Thursday, February 23, 2006


Something has been bugging me lately. I heard a prominent professor of spirituality at a Fundamentalist Baptist Seminary say that God wanted him to have cancer, either by allowing it or causing it. He was trying to demonstrate that he still believed in the sovereignty of God in such a trial. I agree with him, but the way he spoke about such a horrible thing being under God's sovereignty in such a flippant and callous way offended me.

Why is it that two people can experience the same "suffering" the same "trial" but they respond so differently? One person is crushed, and life becomes a fight for basic survival; the other is able to hold it together, able to see how it will work out (at least enough to maintain a semblance of order and hope). Some people seem able to strategize their way through the pain. These are people who when after the trial, they are still no better than Job's counsellors - quick to speak about weighty things, slow to listen, with no categories for mystery.

There are two things in God's universe that pierce the human heart: beauty and suffering. Christians in the west have no category for suffering in their consumerist Christianity with its slick packages and trite slogans. Where is the spirituality of suffering we see everywhere in the Scriptures? Where is the mystery that belongs in a universe where a good God rules over sin in ways that, let's be honest, we rarely understand? Lamentations, Jeremiah, Job, Gospels, are just a few of these texts.

Some books that have helped me think through a possible balance are:
Mike Mason, The Gospel According to Job
Jerry Sittser, A Grace Disguised


Tom said...

I guess teh "Western" christians, we do not know suffering, yet the suffering we do experience is downplayed often times...but true suffering, is rare no matter where in the world...there are hard times that seem to get labeled as suffering. Then not knowing pain....that can be mislabeled as well. Its knowing definitions and then redefining them.

Anonymous said...
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Scott said...

too true, Tom, thanks for sharing.