditated on. Don t you know? Haven t you heard? The ETERNAL, the Everlasting God, the Creator of the whole world, never gets tired or weary. His wisdom is beyond understanding. God strengthens the weary and gives vitality to those worn down by age and care. Young people will get tired; strapping young men will stumble and fall. But those who trust in the ETERNAL ONE will regain their strength. They will soar on wings as eagles. They will run never winded, never weary. They will walk never tired, never faint. (Isaiah 40:28-31, the Voice) I am the LORD your God. I am holding your hand, so don t be afraid. I am here to help you. (Isaiah 41:13, CEV) In the past two week we have experienced as many deaths in our congregation. Evelyn, who was in her mid-90s died nearly two weeks ago we held her memorial service here last Sunday. And, Luke, who was in his mid-40s, was killed in a car accident last Wednesday his memorial service will be this Monday, 1:00 pm, also here in our church. All death is a reminder that we live in an imperfect, sinful world. It brings such suffering because death was not a part of the original plan; we were not made to deal with it. And, while we have the comfort of knowing that one day death will be done away with and all those who loved and accepted Jesus will be raised to never experience it again; we live today we have to somehow deal with today s loss and pain. Questions All death raises questions, but especially a death like Luke s. We wonder why such a thing would happen to someone who has lived to honor and serve God. Why would this happen to someone that others depended on for love and support? Why weren t the circumstance altered, even just a little bit, by a God that we believe is all-powerful and is full of love? We could go on, I m sure I have barely touched on the questions that many are struggling with. Sometimes we feel guilty because we have these questions. We somehow feel that asking them, even in our hearts, betrays a lack of trust in God. We feel that God is offended by them and that we must put up a brave front so as to not lead others away from trusting and loving Him.

2 At prayer meeting each Wednesday evening we have been reading our way through the book of Psalms we are working on Psalm 78. If I have learned anything from our studies, it is that questions are okay God is not afraid of our questions, nor is He offended by them. How long, O ETERNAL ONE? How long will You forget me? Forever? How long will You look the other way? How long must I agonize, grieving Your absence in my heart every day? Turn back; respond to me, O ETERNAL, my True God! Put the spark of life in my eyes, or I m dead. (Psalm 13:1-3, the Voice) My God, my God, why have You turned Your back on me? Your ears are deaf to my groans. O my God, I cry all day and You are silent; my tears in the night bring no relief. (Psalm 22:1-2, the Voice) My prayers rise before You with every new sun! Why do You turn Your head and brush me aside, O ETERNAL ONE? Why are You avoiding me? My helpless soul has suffered Your silent horrors; now I am desperate. Your rage spills over me like rivers of fire; Your assaults have all but destroyed me. They surround me like a flood, rising throughout the day, closing in from every direction. You have taken from me the one I love and my friend; even the light of my acquaintances are darkness. (Psalm 88:13-18, the Voice) These questions were not asked in private, but were woven into these prayers used in public worship. This tells us that it is right for us to take our questions, whatever they are to God. We don t have to get control of our anger or frustration first, we don t have to make sure our motives are pure, we don t have to express them in politically correct language we just need to take them to God! Many Answers are Beyond our Understanding Many of the questions asked in the book of Psalms remained unanswered we only see that God will make everything right in the end. For many questions there are no answers we will understand this side of eternity. God sees and understands things from an eternal perspective; we don t even understand what that means. A couple of weeks ago we tried to wrap our minds around a small part of eternity, just one billion years. If we compare the length of our lives just to that part, it is a miniscule amount. For someone who lives to be 80, their life is % of a billion; for someone who lives to be 50, their life is % of a billion; and, for someone who only lives to be 13, their life is % of a billion. I m not even sure how to say these numbers. Compared to a billion, however long we live here is next to nothing compare it to eternity and I can t even begin to wrap my mind around it. A billion in terms of eternity is like one grain of sand to all the beaches in the world and that s only the start.

