Tags

, , , , , , ,

ImageA few months ago I received the devastating news that my younger 23-year-old brother has been diagnosed with liver cancer and rapidly advanced to a stage-four status.  Since the c-word is in the media every day it’s easy to become desensitized to it, but there’s always a startling double-take whenever the c-word is used in reference to someone we love and care about.  The news of my brother’s condition was so shocking and unexpected that it didn’t seem to register as real in my mind at first – almost as if I were dreaming and expecting to wake up at any moment to find out that this was all just a bad figment of my imagination.  But that didn’t happen.  Reality slowly set in and I came to process the fact that my younger brother really does have liver cancer.  While my heart breaks for my brother and my family in these circumstances, there is no doubt that my family’s situation is not unique.  Some sources estimate that nearly 100,000 people are diagnosed with some form of cancer every single day.  Things like this can pose some rather challenging questions for all of us – questions like “why did this happen to me?” or “why is the world full of diseases, suffering, and death?”  These are tough questions for anybody regardless of their beliefs (or disbeliefs), and they can be especially challenging for those of us, like myself, who are Christians and claim to believe that the world was created and is upheld by an all-knowing and all-powerful being who is good and loving.  Perhaps an even better question to ask is: “who has answers to our questions?”  Does the Christian worldview have anything to offer as far as an explanation, or a solution?  I would respond to that question with a resounding “yes,” and even make the argument that the Biblical worldview is the only worldview that offers any meaningful answer.  It’s not an easy answer, but it’s a consistent and reasonable answer nonetheless, and it’s the only answer that truly offers any kind of purpose or hope to our suffering.

Many people have rejected the Bible and the God of whom it testifies because of the obvious dilapidated condition of the world around us that is filled with war, hatred, violence, murder, rape, theft, fear, disease, and terminal illnesses like cancer.  When we receive devastating news, the temptation we all face is to set God’s power against his love as we ask the question “if God exists, and God is both all-powerful and loving, why would He let this happen?”  The problem of evil and suffering is, for many, a massive obstacle to believing the testimony of the Bible.  The classic objection is typically framed like this: “The Bible presents to us a God that is all-powerful and loving. However, if he is all-powerful, he would be able to prevent suffering.  If he is loving, it would be his desire to prevent suffering.  And if God is both able and willing to prevent suffering, he would indeed prevent it out of love for us.  But since the suffering exists, God cannot be both all-powerful and loving as the Bible claims.  He must either not be powerful enough to stop it, or he must not care enough to stop it.  Therefore the all-powerful and loving God presented to us in the Bible must not really exist.”  I have to admit that even as a professing Christian my first temptation when I received the news of my brother’s diagnosis was to question God as to why he would allow such a thing to happen.  I believe it’s perfectly acceptable to ask these kinds of questions in our time of emotional distress.  God created us as emotional beings who respond to life with joy, laughter, love, surprise, and at times sadness, fear, doubt, and mourning.  We should not pretend that these emotions do not exist, or that they are wrong to experience, and therefore react by attempting to disguise the fact that we are experiencing them – God created us with these emotional faculties, and so they should be embraced and expressed (within certain parameters, of course).  Even David cried out to God in times of distress saying things like “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?” (Psalm 22:1) and “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?” (Psalm 13:1).  The important thing to consider in times like this is where to turn for answers, for clarity, for understanding, and for comfort.  As a Christian, I believe that in the midst of distress we find these things in the Word of God – the Holy Scriptures of the Bible – because I am convinced that I have justifiable reason to believe that these words are true and offer genuine hope (not denial masquerading as naive positivity).  So, why does God allow sickness and suffering?  Hopefully, the remainder of this article will provide some answers.

Before I really address my primary question itself, I’d like to lay a foundation for our understanding regarding the character and nature of God as revealed in the Bible.  This particular aspect of God’s nature can cause mixed emotions at first, but ultimately becomes the foundation of our hope and trust in him when properly understood.  The point that I would like to demonstrate from scripture is this:  God is absolutely sovereign over all his creation.

