Posts Tagged ‘Suffering’

We all have those moments when we want something so badly that we pray, hope and wish someone would step in and save the day. It could be for a good reason or just some human ambition that means the world to us. You have this exam that is about to dictate the rest of your life as you see it. This job interview which as far it goes you feel you must get it. A loved one is ill and at a point when we really need someone to step in. Maybe it’s something the world may not think is life changing but it means the world to you. Sometimes it’s just a sinful human craving. You’d be surprised the kind of situations people want God to step in and act on their behalf.

But let’s go with it’s a prayer for a good course however we define that. For those who believe in God he’s our go-to person in these situations and a last resort for everyone. It’s especially the case when there’s no one else who’d care enough and is as able enough to save the situation. And since we believe in God and for the most part we have tried to live up to his will it’s only fair he would step in for us. I mean which good father wouldn’t step in to save the day in such critical times? But then it happens that God doesn’t fly in to save the day. Sometimes he takes too long and other times we don’t see him come through at all. It’s the most lonely you can ever feel when the one person you counted most upon doesn’t come to your aid. Nothing is more disappointing.

I wanted to start by acknowledging this because that’s an undeniable feeling and a lot of us have been here before. Whatever answer theology has it’s a feeling that many have faced and we can’t deny it and shouldn’t undermine it. But this is only one side of the story and I hope you’ll stay put as I try to give you a Biblical perspective. You see it’s when we see God working in the bigger story that we appreciate his involvement in our story. I must tread carefully here though as this is bound to bring painful memories but I think there’s a light at the end of this tunnel. In the end we’ll see God is ever close in our suffering and he actually intervenes even when he is not sought after. If we open our eyes then I don’t think there’s a time we find God closer to us than in our weaknesses. Remember he has gone through suffering and faced our weaknesses in Jesus. He knows our pain, he sees the suffering of the whole world and is never indifferent to it. C.S Lewis said:

“God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains. It is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

C.S Lewis

A good place to start is with the story of Israel. It starts with oppression, pain and anguish. These guys weren’t in trouble just for a weekend, not just an exam gone wrong, theirs was a terminal case. But when God intervened it seemed to get worse before it could get better as it feels for us sometimes. You see, it’s one thing to suffer and another to continue suffering despite calling on God who claims he’s available to help us in our time of need. It’s when you’ve been praying for a loved one and their condition seems to get worse that you feel most let down by God. And that’s how Israel feels after God sends Moses to their rescue only for Pharaoh to make their life even worse. Hope is a beautiful sound to a suffering ear but it can hurt even more when it doesn’t pay off. Moses the bearer of good news, the man who had told Israel that God had seen their trouble and sent him to their rescue is angry, sad and disappointed in God.

22 Moses returned to the Lord and said, “Why, Lord, why have you brought trouble on this people? Is this why you sent me? 23 Ever since I went to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has brought trouble on this people, and you have not rescued your people at all.”

Exodus 5 NIV

In truth though the pain and hopelessness of Israel is undeniable even to Moses, God was acting even in this situation as we see in the next chapter. It’s always a difficult thing to see God’s hand when things seem to get from bad to worse. I mean who in a million years would have contemplated that our redemption would be born by the suffering and death of Jesus? How can good come out of what seems so evil? How can a good God do anything other than quickly step in and save the situation for his beloved? But from this story we learn that where God seems so absent or powerless and indifferent actually he’s very much involved.

C.S Lewis is right, God is shouting in our pain and we just need to tune our hearts to the frequency of his word to hear how loud he is. We may not always get God’s direct explanation and reassurance as he gives to Moses in Exodus 6. But Bible history from Israel to Jesus tells us we can fully trust in him even in this. It tells us he’s very much in the details and working tirelessly for our good, see Romans 8:28.

When we feel most failed by God what we need is a biblical perspective because the Gospel is his megaphone. Now, I know sometimes that’s the last thing we want, more Bible. I mean sometimes we are not asking for much just a small intervention we say. But I must also say if God was only good because he stepped in when and in the way we always want then he’d really not be above us. He’d simply be a genie with some good wishes. But the story of the Bible, the story of the Gospel helps us see that our story is knit in a bigger cosmic story.

Our problem is that we are inevitably all about our story and yet it’s in both stories that we see God truly act for us. The Bible tells us we need more than a quick fix in our situation. We need our environment changed but more importantly it enlightens us to see we are not as innocent in the grand story as we think. We ourselves needed to be changed if ever our problems are to go away forever. And that’s exactly why God stepped in through Jesus to rescue us from our sin problem and grant us eternal life in a whole new world without pain, suffering and death.

But still our problem is a personal one. We agree with the world needing change and sin being a serious thing. But all we are asking is God to step in now and help his children on the journey before he brings us to our eternal home. Is that toomuch to ask? I think this is where I love our God even more. Because he not only deals with the most fundamental problems we face but he’s actually very close to us and involved in our personal story through it all. In Jesus and by his Holy Spirit he says he’s walking our Exodus with us until the end of times, see Matthew 28: 20. God is very close, he’s with us and even closer in our suffering having lived in this world, suffered and died for us in Jesus.

