WHERE IS GOD IN OUR SUFFERING – Part 2
Opening Prayer: Heavenly Father, as we continue our journey in your Word, open our hearts and minds to how you are with us in our suffering. May we be truly blessed through this time of fellowship around your Word. Help us to trust in your goodness and mercy which follows us all the days of our lives. May we always be assured of your presence with us. In Jesus name. Amen.
Crying out to God – a Lament
To lament is to express deep sorrow, grief, or regret. The psalms of lament are beautiful poems or hymns expressing human struggles. There are two types of lament psalms: community and individual. Community psalms of lament deal with situations of national crisis—they describe problems faced by all the people of God, such as natural disasters and a pandemic. Individual laments address suffering faced by one member of the people of God. The lament psalms express intense emotions, real human struggles, even anguish of the heart. When we encounter difficult struggles and need God’s rescue, salvation, and help, the psalms of lament are a good place to turn.
Let us now reflect on a Psalm of Lament.
Read Psalm 13.
Notice these things:
1. A psalm of lament will contain a complaint.
What is the complaint?Psalm 13:1,2
2. A psalm of lament has a plea to God for help.
What is the psalmist’s plea? Psalm 13:3,4
3. A psalm of lament will affirm trust in God.
How does the psalmist affirm his trust in God?Psalm 13:5
4. A psalm of lament will contain a glorious vow of praise to God.
How does the psalmist praise God?Psalm 13:6.
Within a psalm of lament, we are guided to see that when we are weak and powerless, God is present as Isaiah 40:29-31 says:
He gives power to the faint and strengthens the powerless. Even youths will faint and be weary, and the young will fall exhausted; but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.
Reflection: How have you felt God give you strength in times when you felt exhausted and weak?
Read Philippians 4:5b–7 and Isaiah 40:29–31
Discuss: How do these verses help you to know, ‘where is God in my suffering?’
We confess that, in Jesus, we see God’s power and wisdom fully revealed on the cross. Which means, when we try to answer the question, ‘where is God in our suffering?’, we look to the cross. Remember theodicy means an attempt to justify what God is doing in times of suffering. The truth is, God does not need us to justify and defend him.
Have you heard it said, “why do bad things happen to good people?”
Read Luke 18:18–19 and Luke 13:1–5.
Discuss: How do these Bible verses answer the question, “why do bad things happen to good people?”
The thought amongst the culture of Jesus’ time was that bad things do not happen to good people. If something bad happened to you, it was because of something bad that you did. Likewise, if good fortune came your way, you had done something good. The people saw God as a God of justice rather than a God of love. He punished evil and rewarded good.
Discuss: Do you think that is still the thought of our society, good should be rewarded and evil punished?
Who does society think are good?
Reflect on these Bible passages.
Romans 3:23; All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
1 John 1:8,10; If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. … If we say we have not sinned, we make [God] a liar, and his word is not in us.
Discuss: In view of the cross, “Why do good things ever happen to us sinners?”
Read Romans 5:1–5.
- Can you rejoice in the hope of the glory of God and rejoice in your sufferings at the same time?
- How does this hope in God help you to persevere in suffering?
- Is the answer then when we see others suffering, “why not me?” Do you know of people who have felt that way?
To understand suffering through the theology of the cross, then, is to understand suffering in light of the hope we have in Christ. When we look to the cross, the question, “Why do bad things happen to good people?”, changes to, “Why did all those bad things happen to the one and only good person?”
The cross shows us God who is merciful, gracious, and just. Jesus bears the just punishments for our sin, and so God has mercy on the sinner for his Son’s sake. As Jesus cries out his last words, “it is finished” (John 19:30), he graciously gives up his Spirit and his lifeblood for the life of the world.
When we lament to God during suffering, we trust that God will do what is best for us. When we pray for healing and deliverance from that which causes us to suffer, our hope is that God will grant healing. Yet at the same time our prayer for ourselves and for others is the future hope we have in Christ. Healing is no longer the ultimate end, but only a gracious gift that points us to something greater.
God may grant healing as a foretaste of what is to come in paradise. St John tells us in Revelation21:4: He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.
Through Jesus’ suffering on the cross, we have the assurance that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.
Prayer:Dear heavenly Father, help us when we are going through times of despair to lament and cry out to you. Be in the hearts and lives of all those who are suffering. Bring healing to those who are enduring pain. Bring joy to those in great sorrow. Bring hope to those who feel they have nothing to live for. Bring value to those who feel disregarded. Remind us always that you are our source of strength. Help us to cast all our burdens on you. In Jesus name we pray. Amen.