Part 1 – The Absolute Sovereignty of God:
There is nothing that comes to pass that is outside of his control, power, knowledge, or will, and God has ordained whatsoever comes to pass.  It is all part of his grand plan that has been predetermined since before creation. To demonstrate this point, let’s take a look at 5 selected passages of scripture:

  • Daniel 4:35“All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, ‘What have you done?’.”  According to this text, God does all things in both the heavenly and earthly realms according to his perfect will, and there is nothing or no one that can resist him, detract him, deter him, stall him, or stop him.  He is in complete sovereign control over all that takes place in the world he created.
  • Isaiah 46:9-11“…I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,’ calling a bird of prey from the east, the man of my counsel from a far country. I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed it, and I will do it.”  God sovereignly declares the end from the beginning, meaning he not only knows all things, but has ordained all things that come to pass since before the very foundations of the world. God not only declares the end from the beginning and everything in between, but also assumes causational responsibility for all things.  It is God that purposed things according to his will to be as they are, promised to do as he wills, and declares that he will bring his will to pass.
  • Isaiah 45:7“I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity. I am the LORD, who does all these things.”  God assumes responsibility for creating both the light (often symbolic of truth, goodness, purity, and righteousness) and the darkness (often symbolic of ignorance, confusion, or untruths).  God assumes responsibility for creating both flourishing and calamity or destruction.
  • Exodus 4:11“Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the LORD?’.” God responds to Moses’ attempt to excuse himself from being God’s chosen messenger to Pharaoh on account of some form of speech impediment by assuming full responsibility for the very speech impediment that Moses viewed as a disqualification.  Along with Moses’ speech impediment, God also assumes full responsibility for human deficiencies and ailments such as muteness, deafness, and blindness.
  • Ephesians 1:11“In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will.”  Here we see that the concept of God being completely and totally sovereign over all that comes to pass and doing all things according to his will is consistent through both the Old and the New Testaments.  Paul teaches that God works all things (not some things) according to his will.

The teachings of the Bible clearly reveal that there is absolutely nothing outside God’s knowledge, power, or will.  World tragedies, natural disasters, political conflict, deafness, blindness, muteness, handicaps, deformities, and yes – even cancer – exist within the bounds of the will of God.  These things never catch God by surprise or throw him for a loop.  In fact, much to our shock we find that God willingly accepts full causational responsibility for these things!  If you are anything like me, this caused you to do a double-take and ask yourself “did I get that correctly? Did I really read what I think I just read?”  When we hear that God assumes full responsibility for all things that come to pass, that these things have been divinely ordained by him since before the foundations of the world, and that it’s all part of his decree, we are undoubtedly startled to say the least – perhaps even a bit shocked, and/or even angered!  These things are certainly not easy to grasp at first, but this is what God has revealed about himself in Scripture.  On one hand we are comforted by this great truth when we realize that our suffering is not arbitrary or meaningless.  But on the other hand we are confused, possibly angered, and sometimes even outraged by this great truth as it leaves us begging the question “why would God cause these things to happen?”  If we are not careful to thoroughly examine the Scriptures, we may simply stop here and conclude that the God of the Bible is an abhorrent monster who gets some kind of sick sadistic pleasure out of torturing his creation with disease, suffering, and death just for the fun of it.  But this, of course, is far from the truth.  While Scripture may not provide us with all the answers we want, and we may never fully understand why God chooses to do what he does in the ways that he chooses to do them, we can be assured that God does all things according to his divine purpose and plan that was predetermined from before the foundations of the very world, and that our suffering is not arbitrary or meaningless.  While we might not have a direct answer from Scripture as to how we can reconcile God’s goodness and love toward us with the inescapable truth that He allows (and even ordains) suffering, we do have the ability to gain understanding from the Scriptures regarding the nature of suffering in the world today, and how God plans to deal with it.

