LUCK, CHANCE AND ACCIDENT and THE CHRISTIAN

I used to be a strict Calvinist believing that God determines and wills everything that happens in this life. But I have come to understand that in life there is such a thing as accident and chance referred to by some as luck. Bad luck.

Wars, famines, disease, tsunamis, earthquakes, accidents and bad people cause things to happen that a loving Father would not ‘cause’. There’s a verse that I will paraphrase. Jesus is speaking to his disciples about bad things going on in the world and the danger they might be in for. It’s in Matthew 10. Jesus says, “Don’t be afraid of the planes that go off course or the bullet coming your way, or that illness that’s driving you mad. These things can torture you. They can kill the body but not the soul. The soul belongs to me. There is nothing that happens in your life by chance or designs where I am not involved with you. If you hurt I hurt. My image is in you and that image will not be destroyed.”

See, God can work in and through any circumstance in our lives to orchestrate some good, good according to God’s will. God’s will we might not understand while in our earthly bodies, but it is a will that is ultimately good. I think it is well to say that while we don’t understand God’s will, we understand the heart and purpose of God revealed in Jesus on the cross where he brings all God’s good purposes for humanity to fruition.

I have a good friend who died some years ago. His wife said that God had numbered all his days and my friend’s time had come. He suffered through cancer and died too young as many do. While the grief she felt was not a subject for theological debate nor was I going to argue with the Scripture she knew so well. Psalm 139. Though now I would suggest that the part of Psalm 139 about all our days being numbered might have been the Psalmist’s understanding of God’s sovereignty at that time.

When the disciples related to Jesus some tragic events where people were killed and they were wondering what those folks might have done wrong, Jesus replied to them that it was not their sin that caused the towers to fall but that the disciples should pay attention to their own lives and relationship to God. See Luke 13.

It was no one’s fault that a certain man was born blind but the disciples always wanted things explained and Jesus said it was nobody’s fault but in this instance Jesus healed the man and brought attention to the love of God. That love is not absent in other tragedies, no matter the belief, because Christ is there, crucified and taking that seeming separation, like his own on the cross, and bringing glory to bear on every situation. Wow I am sorry for that long sentence.

When I get onto an airplane I am taking very little chance with my life. But what chance there may be I will surrender to my God. I pray that when the time comes that I die or am dying I will surrender that to God. Perhaps with complaint but still in the presence of God. I will trust in the faithfulness of my Lord than in myself.

We all groan while on this earth. Some groaning is more evident than others. And when we see children suffering and dying we run to the Master to ask why this has to happen. There is a grief that only Christ can truly understand and redeem. He told his disciples that in this world they would have tribulation, problems untold, but that he had already overcome this travail through his own suffering and his presence.

There may even come a time when I want to forget God but now in my lucidity I want to pray that God never forgets me. And Christ is that assurance.

Yes, God does answer prayers and brings certain things to happen and prevents certain other circumstances. These answers are a constant reminder to us of God’s presence. And that is with our physical bodies. There are untold matters of healing of the soul and forgiveness of sin and reconciliation of the whole world to God that are worth celebrating too.

When God told Abraham to count the stars, if he could (Genesis 15), God was telling Abraham that the souls of all humanity would be blessed through what God was doing with Abe. That’s Good News.

So I want to make apology if my words in anyway seem to minimize God’s love or role in God’s creation. I rather want us to understand that this world turns WITH God, no matter how it seems. When I read of the unfathomable evil in this world I do not understand why it is allowed. But I trust the God who is able to overcome, and will do so for this world.

So let us go out and live, surely praying that God be with us, asking for help and thanking God that God so loved the world he gave his only Son. And if God gave us Jesus will God not give us everything we need to enter God’s Kingdom forever.

So if you are reading this and have experienced tragedy or know of suffering please be assured THAT NOT A SPARROW FALLS TO THE EARTH APART FROM THE PRESENCE OF GOD. And in the words of the old gospel hymn,” if his eye is on the sparrow then I know he’s watching me.”

One final anticipation of some protest. There are many passages in the Bible that indicate God as the cause of EVERYTHING. There is some of that perspective but we have to put them all together and use the minds and hearts God gave us to search God’s heart. Our spirits and God’s spirits can do this together.

Will anything ever separate us from the love of God? NOT A CHANCE.