3 Yet, the importance of the small amount of eternity we spend here is huge what we do with it determines if we will get to enjoy eternity or if we will miss out. If we try to look at life here for a moment from God s perspective it is not hard to understand that He sees things differently than we do. He has an urgency about our lives and our connection with Him that few of us share. He makes choices and directs events in ways that we cannot even hope to understand. In the book of Job we get a behind the scenes look at this thing we call the Great Controversy, the battle for our allegiance. We see that Satan is the real cause of suffering. Much of the book records Job and his three friends trying to answer the questions raised by Job s suffering. In the end we find out they were all wrong they didn t have a clue. Job was the closest, knowing that his suffering was not a punishment for his wrong doing and that his only hope was to serve and honor God. When God came into the picture, He didn t answer their questions He simply pointed out that their answers were all wrong; what was happening was beyond their comprehension. This is why so many questions remain unanswered. There is no way God can make us understand because we are bound by our experiences with life which are so small in comparison to the universe and eternity. What Can We Understand? But, there are some things we can understand; some things God has made clear. We can understand that God is acquainted with suffering firsthand. It s not just something He observes and guesses it must hurt it is something He has experienced. Jesus willingly left Heaven and came to this world. He was born into a poor family. His earthly father died when He was a young man. He spent His life serving others, demonstrating what a life completely committed to God, His Father, looked like. While here, He was misunderstood, ridiculed, deserted, betrayed, arrested unjustly, tortured and killed. God the Father had to watch without intervening those of you who are parents; is it possible to watch your child be mistreated and hurt without suffering yourself? And why would God and Jesus go through that? They did it because they love each of us and are not willing to give us up without a fight. For God expressed His love for the world in this way: He gave His only Son so that whoever believes in Him will not face everlasting destruction, but will have everlasting life. (John 3:16, the Voice) When the time was right, the ANOINTED ONE died for all of us who were far from God, powerless, and weak. Now it is rare to find someone willing to die for an upright person, although it s possible that someone may give up his life for one who is truly good. But think about this: while we were wasting our lives in sin, God revealed His powerful love to us in a tangible display the ANOINTED ONE died for us. (Romans 5:6-8, the Voice)

4 Because of Jesus life and death here, we can know without a doubt that God loves us. Whatever other questions we may have, this is one that was answered clearly on Calvary. We can trust His heart of love. We often will not understand why things happen as they do but we can know God understands our feelings, our pain, our hurt and He will walk with us through every dark and painful experience we have! I am the LORD your God. I am holding your hand, so don t be afraid. I am here to help you. (Isaiah 41:13, CEV) And there is one other thing that we can be certain of God asks us, His people, to be His physical presence comforting and loving those who suffer. Many times we feel that God is distant, we don t feel His love and presence. Could it be that is more our fault than God s? Could it be that we, as His people, have missed His promptings to love and support each other? My loved ones, let us devote ourselves to loving one another. Love comes straight from God, and everyone who loves is born of God and truly knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is the embodiment of true love: not that we have loved God first, but that He loved us and sent His unique Son on a special mission to become an atoning sacrifice for our sins. So, my loved ones, if God loved us so sacrificially, surely we should love one another. No one has ever seen God with human eyes; but if we love one another, God truly lives in us. (1 John 4:7-12, the Voice) What Now? Will we understand everything that happens in our world? Will we always be able to explain why? No, but we can always choose to bring our questions, our frustrations, our anger, our pain all our questions to God. Jesus said: Come to Me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Put My yoke upon your shoulders it might appear heavy at first, but it is perfectly fitted to your curves. Learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble of heart. When you are yoked to Me, your weary souls will find rest. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30, the Voice) We can choose to trust God s heart of love. We can trust that He will make everything new in its time. If we hang on to Him, we will outlive the sin and pain of life as we know it here on earth and experience life as it was designed by God in the beginning life free from pain, suffering, and trouble living close to the One who loves us more than He loved His own life; and reunited with those we love! And we can choose to reach out to those around us, demonstrating to them the reality of God s love. We can invite them to look at Jesus and to share in this wonderful gift of God s love and grace. We can point towards an incredible eternity and ask them to join us in the journey! One of the most incredible promises in Scripture is found in Romans 8:28:

5 We know that God makes all things work together for the good of those who love Him and are chosen to be a part of His plan. (Romans 8:28, New Life Version) It s not saying that everything that happens to us is good. It is saying that God is the master of taking all the junk of our lives our mistakes, our suffering, our pain, our losses and building something good, something beautiful, something wonderful out of them. All those things that Satan throws our way with the intent of hurting us, God will use to bring good into our lives. Jesus also said: I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. (John 16:33, NIV) There is no question that life here is tough. But there is no doubt that God has a better place in mind. He wants you and me there, along with everyone else. He invites us to live connected to Him and to help others find that same connection. His love and His final victory is sure, His death and resurrection guaranteed both! Listen carefully, and you will be able to hear Jesus say to you, personally: I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. (John 16:33, NIV) Closing Song/Benediction What a Friend We have in Jesus (#499) 1. What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear! What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer! Oh, what peace we often forfeit, oh, what needless pain we bear, All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer! 2. Have we trials and temptations? Is there trouble anywhere? We should never be discouraged take it to the Lord in prayer. Can we find a friend so faithful, who will all our sorrows share? Jesus knows our every weakness; take it to the Lord in prayer. 3. Are we weak and heavy-laden, cumbered with a load of care? Precious Savior, still our refuge take it to the Lord in prayer. Do thy friends despise, forsake thee? Take it to the Lord in prayer! In His arms He ll take and shield thee, thou wilt find a solace there.

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