When Things Go Wrong – Part 1

I do not know how many parts this particular topic will take, but I know with some certainty I will not be able to tackle such a large topic in a single posting.

First an explanation of the title – I’m really talking about things that cause us to suffer, to experience grief, discomfort, pain, and such like.  This suffering could be physical suffering, mental suffering, or spiritual suffering.  This topic probably has as many interpretations and theories as most any topic you can name.  The reason – no one has a complete understanding of it, or understands every situation.

But, it should be noted at the outset that God does not require you to understand and know everything.  In fact, there are many things you will not understand on this side of heaven, regardless of your knowledge, intelligence, knowledge of Greek and Hebrew, and knowledge of the Word.

Secondly, I must state that these are my opinions, and my experience with my own life, and the lives of those I have been in association with, and my own study of the Word of God.  I suspect that my thinking may be in conflict with many, so don’t be disturbed by anything that I may say here.  The point is not to convince you of anything, but to get you to think for yourself, and to study to see if the things presented have any foundation.

Enough disclaimers, let’s jump in – albeit at a pretty high level just so we can get started.  This is not the first writing on this topic as many books have been written, including a notable one by author C.S. Lewis called, “The Problem of Pain”.  It is a worthwhile read if you haven’t read it.

The basic problem we pose in this series can be summarized in the following phrase – “If God is love, and God loves me, then why am I suffering?”  We could expand this to include those we love, our friends, family, and others, but the premise and core is the same.  That is, there seems to be a disconnect between the love God has for us, and the things we sometimes suffer, causing us to raise the question, “Why?”

If we use common logic we would come up with something that might look like this:

  • If God is all powerful and can do anything
  • And God loves me and cares for me
  • And loves me so much He sent His Son to die for me
  • And God has given me the power to rebuke the enemy and those things that come against me
  • If all this is true, then why am I suffering?

The reason this will be broken down into several parts is because although the questions are simple, the answers are not.

To get the ball rolling I will start with the subject of “PAIN”…

Pain is something we avoid.  Pain signals to us that something is wrong.  Pain is associated with punishment.  Pain is an undesirable thing.

Because of these things we typically associate anything painful as BAD.  So, we come up with “If it feels good, do it”, and “If it feels bad, it is BAD”.  But, both of these statements are not entirely true.  To some extent they are true, but not in all cases.  However, we take it for granted that they are true 100% of the time, and that can cause problems.

It would not take me long to come up with a list of things that initially feel “good”, but which have a long-term bad result.  I suspect with a little effort you could also come up with such a list, so I won’t spend any time on that.  However, it might take a little more thought to come up with things that are painful, but, yet, are GOOD.  Let me try a few small examples to get the thought process going for you:

When I was a young man, my Dad inflicted pain on me at various times.  (In the view of some today, they would say he probably didn’t inflict enough pain on me, but that is another subject.)  My Dad’s purpose, though, was to have a good and positive result.  He loved me, therefore, he inflicted pain on me.  I didn’t like it.  But, I respected it.  The pain my Dad inflicted was in my lower body, but it traveled upwards to my brain, and made a permanent impression there.  This ‘small’ pain produced at that time had many positive results over the extent of my lifetime, and may have saved me from many disasters.  But, it was not pleasant at the time, nor desirable.  If you had asked me at the time if this was a GOOD thing, I would have told you NO.  But, now I say YES.

Why is this important?  Because there are things that happen to us that cause pain, and we don’t like it, and we know it is BAD, but it may be for our GOOD.  I’m not saying all things that are painful are in this group.  I’m saying that some things that cause us pain are probably in this group.

Once again, why is this important?  Well, if we misinterpret a situation in our life because it is painful, and we wrongly assume it must be BAD, then we might miss the deeper meaning, that it may ‘feel’ BAD, but is really GOOD.

Now, let’s not get crazy here.  Generally speaking, just like the example I gave of my Dad, it usually takes some time for us to realize any benefits from those things that are painful to us today.  We don’t always recognize any immediate benefits from those things that afflict us now.

Second, small example:

In 1972 I joined the Navy.  It’s a long story, but I got sick and tired of being told what to do all the time, so I sought relief in the US Military.  In the fall of 1972 I went through basic training or bootcamp.  It was mostly uncomfortable and at times, painful.  But, 45 years later I can truthfully say that the experience I endured in bootcamp has served me well in the years that followed, even to the present day.  Once again, on the surface it seems to be something that is undesirable, painful, and by definition – BAD.  But, while it was all those things at the time, later it has produced many more positive results then the brief period of discomfort I endured in 1972.

So, what does all this mean?  If we judge things simply on how we feel (pain or pleasure) then we will be easily mislead, and ultimately confused about many things that come our way in life.  While pain may indicate something that is truly BAD, it may also reveal, in time, things that are beneficial.

In later posts I will delve into some of the things where I think Christians have difficulty understanding, especially when it comes to suffering, or pain, or things that are unpleasant.  We will look at why a God of love would allow his people, his children, to suffer in this present world.  For many this is a conflict that has no answers, but we will see if there isn’t some light we can shed on this topic that might cause us to think.

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