I CHOOSE GRACE

Why does God choose to work in our weaknesses rather than in our strengths? Does God want to show us who is boss? Does God have a pride problem? Does God perhaps want to humiliate us for our sin? Is God himself weak?

No. It’s because God cannot develop a relationship with his creation if we think we are strong enough to succeed by ourselves. That’s what happened in the Garden a long time ago. And it’s what happens whenever and wherever humans build their own egos (their territorial walls) against the love of another, in this case God.

God wants to love us and love is best enjoyed when neither lover is a bully or egotist.

God has already demonstrated his own weakness and vulnerability in Jesus. That’s what the incarnation is all about. Not only does God live with us but God loves with us and suffers with us in order to give love a fertile ground in which to thrive. See, God’s grace can only flourish in weakness. It’s the law of God’s universe and God’s salvation and restoration of humankind. And while much suffering is unthinkable and unbearable it is the only path of love in this world and God wants love enough that God gives freedom even to evil and greed on this journey. Certainly God can work all things to the good for those who understand this but unfortunately not many do. And God will not force his love on us or coerce us to love him. That would be abusive and meaningless.

In 2 Corinthians 12:9 God tells Paul that God’s love is sufficient/enough for Paul’s needs in the midst of Paul’s own suffering. And through it Paul will develop more understanding of God’s love in this world. It will be the kind of love that will develop community and form a bride for the living Christ. And through Paul’s own suffering God will develop a character that God can trust with his powerful love and restoration of this creation.

It’s as though God is letting the EGO of this world be ‘lost’ in order to be ‘found’ again.

There are a great many trees in our contemporary Gardens of Eden. And if we could we would choose them over God and make our own way. But creation doesn’t work that way. It is been arranged that we NEED each other. We love each other. We care for each other. And without suffering there would be only self-sufficiency.

Fortunately the tree is now inaccessible and unavailable try as we might to find it or grow our own.

Before the tree there was only love. Now through Christ love, eternal love, has been restored. Through the poverty of Christ our lives have been enriched. There is a choice now: self-sufficiency or grace. I CHOOSE GRACE.

WHO’S IN CHARGE HERE?

Forget the tweets and twitters. Never mind the election scandals. And fear not the terror that stalks by day or night. There is only one power and authority that is holding this earth and we its inhabitants together. That power is love. And love has a name. Jesus.

In Colossians 2:10 we read that Christ is the head over every power and authority and holds everything together. (Colossians 1:17)

No matter how it appears the Kingdom of God has arrived in fullness in Christ at his death and resurrection. It’s for all of us. It’s for you folks who even do not believe this. It’s not fake news. It has the highest reliability. It’s news that can be trusted. Listen we’ve had it, most of us, with the current news real or not. We need some good news and here it is. No matter who you are or what you have been or the doubts you have about the world or yourself you can know for certain that you are part of this Kingdom family that God has set up on this earth. God’s grace makes that possible and each step of faith brings us into his realm, where he and no other authority rule.

It’s not escapism. In fact living with Christ will place us solidly in the realm of love in this world. Heaven begins here. God’s influence is here.

Christ’s reign is not a dictatorial power but rather a strong disarming influence over the whole creation. It was love that held Jesus to the cross to remove the blindness of sin from the world so that more and more people would come under the sway of his heart changing love.

Even at this moment, in ways I don’t fully understand Christ is in the process of reconciling this world, this creation back to God. The towers of Babel are falling. Empires are tumbling. The stranded arks are finding dry land. The covenant that was made with Abraham is being fulfilled. Those who have sat in darkness are finally having light shine on them.

Death, terror and heartache abound but these are not the final words for this world. God won’t allow that for his beloved creation. Yes, suffering must be addressed but in the light of Christ not in a faithless void. No earthly power has the final say. No, the final words are from Jesus who tells us to fear not because the Father has given us the Kingdom. (Luke 12:32)

Five hundred years ago Martin Luther by the grace of God stood against the earthly powers to proclaim the realm and reality of Christ. He lived amidst danger, emperors, threats and plagues. But give a look to some of the words he wrote from his famous hymn, ‘A MIGHTY FORTRESS IS OUR GOD’.

‘And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us;
The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure,
One little word shall fell him.

That word above all earthly pow’rs, no thanks to them, abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours through Him Who with us sideth;
Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also;
The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still,
His kingdom is forever.’

God in our Sufferings

Martin Luther once suggested that the deepest revelation of the character of God is in the weakness, suffering and death on the cross.