Part 2 – A Broken World:
When we look at the world today, it is painfully obvious that something is wrong… really wrong!  It doesn’t take a social expert to discern that our world is an absolute mess!  While it may be easy to identify the obvious brokenness of our world, it is much more challenging to explain it.  We can plainly see the problems of the world, but the obvious brokenness of the world should lead us to the question of “why” – why is the world as it is?  I am convinced that it is the Biblical explanation for evil in the world that is most sufficient and consistent in accounting for and explaining the reality that we see and experience all around us – all other explanations for evil fail to be consistent, and especially fall short in offering solutions.  The biblical account, however, offers a completely consistent explanation of why there is evil in the world, as well as offers the solution to the problem.  I’d like to summarize in 6 brief points what Scripture has to say about the corrupted state of the world in which we live, what God has already done to address the issue, and what God has promised yet to do about it:

  1. God Creates Perfectly:  In the very first chapter of the very first book of the Bible, we read of the account of creation in which God speaks and all of existence becomes and is as he decrees.  God speaks and thereby creates the universe and all that is in it.  God speaks and creates the earth and all the life forms on it, including human beings, who are uniquely created in God’s own image and likeness.  The Bible records that when God was finished with his work of creation, he looked at everything he had made and described it as “very good” (Genesis 1:31).  God would not call something “very good” if it were anything less than perfect.  God originally created a perfect world – His design did not include such things as sickness, suffering, poverty, disease, war, evil, or death.  All things existed in perfect harmonious union with their maker.
  2. God Sustains and Upholds His Creation:  Hebrews 1:3 reads “…he (Christ) upholds the universe by the word of his power.”  All order in the universe, from galactic formation, gravitational forces, and planetary movements, right down to the very rhythms of your heartbeat and mine, is upheld by the same power that brought these things into existence in the first place – the Word of God.  Stop and think about this for a moment – you have control over many parts of your body, but you have zero control over your heart.  You cannot flex these muscles over here or tighten that ligament over there to manipulate your heartbeat to start or stop, yet our very lives are completely dependent upon the heart to pump and circulate our blood supply.  Our hearts beat because God commands them to beat, and they will stop when God commands that they stop.  Everything in the universe from the grandest of designs right down to the beating of our hearts is ordered, upheld, and sustained by the command of God.
  3. God Creates Mankind in His Own Image and Likeness:  Genesis 1:27 reads “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”  Mankind was created uniquely different from the rest of the animal species in the sense that man is created in the image and likeness of God, meaning he is created as a rational, intelligible, moral being.  Humans are the only creatures in existence that possess rational thought processes of logic and reasoning.  Humans are the only creatures in existence that universally operate under the notion of moral accountability, having a sense of right and wrong.
  4. God Delegates Authority to Man:  Genesis 1:28 reads, “And God blessed them (the man and the woman). And God said to them (the man and the woman), ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.’”  Genesis 2:15 reads, “The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and keep it.”  Here we see that God has entrusted man with the responsibility over the earthly creation – he was to have dominion over all the animals, and was specifically charged with the task of tending to the vegetation in the garden paradise of Eden.  More specifically, the Bible teaches that the Man, Adam, was to be the representative of all the human race, and was thereby responsible for all of mankind and accountable to God in that responsibility.
  5. Man Fails in His Responsibilities:  Genesis 2:16-17 reads “And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, ‘You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.’.”  Here we see God establishing his covenant terms with humankind (specifically with Adam as humanity’s representative).  It is a covenant of obedience – humanity is charged with responsibility to obey God because of his intrinsic and transcendent authority as the Creator.  The covenant agreement is that obedience to God will result in continued blessing, peace, prosperity, and life – but disobedience will result in God rightfully taking back the life he graciously gave.  Much in the same way parents grant driving privileges to a 16-year-old – the privilege (not an entitlement or right) of driving a car comes with responsibility to drive safely, and properly according to the laws of the road and according to the stipulations and boundaries set by the parents of the young driver.  Failure to drive responsibly results in the privilege being rightfully removed.  Unfortunately as we continue to read in the Biblical text, we find that the man and his wife both fail in their covenant responsibility to obey God.  Because of their disobedience, God would have been perfectly justified to instantly cease from sustaining and upholding his creation by the word of his power, which would result in the instant cessation of the existence of the universe.  However the text tells us that God instead chose to respond with mercy.  In Genesis 3:17-19 God declares the terms of his judgment saying, “cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”  God’s judgment is his partial-removal of his sustaining power upon the earth and the life within it, thereby allowing all of life to begin to decay and eventually die.  This act of judgment from God in response to man’s disobedience that has resulted in the fallen world filled with war, hatred, violence, murder, suicide, rape, theft, fear, depression, mental disorders, disease, terminal illnesses, and death that we see and experience in our lives today.  All of life eventually decays and dies because of human sinfulness against the Creator.  Romans 5:12 reads, “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.”    
  6. God Promises Restoration:  While it is true that mankind is under the judgment of God because of our disobedience and rejection of his rule, we have not been left hopeless – we find in the text that juxtaposed to the dismal declaration of condemnation, there is a great promise from God, a hope for us to cling to – a promise from God that he will one day restore to perfection the world that is now corrupted and broken. God will one day restore the world to its original perfected state.  Revelation 21:1 declares that one day there will be “a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth have passed away.”  Verses 3-4 read: “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 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.’”  One day God will right every single wrong that has corrupted our current world, and restore his creation to the perfected state in which it was originally created before sin entered the picture and destroyed it.  God promises that he will put an absolute end to every ounce of suffering, hatred, violence, conflict, corruption, decay, disease, and even death itself!

