Does Suffering Equal Discipline?
What does suffering look like for my nine-year-old son? He would probably equate suffering with losing his electronics privileges. When I say electronics, I mean his gadgets… his Chromebook, his Nintendo DS, the Wii, the iPad, the TV, you name it. There have been times when he has not listened and has lost the usage of his electronics for a day. He can suffer through 24 hours without much trouble. However, there have been other times when he has done things that require tougher consequences, like lying. Lying carries a much heavier punishment than not listening. When caught in a lie he loses his electronics for a week.
I often wonder what my son thinks of us as his parents. Does he think that we are cruel? I mean, how in the world could he possibly survive a week without electronics? I think he knows that we want the best for him as we try to help him learn the importance of obedience. At least I hope he does.
Knowing that God both allows and creates suffering can give us a wrong picture of God if our theology isn’t sound. We could be tempted to question God’s character. We could fall into the trap of believing that God is cruel, cold, and distant.
Here is the deal. God isn’t cold and distant. God is certainly not cruel. There is a method behind what we may feel at times is madness. Let’s dig into some scriptures to see exactly who God is rather than basing our theology on feelings or fears.
Lamentations 3:32-33 says, “Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love. For he does not willingly bring affliction or grief to anyone.”
As a parent, I can relate to this passage. When I need to teach my children a life lesson it sometimes comes with a level of discomfort. My children and I both grieve when this kind of discipline must be enacted, but it is always done out of love. Compassion always follows discipline.
I want to be careful not to unilaterally equate affliction and discipline across the board. In my previous blog series, I have talked about the theology of suffering, noting that God can have several purposes for what He wills. John 9 is a perfect example of this.
Psalm 23:4 offers reassurance, “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”
God never leaves us! Even in our darkest hours when we feel abandoned, God is there. The “rod” and “staff” in this verse are pictures of correction and guidance. God is actively teaching, protecting, and moving us to a better place. This does not portray a cold and distant God.
Genesis 50:20 is a powerful verse that concludes the story of Joseph. Joseph suffered much in his lifetime. He was hated by his brothers, beaten by them, and sold by them into slavery. He got thrown into prison because a less than virtuous woman lied about him. He had more than enough reason to believe that God was cruel, cold, and distant. But he didn’t. He lived by sound theology. He did not allow the circumstances of his life to color his view of God’s character.
In this verse, Joseph speaks humbly with his brothers, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”
Joseph saw clearly what Joni Eareckson Tada eloquently says, “God allows what He hates to accomplish what He loves.”
The suffering that we experience in this lifetime is often not random. There truly is a method behind the madness of what we endure in this world. It does not come from the hand of a cruel, cold, and distant God. It comes from a God that is compassionate, that journeys with us, and has a purpose for us.
First posted on: http://irresistiblechurch.org/bad-things-happen-good-people-part-3-4/#