This is the exact opposite of where humanity expected to find God. Even today some Christians expect to find God in the success of economics or the victory over such enemies as the leaders of North Korea.  Such was the expectation of the people of God in the first century. But it was not to be, at least not with Messiah Jesus.

Two verses stand out to me. One is where Paul tells the early church that most importantly he wants them to know “Christ crucified” 1Corinthians 2:2. And I am thinking of the other place where Paul, in the midst of his own suffering, hears from God, “My grace is sufficient for you. My strength is made perfect in your weakness” 2Corinthians 12:9.

So it got me to thinking. We are looking in all the wrong places for answers to our own suffering, for making sense of our sufferings and even our weaknesses. Christ on the cross is in the sufferings of the world. Look how the prophet writes it, “Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows,” Isaiah 53:4. Stop there. Christ on the cross is literally carrying within himself the sorrows of the world and not only that but also our sins (in the next verse). That whole chapter is filled with the sufferings of the Christ and it’s in those places of weakness that Christ is in most intimate contact with us and we with him.

The prophet even writes at one point that what was seen was a Messiah being despised and rejected, not a victorious King. Even in the book of Revelation when Christ is referred to as the Lion of Judah, John turns and sees not the King of Beasts but rather “a lamb that appeared as though slain” (Revelation 5). This is the Christ who identifies with this suffering world.

And I believe that the Christ who suffered is the Father, Son, and Spirit all uniting with the world in its suffering, even now during these devastating hurricanes and their aftermath. It’s in the pain of the world that our Lord bears with us. We cannot speak of the ‘glory of the Lord’ without the ‘Christ crucified’. Love, the feeling as well as the knowledge, is most manifest in weakness. It’s what unites Christ with us and we with him. Certainly there is love in joy and happiness, and lots of money (just kidding). But look what happened to Christ on the cross as he died. He surrendered his soul, his spirit to his Father. “Father into thy hands I commit my spirit” Luke 23:46. And the Revolution and Restoration of the world began. God working in the rubble of the tragedy of that day in the most loving way our God chooses to work.

The other day I was in what might be called ‘existential despair’. In other words, I was feeling crappy about life, things that were happening or not happening. My wife could tell, probably by the way I walked past her with my head hung down and muttering to myself. Well, the next morning upon awakening I prayed fervently just to surrender to God with the sense that my life was in God’s hands. I got up with a sense of connectedness to God and later got a big hug from my wife and life seemed different, better. C.S. Lewis writes that while God whispers to us in our pleasures, God shouts to us in our pain. I guess that means that we are more open to God’s voice in our sufferings although I think it was Elijah who most clearly heard God through a ‘whisper’. (Elijah was in a dark place in those days.)

It was the quietness on Golgotha that captured the attention of the world, when a ‘slain’ lamb changed our relationship with God. God was in ‘that Christ’ reconciling the world to God’s own being. I am pretty sure that God is reconciling the WHOLE WORLD but blessed are those who know it.

I am not a fan of weakness and sorrow nor is God. Perhaps that’s why Christ takes it into himself, not just once but until there is a new heaven and hearth. He is telling us of his love for us. He could not escape the tragic death of the cross because we cannot escape the sorrows of our own lives.

Pascal once wrote that Jesus would be in agony until the end of the world. That is so that every one of us can know that Jesus won’t rest as long as he is bearing in his own soul, the soul of God, our particular sorrows, sin and sufferings. We are ‘in Christ’ in the most organic and intimate sense.

 

Message for Roseburg

If I were a pastor in that little community of Roseburg, Oregon or any community that is connected to the people there here is what I would want to say:

Let’s stay with Jesus for a while. Let’s not hurry on even to a sense of victory. The resurrection is muted. We just need to stay with Jesus. Look at his body, the blood, his tears. See his weakness on that cross. Don’t turn away with some easy answer to the senseless tragedy. No, stay with Jesus. Each one of these lives, these precious souls whose death has pierced their loved ones hearts, belongs to Jesus, the Jesus who suffers with each aching heart.

Don’t rush to change laws right now. Don’t rush to blame. Don’t rush to judgment. Just stay with Jesus.

Don’t rush to revenge. Leave that to the Lord. There was none of that on Good Friday. They just stayed with Jesus, cried with Jesus, and something in each of them died with Jesus just as something in all of us dies with these young men and women, their families and communities right now. They stood for Jesus. Jesus stands with them. Their hurt is his continuing pain. Don’t rush to find the end just yet. Believe right where you are, right where your heart breaks right not. If you need to doubt or rage against heaven, go ahead because heaven knows how to bear our doubt, disbelief or uncontrollable anger. Heaven has been here before.

