How to respond to the question of why there is suffering in this world?

The answer to this question will not satisfy. It just won’t. Ultimately, we don’t really want the answer.  We want hope, peace and comfort.

It is what makes this reality so beautiful: God’s ultimate answer is not an explanation, but the incarnation.  Suffering is a personal problem; it demands a personal response. And God isn’t some distant, detached, and disinterested deity. Jesus is the answer.

And it’s not just that God knows and sympathizes with you in your troubles. After all, any close friend can do that. Any close friend can sit beside you and comfort you and empathize with you. No, Jesus is much closer than your closest friend. Because if you’ve put your trust in Him, then He is in you. And, therefore, your sufferings are His sufferings; your sorrow is His sorrow.  

If you don’t know who Corrie ten Boom is, google her. And be amazed at her story.  From the darkest corners of a Nazi concentration camp, she said this…“No matter how deep our darkness, He is deeper still.”

 Jesus entered into our world and personally experienced our pain. Out of a DEEP love for you and me, Jesus is there in the lowest places of our lives.  Are you broken? He was broken for us. Are you despised? He was despised and rejected of men. Do you cry out that you can’t take any more? He was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. Did someone betray you? He was sold out. Are your most tender relationships broken? He loved and He was rejected. Did people turn from you? They hid their faces from Him as if He were a leper.

He took every sin, every pain, every hurt, every suffering we endure and it was nailed to the cross with Him. And in His suffering, He was not consoled. He didn’t have a Life Group bring Him meals or send Him encouraging text messages with Scripture. He was mocked. He was spit upon. He was insulted. And in a moment, God the Father had to turn His face away. Could He have done something about it? Could He have made it stop? You better believe it! And Jesus knew it! And in that moment…even the Son of God cried out! “WHY?!?!? Why have you forsaken me?”

In complete brokenness and suffering, the Father said… You may not see it now my son, but I love you. And the people I love need this. I want them back. This is necessary and the eternal reward is worth it.

Life’s not fair. Jesus would be the first to tell you.  Fairness ended in the Garden of Eden.  Through His own suffering and death, He has deprived this world of its ultimate power over you. Suffering doesn’t have the last word anymore. Death doesn’t have the last word anymore. God has the last word!

Do not give up. Don’t look to what is seen, but to what is unseen. For the sorrows we face today are not even worthy to be compared to the eternal weight in glory of seeing Jesus face to face.

Tell A Better Story

Families are fractured.

Chances are, you didn’t need me to tell you that. Surveying the littered landscape of our communities, our culture, and our own lives, it quickly becomes clear that something has gone terribly wrong in this thing we call family. Even for those of us who grew up in- and live now in- comparatively healthy families, the cracks are evident. It wouldn’t take you two days in my home to realize that’s true of me and my family, and I’m willing to guess that the same is true for you and yours.

So then, families are fractured. Most of us can agree on that. From there, however, the debate gets heated quickly. Why are families so broken? What has gone wrong? And how can we fix this thing? Honestly, is it even worth fixing? These are incredibly expansive and emotional questions, and they aren’t going away any time soon. It would be foolhardy to believe that they could be adequately explored and answered in a single blog post such as this one, but I do believe there are two core principles which we can grab on to as we engage this conversation…

1- The root of fractured families were the events of Genesis 3, not those of the 1960s.
The common story being told in today’s Christian subculture is that the sexual revolution of the mid-late 20th century- and most recently the rapid ascent of the homosexual lobby- is behind the degradation of marriage and family in our nation today. To listen to some folks talk about this issue, it would seem that all was well with families until approximately 1962, when everything went belly up.

The only problem with this version of the story is that it’s absolutely, egregiously unbiblical. While I am certainly not arguing that the growing permissiveness of our culture is a good and positive thing, I am saying that the primary root cause of the sad, painful state of families today runs much deeper. These bold “new” definitions of family (which, incidentally, aren’t all that new!) are expressions of brokenness, but they can’t be the engine behind it. No, to find our “culprit,” we have to travel all the way back to the very first family, in Genesis 3.

What we find in these first chapters of the biblical story is that the root of family brokenness exists in the heart of everyone. It is called sin, and it expresses itself in the self centered, “get mine” mentality that characterizes so much of our approach to life and family relationships today. This refusal to submit to God’s way of doing family- a way centered on others, not self- is behind every symptom of family brokenness in our world today, including rampant divorce, assumed cohabitation, and even “intact families” where husbands and fathers disengage from their divine leadership assignment and instead leave their wives and children to take up their slack. Sin and selfishness, in all their various forms, have been wrecking relationships since the very first family took their fall. The events of the past 50 years have simply magnified what has been going on forever.

2- To see fractured families restored, we as Jesus followers must tell a better story.
If the root of family brokenness is sin– which impacts us all, without exception- then the road to healing cannot begin on the “pathway” of politics, but in the “field” of our own hearts. I’m afraid that for all of our railing and lobbying against what we view as the enemies of the “biblical family,” we’ve too often neglected to mind the health of our own families. The result of that relative neglect is a stinging sense of hypocrisy that I believe is leaving us increasingly voiceless in a world in desperate need of a different voice than those that are prevailing in our culture.

Friends, in Jesus, we have a better story of family to tell our world. It is a story of families that broken by sin, but are being put back together with God’s amazing grace. It is a story of families that reject the “get mine” mentality that pervades our world, and instead humbly submit themselves to God’s ways and others’ benefit. It is a story of families that do culturally crazy things like “submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” It is a story of families that approach one another in selfless service and honor, reflecting the beauty and power that God intended when He created family in the first place!

This isn’t to say we should disengage entirely from the broader cultural conversation regarding family; I do believe we should maintain a voice there. But perhaps we should trade in our finger pointing message of “We’re right, you’re wrong” with one that sounds more like this- “Because of sin, we’re all a mess. But God’s grace is available in Jesus, and because of that, we have hope and help for something better.” An extended hand of humble grace is always better than a pointed finger of self righteous judgment, especially when it is accompanied by a compelling, real life image of that grace in action in our homes and families. I believe we have both an opportunity and a responsibility to extend this hand as we depend on God’s gracious work in us to transform our own hearts.

A few questions to leave you with as you grapple with this admittedly difficult issue…

Have you focused on the expressions of family brokenness in our culture to the neglect of the brokenness in your heart and home? How can you repent of this and experience God’s restoration?

How can you tell a better story of family to those in your life today? What needs to be true in your own home and family so that you can set a compelling example to others that God’s ways are the best ways?

How can you continue to boldly, yet graciously, engage the broader cultural conversation regarding family based on what you have read here today?