Do you ever think about why God works by processes? After all, why doesn’t God just ‘poof’ everything to be the way he wants it to be? Why take 13.7 billion years to get to today? Why take 4.6 billion years to build the earth and shape its climate? Why did Jesus have to suffer?
Why do people have to suffer?
Countless theologians have taken aim at that question. Most dissect it from the standpoint of purpose—as in “What is the purpose of suffering?” The realities of suffering remain among the biggest stumbling blocks for atheists and believers alike.
When it comes to suffering, I have no credentials. But I do know an expert. Here are two messages Dick Woodward preached on the topic (from among many cataloged here) that get to the heart of suffering.
Some questions we just can’t answer. Other questions we should never even try to answer. Just like the difference between knowledge (knowing the answers to questions) and wisdom (knowing which questions count), it’s really important to know when to keep our mouth shut.
Here’s a short video that illustrates the value of “showing up and shutting up.”
It also highlights the processes by which God redeems us from suffering—not just for the care receiver, but the caregiver, the pastor, and everyone else. Redemption is a process. For whatever reasons, God followed his own rules, and suffered ultimately for our redemption. There was no way to ‘poof’ the redemption of mankind—God had to prove it.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
Isaiah 55:8,9 (NIV)
“The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.”
Apostle Paul, Galatians 5:6b (NIV)
The above story has a happy ending. All three men interviewed in that video are ministers—and very good ones at that. All three will tell you when people are suffering the most important thing you can do is show up. And don’t pretend to know the reason for their suffering.
Sometimes we see the happy ending. Sometimes the ending is just too hard to bear. It’s hard sometimes to understand that God makes the rules, knows what he is doing, has a plan for each of us, values sincerity, doesn’t need us to attempt to explain anything for him, and intends ultimately for us not to have an ending. But let’s keep our mouths shut and just use our feet and ears and arms when people are suffering. The process is important.
HT: Steve Flanary, John Green, Bill Warrick, Steve Hooge, Dick Woodward