Just stay with Jesus right now. That’s right. Where their blood poured out it is mingled with the blood of Jesus. That word ‘Jesus’ right now is the only word we can speak.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer once said, ONLY A SUFFERING GOD CAN HELP NOW. May each of our hearts find a place where that suffering God can rest for a while.

OPTIMISM

There is an ethos throughout the Bible of optimism, of seeing and believing the best, a sense of knowing that this universe is in good hands, that we are in good hands. How does the Bible say it? ‘Underneath us are the everlasting arms.’ (Deut. 33:27) As God provided for the Israel nation he provides for his creation. He establishes us as his people. He has given us his word to light our path and his son to bring us into a new covenant through the sacrifice of Christ.
We could look at this world of ours and find plenty of reason to be despondent, and hopeless except for the return of Christ but I dare say that even in this life, the now life, our God is with us. He who cares for the birds and flowers has promised  to care for you and me.
If heaven were our only goal then Jesus could have announced it to Adam and Eve and saved a lot of human history. But God was and is and will be looking for humans to grow into relationship with him in order to share in his eternal life as the trinity. This world is the training ground for eternal life. Some are spared this training by the will of God and some endure a living hell but the thing to remember is that God knows how it all turns out to our good. And that truth gives us hope and a confidence to live each day with God. Living with God is the most optimistic way to endure and even thrive.
Read what a man in World War II has to write:

By Jürgen Moltmann

“This was the saving experience of my life. It was 1944, at the end of World War II. As a boy of 18 years, I was drafted into the German army. In February 1945, I was taken prisoner of war and spent more than three years behind barbed wire in Belgium, Scotland and England. April 1948, I was repatriated.

At the beginning of my imprisonment, I felt completely Godforsaken. I lost all hope; all interest in life faded away. The dark night of the soul came upon me and I felt that last temptation of all who are imprisoned, to give myself up–to die the death of the soul first, and then to the death of the body. 

My turn from this sickness unto death to new hope and new life came about through two things: first through the Bible, and then through the kindness of the Scottish workers and their families towards the prisoners, their former enemies. At the end of 1945, a well-meaning British army chaplain visited our camp and distributed Bibles to the prisoners. Because I came from a secular family in Hamburg, this was the first Bible in my life. Some of us wondered and would rather have had a few cigarettes. I started reading without much interest until I stumbled on the Psalms of lament. Psalm 39 held me spellbound:

“I was dumb with silence, I held my peace and my sorrow was stirred. I have to eat up my suffering within myself. My lifetime is as nothing in Thy sight. I am a stranger with Thee, and a sojourner, as all my fathers were.”

They were words of my own heart and they called my soul to God. Later I read the Gospel of Mark. When I came to the story of the passion and read Jesus’ death cry, “My God, why have you forsaken me,” I knew with certainty, “This is the One who understands you.” I began to understand the assailed Jesus because I felt that He understood me in my God-forsakenness; He is the divine Brother in distress, who takes the prisoners with Him on the way to resurrection and life. I began to summon up the courage to live again, seized by a great hope. This early fellowship with Jesus, the Brother in suffering and the Redeemer from guilt, has never left me since. I am sure that there and then, in the dark pit of my soul, He found me. Jesus’ Godforsakenness on the cross showed me where God is in my forsakenness, where He had been in my life before, and would be in the future. The suffering God saved me in my sufferings.”

This is the reason for optimism, because Jesus has been there and is there for us. Jesus leads the way and lends the hand to each one of us. Jesus turns the atheist into a friend of God. Jesus reconciles the enemies of God.

We have not trusted Jesus enough. Not given him the chance he died to have in our lives. He is not just the Savior who somehow gets us into heaven but he is the Lord of life who lives his life with us moment by moment. He gives us a new heart, new eyes, a new ethic and a new way to live each day.

He still brings healing and hope because he is the Lord of this whole creation. I didn’t say a church was or any doctrine but Jesus himself. It’s impossible to read his words and not understand that he ‘has our backs’ as they say.

