Why Do Good People Suffer?

I recently had the privilege of giving an apologetics talk on the problem of evil. I was asked to address the following question.

If your Jesus is so good, then why do good people suffer, and why does sin take control of the world, and why do the elderly get sick?

The mp3 can be found here: Why Do Good People Suffer?

The following slide may be helpful as you listen to the audio.

The Problem of Evil.jpg

More from the Fight of Faith:

7 Questions to get to the Heart of Any Worldview

The New Atheism’s Leap of Faith

Defending the Resurrection of Jesus: The Core Facts Approach

 

 

Advertisements

Sanctified Affliction Seldom Seems Sanctified

One of the great prayers from the Valley of Vision, a collection of old puritan prayers, says this, “No trial is so hard to bear as a sense of sin. If thou, oh Lord, should give me choice to live in pleasure and keep my sin, or to have them burnt away with trials, give me sanctified affliction.”

We see this idea of sanctified affliction throughout Scripture. We hear cries in the Bible that say, “Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep Your word,” and “It was good that I was afflicted so that I might learn Your statutes.” Many of us have gone through difficult times in our life, and it may not have been the direct result of sin, but when we come out of it, we see that the Lord has changed us for the better. He has removed some pride or some other sins with which we struggled, and He has drawn us closer to Him because of it.

img_1053-1

It is important for us to understand this idea of sanctified affliction, because if we do not know that God is doing something good in our life with affliction, we will be without hope. The sovereignty of God in our trials is a glorious truth we must comprehend, but when you are in the midst of sanctified affliction, it may not seem sanctified. In fact, it may feel like utter darkness.

If you find yourself there, this is where I want to encourage you. The Lord, for some reason, has seen fit to allow you to go through a dark and difficult time, but what you are seeing during this is more and more of your sinfulness. The deeper the trial seems to go, the deeper and more profound your sense of sin. Because of this you think, this cannot be sanctified affliction because sanctified affliction is supposed to be moving me forward in holiness, but I seem to be more and more awakened to my sinfulness in this trial.

I want to encourage you since that is precisely what we should expect because what the Lord is doing, is He is drawing the dross to the surface and bringing it to your attention. Before, when you were comfortable and at peace, all these areas of sin did not really bother you much, but now you cannot help but see them. When I have gone through times like this, God allowed me to see how sinful I was when I was comfortable, which was part of the trial. In reality, it was probably the darkest part of the affliction, but God was bringing the dross to the surface of my life to wipe it away.

If you are there, this is where you need to take heart. Our God is a good God. If you have confessed Him in faith and trusted in His sacrifice on the cross, He says, “You are mine. I will never leave you. I will never lose you.” Jesus is the perfect shepherd, and He makes no mistakes.

If you find yourself there, keep moving forward in obedience. You may not feel peace for quite some time, but take the advice of John Owen when he said, “See in the meantime that your faith brings forth obedience, and God in due time will cause it to bring forth peace.” At that point, you will find that your peace will be deeper than you ever imagined.

Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep your word. – Psalm 11:67

D. Eaton

Other Posts on God’s Work in Affliction

3 Reflections on Sickness and the Christian Life

Being laid up for three days gives you some time to think about your frailty. Day one was enough in itself, but when you expect to get better on day two, and it gets worse, it starts to lower your spirits.  Today, the third day, is the first day I have had enough strength to sit up and write, and I am even finding this exhausting. I only have a flu virus. I’m sure if anyone reading this has battled, or is battling, cancer or some other serious disease, they are shaking their head saying, “you have no idea.” I’m sure you could teach me more than I could you, but I will put my thoughts here regardless, in case someone finds them edifying. Here are three thoughts that have been going through my mind as I have been laid up.