When we pray to him we are calling on someone who not only is able but cares, sympathises and understands what we are going through, see Hebrews 4:14-16:

14 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Hebrews 4 ESV

It may not be the answer you are looking for in your time of need but it’s actually what we truly need. And you know what’s mind-blowing is that God makes good even of our suffering. He doesn’t waste our weaknesses, but through them he shapes us into the image of Christ. He helps us see life in a whole different way, he teaches us what it means to trust him in the good and bad times. And he helps us see that this world can never be home for us.

When we survey the grand story of our redemption as told by the Bible our personal story makes sense. When we feel let down and failed by God, in the Bible we see God is close and even closer in our struggles. And it’s never a waste of time praying to him because one way or the other he always answers our prayers. Actually he works even when we don’t see it and truly answers our prayers in ways that are best for us. We need the whole Bible story to truly appreciate God working in our personal story.

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Could it be Karma?

Another great guest post from our good friend in Kampala…


Could this day get any worse? I woke up late. I missed an appointment and with that all my other engagements for the day were affected. The car broke down as I rushed to meet someone else. I have to incur charges for the tow truck and the garage run that I did not budget for. As I sit on the kerb to reflect my mind quickly highlights how all this could have fallen in place. That beggar I ignored yesterday – why didn’t I give him the change I had in my pocket? Or that pedestrian I splashed muddy water on as I sped off to a meeting.

It’s common for all of us to go through life wondering if something we did in the past will come back to haunt us. “Is the calamity that has befallen me today a result of something bad I did yesterday?” “Had I treated that stranger better, maybe this would not have happened to me!”

It’s very easy for us to connect the bad, negative and disastrous occurrences back to a moment in time when we fell short or didn’t do the right thing. No, I am not talking of consequences that come our way as a result of our sin. I am talking of the usually random events in our lives that are sad that we think we have “earned” through something bad we did.

It’s all written into our culture: “What goes around comes around.” “For every action there is an equal but opposite reaction.” “You reap what you sow.”

We go as far as thinking that whatever force it is that controls the universe is out there keeping a scorecard noting all good and evil then going on to balance them out. So we have notions of God going around like the grim reaper running after us to slay us. Or maybe we picture Him to be the anarchist who spins his wheel to pick what calamity to send upon individuals.
But does God relentlessly pursue us dishing out calamity upon us to repay us for our evil deeds? Or should we attribute these occurrences to the mystical karma – surely every good deed will earn us good fortune yet an evil deed will earn us bad luck and calamity will befall us?!


Did Job think to himself, “I should have treated that servant better otherwise this would not have happened to me?” Or when Joseph got thrown in the well and later got sold off as a slave, did he look back and wonder, “I should not have been such a show-off with the jacket daddy gave me! See what being a show-off has gotten me into.”

We have gotten used to living the good life, everything falls into place, it’s smooth sailing all the way, the trajectory is impeccable – we are headed for the stars. But what happens when the good life is ground to a halt by sad moments – death of a loved one, a business deal going sour, a friend falling sick, getting robbed or failing an exam?

Does every good deed reap a reward? Is every bad deed repaid by another by the mystic force that controls the universe? Is the suffering I face a result of something I did? Is this just bad karma?

Job’s friends gave him advice along those lines. “Job, admit it! You wronged God and now He is repaying you.” Our thinking and that of our contemporaries is not so far from this but should Christians have this same mindset?

Do we who have been redeemed by the death of the Lord Jesus on the cross at Calvary continue to live our lives worried that God or karma or some mystic force in charge of the universe is chasing us down to inflict upon us suffering just to make up for our sin and the bad deeds we are doing?

Yet I suppose many people, Christians too, go through life living like this – the guilt from the past deeds weighing heavily on them and any sad event, trial or moment of suffering is immediately matched to the events the guilt arose from.

What then became of the forgiveness we received at the cross? Was it partial? Was it for a limited time only? Was it only for the age to come? When Isaiah foretold the sufferings of the Servant that would bring about the taking away of the sins of the people, did he not see the sufferings as a punishment for the sins of the people? Was God going to continue to pursue the people and bring more punishment upon the people for their sins?

Dead come Alive Cross

Trying to justify or pinpoint the source of our suffering is usually a very good attempt at trying to wrestle control of the situation into our hands out of God’s. Suffering is not in our control.

Like Job we should patiently endure moments of suffering. Attributing moments of suffering to something from the past will not help us and will only serve to deepen the pain. In this broken world, suffering will definitely come our way but we have hope in Jesus.

Rather than going into denial or escapism when confronted by suffering we should remember that God Himself is there with us in our suffering. The people of God have never been spared from suffering or shielded from the brokenness of the world. But we can take comfort from knowing God Himself experienced the greatest of suffering and can relate to our situations. And He comforts us. God is our redeemer and He is the One that will rescue us from this broken world.


Bernie muluuBernard Muluuta is an iServe Africa and Cornhill London alumnus now working with the Church of Uganda developing mentoring and gospel ministry training for young people.

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