In the Name of the Father, and (+) of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.
Devotion by Pastor Odom
We believe that God is both almighty and that He is good. He created all things and we look to Him for every blessing. These all come from God alone. That’s what we confess in the Apostles’ Creed when we say, “I believe in God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth.”
But as we live through this pandemic, we may be bugged with the question: if God is both all-powerful and completely good why is the world He created full of suffering?
One way we’re tempted to answer this question is to try to excuse God. You may hear some Christian leaders or even your friends or family claim, “God has nothing to do with suffering.” Though perhaps well-intentioned, this a misguided attempt to protect our Lord from anything that might cause people to fear Him is ultimately an effort to remove God from the picture altogether. This attempt fails, though, and leaves us with a God who has been remodeled according to the human imagination. This is hardly the God known by Job and Jonah in the Old Testament, and is not the God the Apostles could confess.
Others might suggest that God is not the cause of suffering, but merely allows it. Yet if God is almighty, then it is of little comfort to insist that this all-powerful God allows evil when He could have stopped it.
The sad result of this second effort to answer the question “why” is that God’s omnipotence is at best softened and at worst given up completely. But God is not impotent. Remember? We confess that He is “God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.” Attempts to get God off the hook, to defend Him by limited or weakening His power again leaves us with a God that is more like an idol we’ve shaped for ourselves; an idol we’re comfortable with.
Rather than trying to formulate an answer that could excuse God of the suffering in this world, we do better to first listen to Jesus. Though our natural response to catastrophic events is to ask God, “Why?”, the words of Jesus anticipate the question with a stark warning: “Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3).
Jesus does not offer a philosophical explanation for the event. He wastes no time with theories of “why?” In fact, Jesus’ words will not let us go there. His words call for repentance, not speculation. Repentance lets go of the questions that we would use to hold on to life on our own terms, to try to protect ourselves from the God who kills and makes alive.
Unexplainable tragedies bring pain and chaos, but God often leaves the wound open. Our response is to cry out to God in lament in the face of events that defy our capacities for understanding. But anguish and lament from the lips of Christians ascend from faith, not unbelief.
They are a confession of trust in the God who works all things for the good of those who are called according to His purpose (Rom. 8:28). It is a confession that our God has done something about evil and suffering even if our eyes tempt us to believe otherwise. Our God comes. He does not merely give us a reasonable answer to the question “Why?” but He Himself comes to us.
When we look for God in the midst of suffering in this world, we look to the words of St. Paul: “I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2). There is no greater revelation of God in our suffering world than this: God Himself in Christ Jesus hanging dead on the cross for the sin of the world.
This is our answer. There God in Jesus gets to the very bottom of all that hurts us, all the sin that kills us. Living in repentance and faith, we are then freed from the speculation that seeks to investigate what God has not revealed to us. Instead, we trust in the kindness and mercy of God revealed in Christ Jesus and His cross and resurrection.
With such a freedom, we are able to rely on God’s promises and turn our attention to acts of mercy that bring compassion and relief to those who suffer. God does not give us explanations that will satisfy our persistent questions, but He does give us sure and certain promises of unquestionable mercy and unfailing faithfulness in His Son handed over to death and raised again for our justification.
Apart from the cross of Christ, suffering is a never-ending evil, but in the hand of God, and at the foot of the cross of Jesus, we can boldly confess: “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18).
Almighty and most merciful God, you are a very present help in every kind of danger. Comfort us in our time of need through your Word of the free forgiveness of all our sin and the sure promise of life everlasting in the world to come. Through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
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