1. Sin is Serious  

There would be no sickness if it were not for sin. The reason we have to deal with any of it is because we live in a fallen world. Let me be clear, I am not saying that anytime someone gets sick it is a result of some sin they have committed. What I am saying is that because sin has entered our world, there is sickness in general. I’ve seen sickness ravage the lives of some of my friends. I saw it once in a friend whose life was taken by a virus, that, for the last several weeks of his life, he lost all control of his body. Up until a couple of months earlier, he was physically fit and running every day.  I saw it in another friend who lost his life to cancer. These two examples are enough to show us that sickness is serious, and though I do not believe these two friends were suffering because of any particular sin in their lives, they were suffering because sin has ravaged our world.

What does this say to me? It says sin is dangerous in any form. We often play around with it like it is a tame pet, but in reality, it is a deceptive brutal killer. Every time I play around with sin, I am playing with the very thing that brought not only sickness but death into the world. We must stop taking it lightly.

2. We Are Not Our Own

This life is not our own. This is true for everyone, but for the Christian, it is true in two senses. First, it is true for everyone in the sense that life is a gift, and tomorrow is promised to no one. We should never take our health for granted. None of us know when our last day of feeling good may be. It can happen overnight, all of the things we take for granted can be taken away. We live in a culture that hates to be reminded of this. We often try to hide sickness and death-keeping it as far away from us as possible. Being mindful of our frailty, however, is a valuable thing. Even David cried out, “O LORD, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am! ( Psalm 39:4)” He wanted to be reminded that his life is a vapor: here today and gone tomorrow. There is a grace in knowing this, as it keeps our vision clear.  We must redeem the time. Our sinful hearts are pulling us in so many directions it is easy to get lost: to lose our center. So many things are vying for our attention, and much of it is vanity.

Once you are laid out on your back, you quickly realize just how unimportant many of the things you are pursuing are. Even if you know that your life is in no real danger, the questions still come. “What if this were it? What if my days of health were behind me? Was I spending it on what mattered?” The interesting thing about these questions is you would think the answers would make you speed up. Instead, they challenge you to slow down. So much of what we are chasing is vanity, and we don’t need to work so hard to have other people be impressed with us. We do not need to put on so many masks to make people believe we are something that we are not. In the end, none of that will matter. Our lives are not our own, and as much as we think we are, we are not in control of when or how it will end.

For the believer, there is a second sense in which our lives are not our own. We have been bought with at price: the cross of Jesus. Let that cost sink in for a moment. Remember what your Savior suffered to save you. Even knowing this, we rarely sacrifice our time for Him. As Thomas Watson put it, “Christ went more willingly to the cross than we do to the throne of grace.” We are so busy chasing the things that we think will bring us glory and pleasure that we have little time for the One who really can. We have hardly any time for the Word of God and even less time for prayer. The pursuit of holiness is rarely as enticing as chasing status in this world, and they are often opposed to one another, so it is impossible to go after both. The fact that we have little time for God tends to show us where our treasure is.

3. Suffering is Crucial to our Spiritual Health

The first two reflections leave me with one final thought on the role of Suffering in the Christian life. Suffering is essential to our spiritual health. If our Savior, who had no sin, had to suffer in this fallen world, how do we, who have sinful hearts think we will escape it. We should neither seek affliction nor run from it. As one theologian once said, “It will find us,” but when it does, it wakes us from our slumber. We are naturally drowsy and need to be frequently awakened. Not only do we begin to see the power of sin in these times, but we are also awakened to the suffering of others. It is not until we are comforted by the Lord in our times of suffering that we will be truly able to comfort others.

It is all coming to an end one day, and our health has not been promised to us. What are we doing with the time we have? I for one do not want to find myself on my deathbed saying, “I wish I would have spent more time living for my Savior, in His word, in prayer, and showing a suffering world that Jesus is the answer.” Sin, in general, and, in particular, is our greatest problem, and He bore it on the cross. He has even defeated death by rising again, and though we are sown perishable, we will be raised imperishable. I will live for Him. Everything else will be vanity on the last day, for the things of this world are passing away.

I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. – Philippians 3:8

D. Eaton

Trusting God With Your Greatest Fears

And as for me, if I am bereaved of my children, I am bereaved. – Genesis 43:14

Jacob had lost Joseph, or so he thought he had, and he was terrified of losing Benjamin as well.  So much so that we are told his whole life was bound up in Benjamin. If Benjamin were to die Jacob believed he would not survive either.