WE HAVE BEEN LIED TO

 

Call it Satan, evil, powers of darkness or even ‘the secular world’. There is a lie out there that says God doesn’t intimately love or care for his creation particularly his children. It is a lie initiated in the ‘garden’ when Adam and Eve were told there was something more, something better than God. It is a lie perpetuated by people today who point to events in the world, atrocities, natural disasters, disease and humanity’s inhumanity to one another and say this can’t happen under the watch of a good God or a powerful God. It is a lie that would turn our eyes away from God and turn our hearts to the affection of others and other things. It has all the markers of the ‘accuser’ who wants to thwart God’s people away from confident, trust and praise to God. It is an evil from the pit of hell that tried even to distract Jesus from his purpose on Earth when he was in the wilderness faced by satanic forces, tempted to think that God some how doesn’t know how to restore earth, or has left earth on its own.

God’s greatest power is love and he will do anything to convey that love to his creation. He will even allow his creation to groan in order that people will seek and find him. He is near to the brokenhearted not the proud. The lie tells us to be strong in ourselves, to pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps, to do it our way because we can’t trust the one we can’t see. Jesus says blessed are you who do not see and yet believe.

God is faithful, loving, gracious, kind and every other characteristic we see in Jesus. God is also holy and God knows God’s plans for us and he will not be thwarted to change to accommodate humanity’s egoistic desires. God is happy with his creation because he knows how this whole thing is turning out for our good and his glory. God is saddened by the death of his creation for God’s loving heart is the origin of the love we feel for those who suffer, for a creation, which suffers.

God is good which means that his virtue is impeccable, without sin. Jesus came to prove amidst suffering and sinfulness that God intends good for his creation and will go to any lengths to bring us into community with him now and for all eternity. In some respects we can no more understand the goodness and love of God than a child in the womb can fathom what a parent’s care will be like. The Apostle Paul writes to one of the churches saying that he longs for Christ to be formed in them with all the pains and groaning of a mother giving birth to a child. (Galatians 4:19)

It’s like that with suffering. Until we grasp Christ ‘in us’ we cannot know the complete love of the Father. When Christ dwells inside of us we will know God like Jesus knew his Father, even when Jesus was in agony and felt forsaken and was dying. There is a verse in Colossians which says that Christ being in us is the hope of glory.’ Colossians 1:27.  That means that the life of Christ in us will allow us to see the radiance, splendor, joy and salvation of God.

Now, don’t expect that such revelations happen easily. It is a journey of a lifetime to discover the Christ in you and me. It is a journey worth the taking. We have seen others take that journey, a path that often leads through suffering, that of our own or watching the agony of loved ones or even from a distance seeing it in the world but it is a journey that God places us on when we place our confidence in him. He is doing the work of forming Christ in us as our own will allows. He will not force. His love is patient and long-suffering and there will be times when we feel left alone, angry, shamed but He promises to allow us to see the glory, maybe a glimpse here and there, maybe a flash of insight, a moment of forgiveness, maybe a radiant burst of light that overcomes all darkness. But it will come. He will not leave us nor forsake us. The history of faithful Christians bears that witness. And when the life of Christ grows ever more present in us we will become like him, we will live his life in this world. We will say like the Apostle Paul, ‘it is no longer I who live this life but Christ living in me.’(Galatians 2:20)

It will be sometimes a tortuous journey, sometimes exhilarating but it moves forward, onward, and upward. It is an eternal journey, which begins now.

 

SAFE

I can’t remember the setting but I heard Dallas Willard once say that we live in a Safe Universe. Luther termed it a ‘world with devils filled’ and we each know personally or know of all matters of sin, disease, persecution, hunger, slavery, injustice and the list goes on with the kinds of maladies and misfortunes that most of us could hardly call safe.

So what does a Safe Universe mean or even look like? I looked up one definition which was ‘protected from or not exposed to danger or risk; not likely to be harmed or loss’. Willard suggested that safe means this universe is in God’s hands. He holds it, sustains it, guides and ultimately will make it brand new in such a way that all danger, tragedy and sorrow will be absent. Paul writes in that chapter that all his sufferings, persecutions and maladies are considered nothing when compared with the glory that will be revealed when we are with God. Paul earned the right to make that comment after all he had been through and would subsequently endure. But why can we consider the universe a safe place right now?

Willard directs our attention to the eighth chapter of the Book of Romans, where first of all Paul writes that there is no condemnation for any person who is ‘in’ Christ, who places their confidence in Jesus. That person is safe from the ultimate harm of being separated from God. And then later in that chapter we read that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. Nothing. And one other comment Paul makes is that God is working everything out in this universe for some good purpose. I like the way C.S. Lewis once remarked on this passage of Romans 8:28. God works all things together for good but he has not told us just how painful this good might be.

