Friday, 9 October 2015


¶ Therefore let those who suffer according to God's will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.
First Peter 4:19
I was recently invited into a Public Secondary College to give a talk on Cosmology - more precisely, the Cosmological Argument For The Existence of God. When it came time to the Q&A I was expecting some pseudo-intellectual objections to my presentation. But what they all asked surprised me.  
And now we call the arrogant blessed. Evildoers not only prosper but they put God to the test and they escape.
Malachi 3:15
Now that I think about it, this class of teens listened intently to what I had to say. As much as I'd like to tell you I have a way of captivating teenagers and holding their attention to 90 minutes, I can't. Their attentiveness was flattering but unusual. Then the teacher threw it open for questions. I had prepped up on as much astronomical data as I could muster, so I was armed, ready, and dare I say it, dangerous. But then came their questions.

"Why do bad things happen to good people?" "But why would God allow suffering?" "How come life sucks sometimes?" Each time I deferred to the teacher, because this wasn't why I was invited into her class, but then she relented. As I began to answer this series of questions, it got really quiet in the classroom. I doodled this on the whiteboard-

Life from the cradle to the graveMost people think of life as merely limited to the time between the cradle and the grave. That is, from birth to death. Little wonder then that when someone's life is cut short from their expected time of death, it seems like an utter travesty, a tragedy, a gross injustice. But what if our lives do not merely consist of the time between the cradle and the grave? What if it is, as I continued on the whiteboard, that our lives never end. The grave is not the end. It is merely a change.

For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison 
Second Corinthians 4:17
The reason we sense such great loss when someone's life seems to be cut short is that there is an intuitive sense within each of us that life is not supposed to end. As I began to explain this, several of the students teared up, and one began to quietly weep. I could tell that this was not merely theory to them. I further explained that our ultimate eternal destiny lay in either of two directions. One of those directions was to defy God's authority over our lives and choose independence and its consequence for eternity, or to choose the other direction which involves humbling ourselves and accepting God's offer of forgiveness and adoption and reaping the gracious consequences of that choice.

After I explained this I summarised the students' questions with a more confronting question about human suffering: Why me!?When someone we don't know suffers, we may feel some sympathy for them but it doesn't affect us deeply. However, when someone we love suffers, we are very sympathetic and even empathetic as we begin to feel something of their pain. But when we suffer, it's not just our pain that we feel, it's also the ache of injustice that is added which we feel deeply. All of this reinforces that we intuitively know something is very wrong with the way the world is.
I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins."
John 8:24
When we experience pain, suffering, tragedy or injustice and do not have hope beyond this life, we despair. But when we have the confidence that God holds not only the Universe in His hands, but our lives as well, we can trust that He has everything in control for a good purpose. Even when such suffering, crime, pain seems utterly futile, we know that the God-Who-Is-Only-Good is also the God-Who-Can-Only-Do-Good. Therefore, we have a positive expectation for our future (which, by the way, is the definition of "hope").
For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope.
Romans 8:20
As my time in the classroom came to an end, and the teacher was wrapping up, I slipped to the back of the classroom and spoke to the girl who was crying. She whispered that one of her best friends and classmates had just committed suicide. Little wonder the class was so attentive and sombre. It's sad but understandable that it sometimes takes tragedy for God to get some people's attention. Dark times are not the time to shake a fist at God. Rather, they are the times when we should open our hands to God and ask for His help to get through our dark hour. 

The Apostle Peter writing to the churches of Turkey told them to entrust their souls to their Creator during times of suffering, and not to cease doing good for others (1Peter 4:19). If we suffer and succumb to our Enemy's whispers and withdraw from the family of God and cease doing good for them, we injure ourselves. Our Enemy works tirelessly to isolate us and especially so during our moments of suffering.
Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.
First Peter 5:8-9
One of my favourite singers is Natalie Grant. One of my favourite Natalie Grant songs is "Held". It is about a couple who were excitedly expecting their first child. After much prayer they are finally blessed by God with a bouncing bundle of joy. But just two months after he is born, he falls terribly sick and dies. Natalie Grant sings-
Two months is too little
They let him go
They had no sudden healing
To think that Providence
Would take a child from his mother
While she prays, is appalling
Who told us we'd be rescued
What has changed and
Why should we be saved from nightmares
Were asking why this happens to us
Who have died to live, it's unfair
This is what it means to be held
How it feels, when the sacred is torn from your life
And you survive
This is what it is to be loved and to know
That the promise was that when everything fell
We'd be held
This hand is bitterness
We want to taste it and
Let the hatred numb our sorrows
The wise hand opens slowly
To lilies of the valley and tomorrow
This is what it means to be held
How it feels, when the sacred is torn from your life
And you survive.
Held, by Natalie Grant
When Peter told the Turkish Christians to entrust their souls to their Creator in the midst of their suffering, it wasn't merely a theory to him. He had seen Jesus The Christ do it. This is the foundation of our hope and the true answer to where is God when it hurts? He entered into it and experienced its worst on the Cross. And just a few short years after he wrote this, he himself showed us what entrusting our souls to God looked like when he was taken by Caesar Nero and tortured then crucified upside down resulting in days of public humiliation and agony then eventual suffocation. No matter what you're going through, entrust your soul to your Creator. No matter how angry you are, entrust your soul to your Creator. No matter what injustice you have been afflicted with, entrust your soul to your Creator. Entrust, even when it hurts.
And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.
First Peter 5:10
Ps. Andrew

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