Even after years of being a man of great faith, fear still found a way to grip Jacob, and now a famine had hit the land. The only way the family was going to survive was if Benjamin would to go to Egypt to appease the man who had spoken harshly to Jacob’s other sons. Jacob’s hand was forced: send him or the entire family starves. The prospect of doing this terrified him.

It is at this point we see Jacob’s faith conquer the fear of losing Benjamin.  When Jacob says, “If I am bereaved of my children, I am bereaved,” it is as if he looked his greatest fear in the face and declared, “even if Benjamin, and possibly the other sons are taken away by this man in Egypt, God can still be trusted.” He seemed to realize that God’s ways are higher than his, and what He does is always good.

One of the great things about being a Christian, whose primary goal is to see God glorified, is that we know God can be glorified in times of both ease or pain. In fact, His glory is often more clearly seen in our times of struggle and frailty than when we think we are strong. What looks like failure can be the Lord’s hand guiding us to fulfill the desire of our heart: to see His name hallowed. Knowing this Jacob could resign to the fact that God could be trusted no matter what was to come.

It is interesting how anxiety can often be worse when the danger is not even present, yet when trouble actually comes, the Lord gives us the strength we need. Some have said that anxiety is fear looking for a cause. It swims around within us doing its work of pointing out all the possibilities of danger, then when it finds something that causes us to tremble, rational or not, it sinks its teeth in and won’t let go.

What is it that gives you the greatest fear? Is it illness, financial problems, loss of a loved one, or even something like loneliness? Maybe it is time to look at it directly in the face and say, “even it it all comes true it cannot touch my life, because my life is hidden in Christ.” Nothing in life or death can separate me from His love.

In the end, Jacob feared the man in Egypt, but the man in Egypt turned out to be Joseph, his son, who was seeking to bless him. Likewise, as believers, the troubles we fear can only touch us if the Lord allows them, and if He does so, it is only for a greater purpose. It is not until we understand that God is sovereign, and that He is working all things for the good of those who love Him, that we can look at our greatest fear and say, “come what may, God can be trusted.”  It is at that moment, when your faith in God wins the battle over fear, that you will find a peace that passes all understanding.

D. Eaton

Strength for the Weary

As I sat there I could feel my body trembling. It was as if it was having trouble supporting its own weight. I wondered if it would ever end. I knew I had felt like this many times before, and He always brought me through. The problem is the weakness of my body also has the tendency to bring down my spirits as well. I even felt the failures of my past as if they were fresh. I wondered where this was leading. What was the purpose of it all? My soul was starving, and I was desperately looking for something to give it strength.

As I sat there I was surrounded by people who had no idea how I was feeling. What they saw was a man in business attire who had just come from a day of work, and he had a smile on his face. What they didn’t know was that smile was forced, which can be both a bother and a blessing.

Then it happened, one of the people I was supposed to be leading read a passage of scripture, and six words burned in my ears. “He gives strength to the weary.” At that moment the Spirit illuminated that truth in my soul.  Even with my body still struggling to find its strength, my heart was lifted up with hope and comfort.  “He gives strength to the weary,” and I was weary: I qualified. The amazing thing is that the way He chose to do it was by simply reminding me of this truth in His word. It took no special mending of my body, nor did I need to be propped up with the things of this world.  He did it all with the power of His word. It is true, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” My soul was starving and it had found its nourishment.

I don’t know where you are, but if you are child of God through faith and you find yourself weary, worn, and ready to give up, I want to remind you that He gives strength to the weary. My prayer is that He is doing it right now: that He is using this devotion to infuse you with faith and fortitude.  Know this, one day you will look back on this situation, whether in this life or on the beautiful shores of eternity, and you will say, “He pulled me through. He gave me the strength I needed.” The One in whom you trust does not faint or grow weary, and His understanding is unsearchable.

He gives strength to the weary, and increases the power of the weak. – Isaiah 40:29

D. Eaton