Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Suffering as Mercy

Heather recently attended a women's conference with one of our favorite authors, Nancy Guthrie. Guthrie knows more than most about suffering, herself having lost two children. At the conference, Guthrie made the point that we should not be so quick to judge God's ways, and that death should be viewed as mercy to us and our children. If we believe that our children who die in Christ are bound for eternity, then isn't it merciful of God to allow them to "skip" the rest of an earthly existence filled with so much pain, heartache, cancer, bankruptcy, idolatry, and immorality? In Mark 13, Jesus makes a similar point to his disciples about the suffering surrounding the destruction of the temple that he predicted, and that would come to pass a few years later. "And if the Lord had not cut short the days, no human being would be saved." The implication here is that the existence or absence of earthly suffering should not be our ultimate goal. Physical, earthly death is mercy from God because it allows us to avoid eternal, spiritual death if our physical death occurs when we (or our children) are found in Christ. If our ultimate goal in life is God and a relationship with Him, the question is not why God allows for any suffering, but why he doesn't bring more? If God has allowed one of our children to die, why He has not also taken our other children or our own lives? I think the answer is that because God knows just the right "mix" between sufferings and physical comforts, that allows us to grow in our love for him without losing heart. The Apostle Peter encourages the early church to rejoice in their relationship with Christ, even through physical suffering, because through this suffering they will experience, the genuineness of their their faith will improve, just as the quality of gold improves when refined by fire. 1 Peter 1:6,7. Through the suffering we experience on earth, and which God mercifully sends, we can continually re-orient our lives around the true and ultimate goal of our lives, knowing God and being found in Jesus. In the absence of suffering in my life, I would not have the ability to refine my own love for God in the manner God has provided through suffering. "Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls." 1 Peter 1:8,9.