Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Marsha's Musings: God's Care for Us & Our Suffering

I've been "musing" over the tension between God's care and our suffering. For instance, look at Matthew 6.

Mt 6:25 ¶ Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?
26 Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?
27 Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?
28 And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:
29 And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
30 Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?
31 Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?
32 (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.
33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
34 Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.

I have a verse from Jeremiah hanging on my kitchen wall. It says:

Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. (NIV)

How do we reconcile the fact that many of God's people do suffer and do go without? Take for instance, Corrie Ten Boom and Darlene Rose Diebler. Both of these women were in concentration camps during World Wars. Corrie was in a Nazi camp and Darlene was in a Japanese camp. Both went hungry, lost loved ones, were tortured in one form or another and went through terrible experiences and living conditions.

Then you have Christians today who suffer illness, pain, and some barely make it from pay check to pay check. Others may not even have a pay check and live off of charity or government programs.

We look at the Apostle Paul. He suffered a great deal. He suffered with a physical affliction, he was beaten, tortured, thrown in prison, suffered shipwreck and many other things. Yet, we see in Scripture promises of God's care and provision for our needs.

Many people become discouraged and disillusioned when they become Christians because they are taught that when they come to Christ all their troubles will go away and these verses are trotted out as proof. Then when they run into troubles, they can't understand what is happening to them. Some continue in their faith, but are stunted in their spiritual growth because they are hung up on this. Others abandon Christ all together because they think that God has failed them and not kept His end of the bargain.

As I think of our future, I am fearful of what will happen to our freedoms as a result of the current government administration. I see our freedoms quickly being stripped away from us and our economy beginning to collapse. I fear that we will go under financially and our privacy will be invaded as the government tightens its grip on every American. Then I begin to wonder, what about God's care? How do these verses fit into this? God allowed extreme suffering of His saints in the past. Will He allow it to happen to us? The Christians in China have been suffering for some time. Christians have been tortured in Russia in the past. It has happened in many countries around the world in my life time. Will it happen to me and my family here in America? We are on the way there already.

So, how do I reconcile this difficulty? It is obvious that God's people suffered for their faith. Almost all the Apostles were tortured or put in prison and most if not all were martyred for their faith. So I must conclude that the above promises do not mean that being a Christian means I will never have to suffer physically. Even the flowers of the field, though arrayed in beauty fade and die. And the birds of the air may suffer and all die at some point.

I think the point is in verse 34 of Matthew where he says, "Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof." The point is not that God will keep us from suffering. Suffering is a fact of a sinful fallen world. We will suffer. The point is that we are to not spend our time worrying over these things, but rather we are to seek God's face and trust Him in these things. Yes, He cares for us and He provides what we need, not always what we want. If it weren't for Him sustaining our very life by providing needed oxygen in the air, we'd all be dead. The point is that He is in control of all things. He plans our futures and knows exactly what will be coming at us and He will provide the strength to persevere through it with our faith intact. He has a glorious future planned for us in heaven. We may suffer on this earth, but God has plans to not harm us spiritually but to bring us to our glorious future with Him in heaven. These sufferings here on earth are designed to purify and refine God's people and His church.

So, I have to say, "Press on toward the mark of the high calling of God!" Persevere through the trials here. God will provide what you need to keep going until He decides to bring you home to heaven.

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