Belgian Christadelphians

God’s promises to us in our suffering

By Beverley Russell

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27. God’s promises to us in our suffering

The ability of God to conquer evil and restore the heavens and the earth to the original perfection, is a promise brought to us through the pages of Scripture, and that demonstrates His love and power. If we do not believe that, it is not a failure on God’s behalf, rather it indicates that we have moved away from God. It is not that the prophets spoke nonsense about peace and justice. It is that the time of fulfilling those prophecies, is still future. There are still wars over all the earth, evil is winning, sickness and death is ever present, and we have no peace. But still we are called, not to look back at our ungodly history, or to our miserable present, but to see beyond these calamities, to a distant place when we shall see God, face to face, like Job declared, “in my flesh I will see God”. Our experience with this world makes it difficult to visualize the future world, for any burst of happiness we may see, hear or feel, is only a small and infrequent token of what is to come. We can never fully appreciate what is to come, but we trust also in God’s provision, that it will be a worthwhile portent for us.

God never demeans those who struggle with disappointment, in fact the anguish of His saints is taken up and consoled endlessly in Scripture, but suffering is always embroidered with the word “temporary”. The suffering then becomes a sort of hunger for something pain free and the bitter disappointment becomes a longing for the better thing. It is like a home sickness for the things of God, with a yearning for Him. “The need of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time”, said TS Eliot. The place to arrive will be the Ideal of Creation. “I saw a new heavens and a new earth for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away”.

So we have two choices, to live as if we believe God exists, or to live as if we believe God does not exist.

If we believe God does not exist, then that is to live without God.

If we do not believe in the certainly of God, then it is to live uncertain of anything in our lives.

If we want an alternative to living with the disappointments of God, then we can live with our disappointments without God. If we believe God exists, none of these are satisfactory solutions.

If God does exist for us, we can ask for changes to occur, like in a hard heart, but that does not mean that He will necessarily remove the affliction causing the suffering. It means that, as we pray for the removal, He might decide to give us better means to manage it. Then, continuing our prayer life, we are always in touch with God, a sure way for relief. It is "a life in the spirit with Him". Then we are ready to accept whatever outcomes He desires. Hard hearts, like Pharaoh’s over God’s people, rule with power making people afraid, and will not easily let go that power. But if we let go of the present and future fear, suffering can then become of less consequence, and not even valued enough to be questioned, for God looks after His saints and He builds a wall of safety around His own. If we continue to be afraid of evil or of suffering, the past will again rise up, and fear will crush us all over again. Suffering will not crush us, just the realization of it in real terms. It is imperative to let the fear go, other wise we lock that into our future as well.

If we believe God exists, and is not silent, then the question of suffering rests firmly on our faith. In faith the just shall live. We need to be perfectly clear that where God is, there need be no fear. Then, living with the certainty of God and always looking up to Him, might mean living with the disappointment also, but without fear. Adversity and suffering can try to claim us, but we can be immune when God surrounds us with His wall. We will not be harmed, for we are His, and He is in us.

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Corrie Ten Boom said in her understanding of the affliction that befalls us, “Look outward and be distressed, look inward and be depressed, look upward and be at rest”. Quite so.

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