No one argues that suffering is a part of living life. There has been suffering, there is suffering, and there will always be suffering to come. It is an undeniable fact.
But many of us do wonder why? Even Christians. Perhaps, especially Christians.
Christians believe in a very good God. We believe it when the Bible says that "all good gifts come from above". We believe that God is for us, that He cares for us, and that He intervenes in our lives.
Because of these very true Christian beliefs, it stands to reason that Christians would question why there is suffering. God is God, after all. If He wanted a world without suffering, He could do it. And God is our Father, after all. And if as a Father, He wants good gifts for His children, He would do it.
This is obviously an epic human question that deserves much more space than this short bulletin article, but in my walk with Christ, I remember running into a story in scripture that proves this has always been a dilemma for followers of Jesus. In the time of Jesus, many spiritual people had bought into the idea that people suffer because of sin. While there is suffering that comes because of sin, sin is not enough of an answer for many (and Jesus agrees!). In John 9, Jesus and his disciples come upon a man born blind, and his disciples ask, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" We can see here that the disciples assumed it was sin that was the culprit, they just didnít know whose sin was to blame.
Jesus replies by saying they got it wrong. He says, "Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life."
Have you ever considered this? That suffering may actually have a redeeming value to it? God never promised that there would not be suffering. In fact, Jesus promised the opposite when he said, "In this world you will have trouble." This would be nothing but bad news, except he continues by saying, "But take heart! I have overcome the world." (John 16:33)
Of course, for any normal human being, NOT suffering is preferable. But since that is not an option, what does our good, loving God and Father do, in light of these unavoidable troubles, that would redeem it into something that shows His work?
Paul tells us: He comforts us. He does not always take the trouble away, but He promises that God will always comfort us.
Today, as we continue our sermon series entitled "The Gift Exchange", and during this holiday season where our troubles can feel magnified, we explore how God wants us to exchange our troubles for His comfort.