These six brief points provide the basic framework of the Biblical worldview – the perspective by which followers of Jesus Christ view and make sense of the reality of the world in which we all live.  Is it difficult to grasp? – absolutely!  Is it hard to believe? – impossible!  (that is; impossible without the intervention of the Holy Spirit, though that’s another article for another time).  There are many who find the Biblical worldview repulsive – “how could such a God allow these things to happen” they demand, and in frustration or even anger, outright deny any legitimacy to the Biblical worldview, often in favor of adopting positions of atheism or agnosticism.  But what does atheism or agnosticism have to offer as a better or more plausible alternative explanation for human suffering?  How does adopting atheism help a person make sense of these things?  What does atheism have to say about things like suffering, disease, or death?  An atheist certainly cannot claim that these things are bad, for to say that something is bad or good necessarily implies some kind of intrinsic purpose – but atheism’s rejection of a creator and affirmation that all the world is merely the result of undetermined random chance causes leaves this worldview lacking any source from which intrinsic purpose or meaning can be derived.  In fact, an atheist can’t even consistently ask the “why” question, because the “why” question is a question of purpose or meaning, and according to atheism the world has no objective purpose – all of existence is nothing more than the product of chemistry and matter randomly interacting with itself.  And if the world has no ultimate purpose, then our suffering also has no purpose – it’s just the luck of the draw, the way the cookie crumbles, the result of random chance unguided and meaningless processes.

This reminds me of the late 19th and early 20th century British philosopher and professing atheist, Bertrand Russell.  Russell famously said “No one can sit at the bed of a dying child and still believe in God.”  Russell’s point is that if God existed, things like cancer would not happen.  Russell believed that the existence of human suffering affirmed his denial of God’s existence.  But Russell’s statement is a two-edged sword that cuts both ways.  What would an atheist like Russell have to say at the bedside of a dying child?  What can atheism say to cancer patients?  What can atheism offer my brother in his situation? – Tough luck, kid? That’s just the way it is? We all have to die someday? Oh well – better make the most of what time you have left?  Russell was in no better position to make sense of or deal with the problem of human suffering by denying the existence of God – the problem was still there, and just like Russell, people who are quick to deny God’s existence based upon human suffering are not putting themselves in any more advantageous position because the problem of human suffering doesn’t go away by denying the existence of God.  In fact, I would argue that the atheist, in denying God’s existence, has placed him/her self in a worse position to deal with this problem, because atheism has no possible means of attributing any meaningful explanation or reason for the situation.  Atheism offers no hope in life because it cannot account for any kind of genuine objective meaning to existence, and certainly no reason for why the world is as it is.  The world as it is, according to atheism, with all its sickness, disease, and death, is just the natural course of undirected random chance processes in the universe.  But there’s something deep inside us all that knows the world is not as it should be – we have this gut instinct that knows a world in which 23-year-old young men become infected with liver cancer is simply not the way things should be – it’s a broken world!  A world full of murder is a broken world!  A world full of sickness, disease, suffering, and death is a broken world, and there’s something inside of us that desperately longs for justice – for the brokenness to be fixed, and the wrongs to be made right.  It is not the rejection or denial of God that frees us to find meaning to our suffering, but rather the acceptance of the Biblical worldview that provides us the consistent and reasonable foundation to account for the world being corrupted as it is, and why we feel the way we do about it!  The Biblical worldview not only gives us a consistent explanation of why the world is as it is, but it also gives us hope found in God’s promise to restore what has been broken, and right what has been wronged.  The Biblical worldview says that our suffering is not meaningless or purposeless, but that God does all things for a reason according to his plans, and God has assured us that his plans are for our good and for his glory.  It is the Biblical worldview that offers hope to people like my brother who are, no doubt, asking the question of “why?”  Does Christianity answer the question of why this or that happens?  Not necessarily in the way that we would desire, but Christianity at least assures us that there is divine purpose and ordination to these very trying and difficult circumstances.

