Pastoral Perspectives


We have no easy answers to why there was the Holocaust, 9/11, 2004 Tsunami, Hurricane Katrina, Typhoon Haiyin, SARS in Singapore, the occupation of ISIS, and on a more personal note, the death of a loved one or being afflicted with suffering in one way or the other. Large scale miseries are sometimes less troubling to the individual than the circumstances that confront each of us personally. Our immediate response is always “why?”

Does God owe us an explanation?
Ecclesiastes 11:5: As you do not know the path of the wind…so you cannot understand the work of God, the Maker of all things
Isaiah 55:8-9: For my thoughts are not your thoughts…
1 Corinthians 2:16 For who has known the mind of the Lord…?

We clearly lack the capacity to understand God’s infinite mind and the way He intervenes in our lives. Suffering is not always because of one’s personal sin but suffering will always have to be dealt with personally. Our Lord himself bore the pain of that which was not His doing. Life must never be viewed from the isolated instances of one’s personal struggle. Ravi Zacharias says “There is a big picture into which our personal struggle fits. That picture is the mind of God.” The closer we draw to him, the clearer the picture becomes. And part of that picture is pain and suffering.

What is God’s wonderful plan?
For Hosea, it meant marrying a prostitute. For Jeremiah, it meant being cast into a dungeon. For some, it means early death, poverty, scorn of society, bound in a wheelchair or persecution. For others, it meant being executed. God’s plan is wonderful because, in harmony with His will, He “works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28. We all have our own crosses to carry. Some heavier than others. May we carry our crosses in the knowledge of God’s wonderful plan.

A Chinese evangelist said “If you accept suffering for your faith as a privilege, it  becomes your friend and brings you closer to God.”

A Romanian Pastor who suffered a lot under the communist regime said “Christians are like nails, the harder you hit them, the deeper they go.”

James 1:2-3 says “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of our faith produces steadfastness.”

Three days after typhoon Haiyan barreled through the Visayas, the Mayor of Davao City in the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte visited the affected region. After a daylong visit to Tacloban where he saw the streets littered with dead people, and survivors foraging for food, he told the reporters, “I think God was somewhere else when the typhoon hit.” It is not unusual for people to look for God or question the presence of God during such times. We have heard the famous phrase “God already left Africa” made famous by the movie ‘Tears of the Sun’.

Someone posed this question on a blog, “Daily I see injustice, pain and suffering in our continent (Africa), and even though we call on God all the time, he seems absent. However the western world with all its problems and its ills seems to be having the better deal. My question is, does God really exists here?”

How we Christians respond to pain and suffering actually reflects our understanding of the Theology of Suffering. Ajith Fernando said that “The Asian Church is communicating a serious blind spot- the Biblical truth that God is love.” When a person thinks that God is only love, that person will have serious doubts when trials, pain and suffering come along his way.  AW Tozer writes, “Some Christians have taken all the justice, judgement and hatred of sin out of the nature of God and have nothing left but a soft god. Others have taken love and grace out and have nothing left but a god of judgement. Or they have taken away the personality of God and have nothing left but a mathematical god- the god of scientists. All these are false, inadequate conceptions of God.”

When we are taught the wrong theology that God is only love devoid of any suffering, the result according to Ajith are:
1. Severe restriction of spiritual growth because God intends for us to grow through trials.
2. Wrong theology could result in suffering more than we should when we encounter pain or suffering. We could end up thinking that something is seriously wrong and become disillusioned with God in the process.
3. We could move away from tough call to something that looks easier. In the process, we might move away from God’s plan.

There are no easy answers to suffering. How we deal with it depends on our understanding of who God is. Therefore, it is important that we continue to grow in the in the knowledge of Jesus Christ by studying of His Word, walking in His ways and trusting in His faithfulness.

Ms Loliro Sani

April 26, 2015