is this struggle killing you or growing you?

 Yesterday, we looked at how science tells us that our world has all the necessary conditions for species like Homo sapiens to survive and endure. But these conditions bring with them inherent difficulties and dangers. Our life on this planet requires oxygen and a warming sun and water, and we appreciate this, even though we recognize that people will get sunstroke and drown in the ocean. So, too, it seems that plate tectonics, and the earthquakes and tsunamis they cause, are a central requirement for life as we know it. Read Why we Need Natural Disasters.

The world is full of difficulties, struggles, and upheaval. Geologically, emotional, relational, and spiritual earthquakes. The Bible says it  says it this way:

We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship… (Romans 8:22-24)

The Fall of our planet and humanity’s sin nature has increased the severity of human suffering, but we still gain much from difficulties as creation groans. There is a plan for using suffering and earthquakes. This Christian apologetic is called theodicy. It states that our good and all-powerful Father God allows suffering in our lives.  Why?

WE NEED THINGS WHICH ARE PAINFUL IN OUR WORLD IF WE ARE TO FLOURISH AS PEOPLE.

For example, natural disasters and difficulties:

  • Remind us that we are not in control of all things
  • Provide moral instruction about life lessons, allowing us to see action and consequences
  • Help us turn our eyes toward God, our Steady Place
  • Allow us to better understand Jesus, our Suffering Savior
  • Refine our faith
  • Reveal our sins and weaknesses
  • Produce stability and resolve in us
  • Teach us to hope
  • Show us we need others in our lives, and draw people together
  • Give us opportunities to serve and love others
  • Refine and reveal our character

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SUFFERING CAN BE A “PROFITABLE” PART OF HUMAN LIFE.

Christian theologians like C. S. Lewis noted that much good can come out of human suffering. Lewis believed that God has made a “superior” world by allowing, using, and overcoming evil than if he had created an all-good, “silver spoon” world without evil. Almost every parent knows that a coddled and overprotected child does not grow and flourish completely. They become fearful, or selfish, or entitled adults. Kids need a reasonably safe environment, but also they need to experience skinned knees, failure, disappointment, and tearful rejection from a friend. So do the big kids like us.

The pain is real, but so is the growth. Difficulties and suffering allow the greatest human characteristics—like deep love, sacrifice for another, nobility, endurance, heroic effort, unquenchable persistence, teamwork, the ability to overcome, and unshakable faith–to develop and be demonstrated. We build stories which become formative legacies and then treasured memories. We inspire others when we suffer well and keep on fighting. For Christians, suffering has meaning.

“Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example that we should follow His steps.”  (1 Peter 2:21)

“May the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you.” (1 Peter 5:10)

The Apostle James says we will be rewarded with the crown of life (James 1:12). The Apostle Paul says we are joint heirs with Christ “if so be that we suffer with him, that we may also be glorified together with him.” He goes on to say, “the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed” (Romans 8:17-18). The Apostle Peter notes that suffering well can even bring glory to God! He writes:

God is keeping careful watch over us and the future. The Day is coming when you’ll have it all — life healed and whole. I know how great this makes you feel, even though you have to put up with every kind of aggravation in the meantime. Pure gold put in the fire comes out of it proved pure; genuine faith put through this suffering comes out proved genuine. When Jesus wraps this all up, it’s your faith, not your gold, that God will have on display as evidence of his victory.  (1 Peter 1:5-7)

Author Tim Keller writes,

Suffering can refine us rather than destroy us because God himself walks with us in the fire…If you have ever been on a coast in a storm and seen the waves come in and hit the rocks, sometimes the waves are so large that they cover a particular rock, and you think, “That is the end of that rock.” But when the waves recede, there it is still. It hasn’t budged an inch. A person who feels the “peace that passes understanding” is like that. No matter what is thrown at you, you know it will not make you lose your footing.

The bottom line is this: pain and struggle help shape humanity into more than a sedentary, risk-free world would. Without earthquakes and such, we could not become what God intended us to be—moral and free and growing sons and daughters of God.

Tomorrow, we will look at Moral Earthquakes.

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