I recognize the weightiness and the severity of the topics address thus far, however this article would be rather anticlimactic if I spent all that time saying that the Christian worldview has the answers, but never explained exactly what it is that God plans to do to restore creation to its perfected stated, and most importantly, how we can partake of God’s restoration.

Part 3 – God’s Plan of Restoration:
The first thing that must be noted is the obvious concept that if God is to restore creation to its original state of perfection, He must necessarily eradicate the cause of the corruption – God must deal with the source of the problems – God must deal with us!  We are the cause of the corruption that plagues our world!  It was our rebellion against the just and righteous rule of God, whose law was designed to bring life, joy, peace, harmony, and prosperity.  We decided to commit the act of cosmic treason against the King of Kings as we renounced his rightful rule over our lives in exchange for our own autonomy, only to discover that under our own self-rule we destroy ourselves and the world around us.  Man has rejected God’s law in favor of every man dong “what is right in his own eyes” (Judges 17:6), and as a result God has complied with man’s request.  It has been said that the most horrific act of judgment God could enact upon mankind is to simply give us what we want, and this is precisely what God did.  Scripture tells us that “since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness…” (Romans 1:28-29).  It is as if God, in response to our rebellious rejection of his rule, says, “fine, have it your way” and simply allows sinful humans in their pride, arrogance, selfishness, and greed, tear the world and each other apart.  The hard truth of the matter is that if God is to restore his creation to perfection, he must deal with us in our sinfulness.  The scriptures inform us that God has chosen to deal with human sinfulness in one of two ways…

  1. Retributive Justice:  The word “retribute” means to pay back or repay.  Therefore retributive justice means to retribute just punishment to a guilty criminal.  The first way that God can choose to deal with our sinfulness is to retribute, or repay, to us the just and rightful punishment that we deserve.  Exodus 34:6-7 reads, The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty…” (underlining added for emphasis).  God is love, but God is also just and in the interest of upholding justice will not allow guilty criminals to bypass receiving what is justly due to them.  Isaiah 59:18 says, “According to their deeds, so will he (God) repay, wrath to his adversaries, repayment to his enemies; to the coastlands he will render repayment.”  Again we see that God will retribute, or “render payment” to those who are guilty and required to pay the penalty for their crimes against his sovereign rule.  What exactly is the just penalty that the guilty owe to God?  The first half of Romans 6:23 proclaims that “the wages (or payment) of sin is death…”  Since God is the giver of life to begin with, God reserves the right to take life away if the gift of life is abused.  In other words, the first way God can rid the world of evil is by putting an end to us.
  2. Substitutionary Atonement:  The root word of “substitutionary” is substitute, as in one who takes the place of another.  To “atone” for something means to make amends or reconcile, as for an offense or crime, or for a criminal.  Therefore “substitutionary atonement” refers to one who serves as a substitute on behalf of a criminal for the purpose of making amends for the crimes committed, and thereby reconciling the guilty criminal to the offended party.  In simple terms, God can either give us the justice we deserve, or he can allow a substitute to take our place and receive our punishment in our stead.  This is the amazing proclamation of the Gospel (good news) – that God, in a decision of unfathomable mercy, has not only graciously decided to allow for a substitute to make atonement for our sins so as to relieve us of the guilt and due justice, but also, in an act of unfathomable love, has decided to provide that suitable and acceptable substitute himself!  That acceptable substitute was none other that Jesus Christ, who stepped into the world of humanity for the purpose of standing in the place of sinners to receive the punishment they deserve from the hand of God the Father.  Jesus boldly proclaimed that the reason he came into the world was to “give his life a ransom for many.” (Mathew 20:28 & Mark 10:45).  The Apostle Paul boldly proclaims, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” (Romans 3:23-26).  The Apostle Peter writes, “He himself (Jesus Christ) bore our sins in his body on the cross, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness.” (1st Peter 2:24).  Perhaps the most famous verse in all of the New Testament, John 3:16, declares that “God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”  Paul reiterates this very point again in Romans 5:8 which most boldly pronounces that “God demonstrates his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  As demonstrated by the aforementioned numerous (though certainly not exhaustive) citations, the Bible clearly and boldly proclaims that God has provided the means by which sinful human beings can be reconciled to a holy and righteous God – by the substitutionary atonement made by Jesus Christ, who took our sins upon himself and was the recipient of the punishment we deserved to receive.  And the most glorious implication of this great truth is that if Jesus was condemned in our place, then there remains no reason for which God has to condemn us!  Because of what Jesus Christ has done for us in becoming our substitute and dying in our place under the just wrath of God, “there is no longer any condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1).

