WHERE IS GOD IN OUR SUFFERING – Part 1
Opening Prayer: Heavenly Father, as we study your Word and have this time of fellowship around your Word, may we all be blessed through your Word and the discussions we have today. May we always be assured of your presence with us. In Jesus name. Amen.
Theme Bible Verse: Open your Bibles and read Isaiah 40:27–31.
Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel, “My way is hidden from the Lord, and my right is disregarded by my God”?
Have you ever felt like the Israelites? That God must not be able to see what is going on in your life and the suffering you are going through? So, you conclude, my way is hidden from the Lord, my right is disregarded by God. Otherwise, he would take away my suffering. Right?
Maybe you aren’t in exile as the Israelites were in a foreign land under foreign rule. But then again, during the COVID-19 pandemic there were, and still are, people stuck in overseas countries waiting to get home. There were people unable to cross borders to be with dying loved ones. It caused, and still causes, much heartache and troubled minds. Maybe you have cried out to God, “Where are you?” Fix this so that I can be with my loved one. Take away this pandemic so my life can get back to normal.
It’s not just the pandemic, is it? Suffering comes with the news of terminal illness, with the death of a loved one, with life changing illness and injuries, from bushfires, from drought, from floods, from cyclones.
You may like to share when you have cried out to God, “WHY?”
In theological terms, the title of this Bible study, Where is God in our suffering?is called Theodicy.
Theodicy (from Greek theos, “god”; dikē, “justice”), means to explain why a perfectly good, almighty, and all-knowing God permits evil. The term literally means “justifying God”.
In all our lives there is and will be tragedy for us to work through. How are we going to respond to God in these tragedies?
Discuss: How do you respond to God when tragedy happens in your life?
Consider this scenario: (It may have been true for you)
During a cyclone or a bush fire, your house is left unscathed. You are thankful to God, so you say God is good. Yet the owner of the house next to you is left in a pile of rubble or ashes.
Discuss: Does that mean God is good to you and not to them?
In the face of disaster, heartache, and death, we want to support those who are inflicted with heartache and suffering.
- What do you do, or say, to people who are suffering and experiencing loss?
- Consider these Bible verses? Are they helpful or not helpful when consoling a person who is overcome with suffering?
- Job 1:21: And he (Job) said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” (ESV)
- Romans 8:28: And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (ESV)
- James 1:2-4: My brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance; and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing. (NRSV)
One of the more frequent objections to Christianity is the existence of evil and suffering in personal life and in the world. A typical phrase is, “If God is a good and loving God, why does evil exist?”
People watch the news and hear of firefighters being killed fighting fires; innocent people going for a walk and killed by a drug-induced driver; people swept away in floods; the death of a child; the tragic death of a loved one. In dealing with suffering in their lives they may have even cried out to God in their suffering, “O God help me, hear my cry for help”.
Therefore, people make conclusions regarding God and evil. For example:
1) God is not good because, if he were, he would surely not allow evil to exist;
2) God is not powerful enough to stop evil and suffering, otherwise he would have done so by now.
- What are your thoughts about the above conclusions?
- When people cry out to God in times of suffering, what are they doing?
How does your discussion from the above questions fit in with Isaiah 40:28-29? Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint and strengthens the powerless.
We will continue this Bible study Where is God in our Suffering next month. Next month we will learn how to lament to God in the midst of our suffering.
In preparation for next month’s Bible study, you may like to read these psalms of lament for your daily Bible reading.
Individual Psalms of Lament: Psalm 13,Psalm 31:1-5, 9-16,Psalm 86:1-4, 14-17, Psalm 3, Psalm 6, Psalm 22, Psalm 28, Psalm 44, Psalm 56, Psalm 57, Psalm 71, Psalm 77, Psalm 142.
Communal Psalms of Lament: Psalm 12, Psalm 44, Psalm 60, Psalm 74, Psalm 79, Psalm 80, Psalm 85, Psalm 90.
Prayer: Dear heavenly Father, help us when we are going through times of despair to lament and cry out to you. Remind us that you do not grow faint or weary, and you are our source of strength when we feel powerless. Uphold us, Lord, with your mighty arm, assure us of your presence when we are not sure if you really know the struggle we go through. Help us to cast all our burdens on you, trusting even though we do not understand why things happen as they do, that you are near. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.