Then if I may turn to Jesus who said that in this world we would have TRIBULATION but he then said FEAR NOT FOR I HAVE OVERCOME THE WORLD. There are things that this world in its fallen state will throw at us including the wiles of Satan himself but Jesus tells us that in him we are victorious. The world’s evil cannot thwart the victory of faith so graphically portrayed through Christ’s death and resurrection. You and I are so valuable and thus the church, the bride of Christ is so valuable, that he will guard us in such a way that no evil will overcome us meaning ultimately turn us from God or keep us away from his love. Are we not worth more than the birds of the air that God cares for? So what happens when all this teaching is just too hard to hear when we are suffering? I say trust a community of faithful Christians and the grace of God to do in you what you cannot do for yourself.

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Freedom

Romans 8:21  ‘that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.’ ESV

Here’s my take on what Paul is writing in these verses. Yes, creation is groaning. The world is groaning but one day it will experience the same freedom and new life that the children of God are experiencing today.
This is the reality of the Kingdom of God. The creation will take its cue from those who enter the Kingdom of God right now. Jesus said that the truth will set us free if we stay connected to him and to his word.(John 8)  It is the only way to be free of the shackles with which this world wants to imprison us. In John 16 Jesus tells his disciples that while in the world there will be tribulation we don’t have to be afraid because Jesus has overcome the world. Overcome in the sense that darkness and death do not have the final world. Fear is not the final word. The word of God in Jesus is the final word. The Kingdom of God is the final word. Resurrection is the final word. LIFE is the final word.

Jesus said to a hurting world that he had come to give life abundant (John 10) which means that we are fully embraced into the love of God by the words and works of Jesus.
We are free. Really. No matter what scene the cosmic powers of darkness may put before you eyes, God places the life and light of Jesus before us so that as we look into him we may experience the glory, the radiance of our God. And as Paul will later write, ‘if God is for us who can be against us.’ So, children of God, let’s set a good example to help free this creation from its bondage to decay.
That’s like a New Year’s resolution- if you are into that sort of thing. My life will not be darkened by the world but will rather be that light set on a hill, light that comes from the glory of God.

SUFFERING

Someone once said that suffering is getting what you don’t want and not getting what you do want. Suffering is loss. It comes in many forms and even as you read this I am sure you can think right now of something in your life or in the life of someone you love that qualifies under the heading of suffering. The origin in Latin has the sense of ‘bearing under the weight of something.’ Such burdens seem often unbearable. Grief is the body’s mechanism for distancing us from being absolutely crushed by the burden we experience.

According to Scripture suffering is sometimes permitted by God as we read in the Book of Job. Suffering is sometimes seen to be caused directly by God, as was the case with Pharaoh or with the disobedient people of Israel. But come the New Testament and we seein this new age a vision of God who is in the process of alleviating suffering through the coming of his Kingdom in the presence of Jesus, his Son.

Jesus doesn’t answer the question of suffering except to show its demise through miracles of healing that are signs of the coming of God’s Kingdom. The resurrection of Jesus demonstrates the end of death and evil ultimately.

Paul writes in Romans 8 that suffering comes into all the creation and that creation will one day be liberated and this liberation can be seen in the faith and hope of believers even now. And of course we all have the opportunity to alleviate some suffering. We are commanded through love to minister to one another and to the world. See Matthew 25.

And we come to understand that Jesus is the face of a good and gracious God. The Scriptures say, “God commanded light to shine in the dark.” Now God is shining in our hearts to let you know that his glory is seen in Jesus Christ. 2Cor. 4:6

This good work of God is displayed in Christ, his life, his teaching, death and resurrection and promised coming. We are invited to know and understand this work. We cannot thrive on emotions, which are fickle. We live on faith that is based upon knowledge. In 2Peter 3 we are encouraged to grow in grace and in knowledge.

Suffering is a reality. It hurts like hell. But the Kingdom of God life bathes this world in an overwhelming reality that Christ is even now conquering the evil that suffering might think to do in our lives.

We don’t need to go to the school of suffering. Most of us are in that school right now or have been or will be. But we do need to go to the school of Christ and learn Christ, learn his dealings with pain and suffering, learn his love and the goodness of his Father.