From this we see that God has two options in dealing with the problem of evil and suffering.  God could have chosen to simply execute judgment on all humanity, which would be bad for us, but not wrong for him.  But Tim Keller has stated so eloquently that, “God sent Jesus to die so he could end evil without ending us.”  And one day in the future, evil will be ended completely.  Every wrong will be righted.  Every evil will be justly retributed.  But God, for the time being, has allowed rebellious humanity to continue its course of sinfulness – why? The answer is mercy…  patient, forebaring mercy.  God is temporarily withholding his judgment for the purpose of providing us all with the limited-time opportunity to humble ourselves, repent of our sins, and come to Christ to receive forgiveness, reconciliation, and eventually complete and total restoration to the perfection that was intended from the beginning of creation.  It is as if God with one hand is holding back his wrath, and with the other hand he is reaching out to humanity with grace and mercy.  But this will not continue forever – one day God will remove both his hand of mercy and salvation, as well as his hand that restrains his wrath.  In that day, those who chose to reject God’s offer – the suitable substitute that God himself provided – will receive the fullness of justice they rightly deserve, from which there will be no escape.  Let us take heed to the words of scripture, and consider them carefully while there is still time.  As the Apostle Paul wrote in his second letter to the Corinthians, “We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”

Conclusions:
Why did my brother become infected with cancer?  The hard truth is that I don’t know.  Nobody knows the reason or the purpose but the sovereign God who ordained that it be so according to his own perfect will.  Perhaps the “why” question will remain a mystery to us for the foreseeable future.  However, while God might not give us every answer we want, he does give us the answers that we need – and those answers are sufficient for the time being whether we find them satisfying or not.  We don’t know the specifics of why God has ordained that these things happen, but we do know that God assumes full responsibility for them, which may be startling at first, but should comfort us as we trust that God has good reason and purpose in all that he does (as he has declared to be so in his word), even if we can’t see or know the details of that purpose at this point in time.  We can also know that the way the world is now, with all of its sickness, disease, cancers, violence, murder, rape, theft, political upheaval, wars, terrorism, and the such, is not the world as God originally intended.  And lastly, we know that God has given a promise that one day every wrong will be made right, everything broken will be fixed, and all of this fallen creation will be restored to its original wholeness.  We might be tempted to question why God doesn’t just snap his finger or wave his hand and fix it all right now, but again we must remember the limitations of our humanness – we must remember that God is God and we are not, and God often times does not do things the way we arrogantly in our finite and immensely limited understanding think he should.  We might not know why God doesn’t just fix it all right now, but we do know that God is at least in the process of restoring the world.  How so? – one life at a time, reaching out to each one of us with a nail-pierced hand of mercy.  God in his great mercy and grace toward sinful human beings is withholding judgment so as to provide us with opportunity to repent of our sinfulness and come to him for forgiveness and restoration by means of the sacrifice of Christ upon a cross in our place.  The issue of sickness and human suffering is not a reason to run from God – if anything, its all the more reason to run to God, for in Him and specifically in Jesus Christ whom he sent to be the suitable substitute to receive the penalty for our sins, we find a beautiful hope of restoration to the everlasting life we were meant to have with Him from the beginning.    

Advertisements