How should I look at my experience with a stroke? My recovery has been excellent, but the truth that I had a stroke still stands. It’s disturbing.
I come face to face with the age old question: If there is a God, and if he is good and all powerful, why does he allow such evil?
Often, without anything better, we Christians mumble some vague answer or spout a convenient verse. Not terribly helpful.
Timothy Keller’s book, Walking with God Through Pain and Suffering, offers some clear thinking. It begins with a picture of attitudes toward suffering in different world views and religious systems summarized as follows:
Moralistic Transcendent Fatalistic Dualistic Secular Karma Buddhism Islam Marxism
Cause Wrongdoing Illusion Destiny Cosmic conflict Accident
Response Do good Detachment Endurance Purified faithfulness Technique
Resolution Eternal bliss Enlightenment Glory Triumph of Light Society
From Keller’s Walking with God Through Pain and Suffering, p. 28
Keller writes, of these common views of suffering, “Buddhism says accept it, karma says pay it, fatalism says heroically endure it, secularism says avoid it or fix it.” (Keller, p. 30). We see the secular attitude toward suffering on display in our culture in every way. When an accident happens, someone must be blamed. Lawsuits are filed to ensure payment. Laws must be passed to make sure it doesn’t happen again. We strain to control, to limit risk, to protect comfort and happiness at great cost.
Still, people suffer.
Christianity has a much better answer. It promises that everything has a good purpose, that our trials and challenges are for our good and God’s glory, and that it’s all possible because of Jesus Christ and his…suffering.
The One who allows suffering in this world surrendered to it himself. The One who faithfully walks with us through our suffering endured his alone. The One who calls us to suffer in his name suffered first for our sake.
Jesus’ painful trial was not the end of the story. The One who died for our sins rose to life in complete victory over evil, and he promises that we will also rise again to live forever in perfect wholeness.
A biblical view of suffering does not minimize it or glorify it or deny it or try to control it; it simply admits it and submits to it when it happens.
That doesn’t make our tough spots any less painful, but it offers us great strength and hope through them.
That is the frame I must use. I’ll do my best.
Which frame do you use?
“…but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit whom his had given us.” Romans 5:3-5