Three More Questions about God’s Allowing Suffering

Yesterday (Thursday) evening Leonora and I attended the weekly meeting of our church’s Life group hosted by Roland and Sherry Loder. Nine attended the meeting, and we studied these sections of Randy Alcorn’s If God Is Good Why Do We Hurt? booklet (Colorado Springs, Colorado: Multnomah Books, 2010):
– “Why Hasn’t God Made the Reasons for Our Suffering More Clear?”
– “Can We Really Trust God to Use Our Suffering for Good?”
– “Is Suffering Really Necessary to Build Our Character?”

In our previous meeting I’d asked the group to read the three sections before yesterday’s meeting to see how Randy Alcorn answers each question. Observing that Alcorn answers the questions posed in the second and third sections with “Yes,” I’d explained that what they should look for in those sections was why they can be answered with “Yes.” Under the weather with a cold, I didn’t contribute much to yesterday’s discussion of the three sections. However the others came well prepared and we had a good (but short) discussion of them. As usual the study was preceded and followed by singing and prayer.

Why Hasn’t God Made the Reasons for Our Suffering More Clear?

Randy Alcorn’s answer is that because of our limited understanding God just lets us know what we really need to know, which may not be all that we want to know, and asks us to trust Him. He gives two examples–Job, and Scott and Janet Willis. The latter was a couple who lost six of their children when a truck driver allowed a large object to drop onto a freeway in front of their van causing their gas tank to explode. Although describing their pain as “indescribable,” they told Alcorn when he interviewed them fourteen years later that they had a stronger view of God’s sovereignty than ever before, a strength gained by turning to God for help in dealing with their loss.

Can We Really Trust God to Use Our Suffering for Good?

Randy Alcorn answers “Yes” and supports his answer by considering Romans 8:28, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (ESV). The “all things” in the life of the author of the verse, Paul, included sufferings as well as glorious experiences. Alcorn describes how once he tasted each of the ingredients that his mother had out to make a chocolate cake with. Most of them tasted terrible by themselves, but the cake that his mother made from them tasted delicious. Similarly many parts of our lives may taste bad by themselves, but God mixes them together to produce something good.

Is Suffering Really Necessary to Build Our Character?

Randy Alcorn answers “Yes” and supports his answer by comparing God’s turning us into the image of Christ with Michelangelo’s making his statue of David and by considering Romans 5:3-4, “We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope” (ESV). Michelangelo made his statue of David by choosing a stone that other artists had rejected and chipping away everything that wasn’t David, changing the huge marble block into something beautiful. Similarly we may need the “chiseling effect of loss, hardship, sickness, and even tragedy before we adequately recognize our true weakness, and need for and dependence on God” (booklet, page 66) so that He can turn us into the image of Christ.

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