June 15, 2008
OpeningAsk one or more from the group to share a story of their suffering. What was the source of suffering? How did you handle the suffering? What has the suffering changed in you? Read Philippians 1:12-30 together.
Jesus taught about suffering. Read Matthew 5:1-12
No human suffered more than Paul. Read 2 Corinthians 11:22-33, 12
The bible teaches that we will suffer, and specifically for our faith. Read 1 Peter 3:13, 4:12-19
How have you experienced suffering caused by:
- Your own choices
- Others evil choices
- A fallen world
- God's plan
Will your suffering be a crisis that sends you into a tailspin, or will it be an opportunity:
Conclusion:"Christians are like nails- the harder you hit them, the deeper they go." When you suffer, how can you go deeper?
An in depth study, "Toward a Biblical View of Suffering," can be downloaded at:
A Mini-Biblical Theology of Suffering
God created everything good, without pain or evil. But giving us the freedom to choose sin, and knowing that we would go astray, God allowed the possibility of sin and suffering to enter the world. But He is good and made everything good. Genesis 1
Of course, man chose his own desire over God’s revealed will, by sinning, rebelling--and that's precisely when pain and suffering entered the world.
Immediately after the Fall, in Genesis 3:15, God promised a Savior who would crush Satan and save the "seed" or children of the woman, that is, a godly line of people would be preserved throughout history, and another line, the "seed" of the serpent, would always be in rebellion against God and His people. See Revelation 12.
Israel and all nations continually sinned and paid the price, God continually rescued His people, but they would always spiral down in a cycle of more sin. See the book of Judges.
God took matters into his own hands by delivering His people over and over, but finally, when the "fullness of time" came, God came into the sinful world to take matters onto His own body and soul as a man. He suffered, He felt our pain, He tasted death. Hebrews 2:9-18 and 4:12-16.
God understands our pain not just because He's God, but because He became a man. When we ask "Why?" He doesn't give us a book, but He gives us His hands, nail-pierced, and draws us close to His side, spear-scarred. We don't need an explanation, we need a helper, a comforter, a strengthener.
Christians have a comforter, the Holy Spirit, to help us fight sin and find grace in suffering (Romans 8). We have a Savior who went before us as a Pioneer in suffering and came out triumphant on our behalf, Jesus, who is also the Perfector of our faith (Hebrews 12:1-3). We have the Father of all comfort (2 Corinthians 1) who comforts us and helps us to comfort others in the midst of suffering.
Ultimately, the Garden of Eden will be restored, even in an improved way, when the new heavens and earth are established (Revelation 21 and 22). No more tears, no more pain, and not even the possibility of sin entering the gates. Restoration and relief and righteousness forever will reign. We will be free and happy.
You could sum up God’s response to our suffering with these concepts:
1. God’s given us not just an answer, but a Person, a powerful and sympathizing Comforter
2. God suffered with us and for us in Christ
3. God is present with us to actually help us in our need
4. God is transforming and will one day fully redeem our suffering to His glory and our good
Sin and suffering are perplexing realities. There are mysterious and unknown aspects. But the bottom line is that we experience them both and we need help from both.
There are two responses to suffering:
1) Turn away from God in anger and rely on yourself or others or the world's cures. "How could you let this happen?" "You don't care about me (or them)!" etc. In other words, in your pain and confusion, turn away from the only ultimate Help and Healer, the all-wise God.
2) Turn to God for help. Recognize that He is not responsible for sin--we are. Find help for the here and now to deal with the pain, and find ultimate healing in eternity. Humans cause most of the suffering in the world. God uses natural disasters to wake people up so that they ultimately won't be destroyed eternally. The proper response to sin and suffering is to repent, to draw near to Him, and to stay in His strong and safe shelter and loving arms.