Lenten Reflection–Part of the Promise

Mourning by Umberto Boccioni

Try to exclude the possibility of suffering which the order of nature and the existence of free-wills involve, and you find that you have excluded life itself.
We were promised sufferings. They were part of the program. We were even told, ‘Blessed are they that mourn.’
The real problem is not why some pious, humble, believing people suffer, but why some do not.
C.S. Lewis ~~writing on suffering

The assumption on the part of some is that life comes with a “no pain” guarantee. Anyone who has experienced or witnessed childbirth knows better. It all starts out with a push and a cry, not exactly the most comfortable moments for mother or baby. No one escapes suffering, no matter how strongly they believe in God. It is what we signed up for once we exited our mother’s womb.

How could an all-powerful all-knowing God allow suffering, especially in innocent children? This is a standard argument used against the existence of God. The reasoning is that there is abundant suffering in the world so therefore no God in control. Somehow the gospel reality is set aside: God allowed His own suffering and experienced real pain in order to defeat death on our behalf and to ensure an eternal union with Him.

He mourned. He wept. He hurt. He bled. He died. Just like us.

What all powerful all knowing God would do that? Our God would, because He is first and foremost a loving God who makes imperfection perfect again.

No, there isn’t a “no pain” guarantee –neither God nor even the natural world ever promised that. But only our God promises “no stain” –that we are washed clean for eternity by the blood He shed in suffering.

For that is our greatest comfort of all.

For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.
2 Corinthians 1:5

One thought on “Lenten Reflection–Part of the Promise

  1. “The assumption on the part of some is that life comes with a “no pain” guarantee.” The biggest challenge I face as a hospital chaplain is helping often very devout Christians who do all the right Christian things–attend worships, do all the volunteer service things, study the Bible, pray–to understand why their loved one has suddenly been laid low by injury or illness or struck down unexpectedly and shockingly by death. They’ve lived such good lives without any catastrophic pain or shocks in their lives and then can’t understand how God could do this to them or their loved one. Somehow they’ve missed in all their church and Christian life that God doesn’t inflict suffering on them or anybody else. I’ve been thinking lately on this insight I had: Christianity and the reality of the Gospels and what they teach us have been watered down since Peale’s “The Power of Positive Thinking” started seeping in and eventually flooding so many churches, especially in this prosperous country (and still so prosperous compared to the rest of the world despite this tough economic cycle). It seems we’ve reached a point where there is now this built-in assumption on the part of MANY, even Christians, that CHRISTIAN life comes with a no pain guarantee. Prosperity theology is huge now, making God into some kind of Santa Claus who grants all requests or some Life and Health Insurance Agent who has you covered. Just thinking out loud here. Hope all’s well, Dr. Em.


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