The Good of Suffering

Why are all the good people suffering? It seems that too often we hear about someone who has lived very honorably getting sick while someone who has been a rotten person lives on. It’s frustrating because life might actually appear to punish the good. We never hear about “that guy” getting cancer or the evil person at work being involved in a horrible accident. It’s always good people. We aren’t asking for it to happen to bad people but we notice that they seem to never have these problems. In response to this question of, Why?; I have two immediate thoughts: 1) God needs good people to spread His word through their actions and trials and 2), I don’t know any rotten people well enough to know if they are sick. I digress, so I started to dwell on my first thought. Good people who get sick always become a source of inspiration for others in some way.

This past weekend the State of Arizona and United States of America lost Senator John McCain to cancer. I’ve had the honor to meet with Senator McCain on a number of occasions and found that his courage to do what was right always exceeded his obligation to his party. I’ve known several people who have had serious illnesses and they were inspiring to me as they fought through the challenges; they did the inspiring. So the answer to the question is not why but what are we to learn from this? Are you supposed to be a stronger supporter? Are you supposed to learn about the strength of prayer or how to trust in God? We are all God’s children and He gives us only what we can handle, so what are we going to do with the opportunity that God has presented? Rotten people might not seem to have these problems but if they are truly rotten to the core, then they have eternal problems to deal with.

“All whom the Father gives me will come to Me, and whoever comes to Me I will never drive away.” John 6:37

God sent us all to Jesus – period. If Jesus won’t drive us way, what does? Many will answer that it’s sin but God took care of that on the cross at Calvary. Sin will not separate us from God’s love. I’ll suggest that the devil is the one who drives us away from our Savior Jesus Christ. He tempts us all of the time and disease is just one of his tools to turn us away from God. Many times people ask “why did God do this to her?” “Why does God let this happen?” It isn’t God. It’s the devil’s powerful way to make us doubt God’s love in our lives. The devil wants us to turn away from God and will stop at nothing to do it. Jesus will NOT drive us away!

God can use the pain of disease or injury to show us His love, strength and compassion. God inspires good people to do great things as a result of these bad events. The anniversary of the September 11thattacks is coming up and people often ask, Where was God that day? He was saving thousands of people to do great things and he was inspiring others to be strong in the face of tragedy. Have you ever spoken to someone who was there that day? They tell great stories about the people they lost or they tell of how they found strength in the following years to carry on. They became the inspiration for someone else. This week, make a conscious effort to be inspired by someone or to inspire someone; show the devil your love for God and that you belong to Him.

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No where to Turn

We often hear people say, “I have no where to turn!” Many times they are just frustrated by what is happening at that moment and things aren’t as bad as they think. There are times however, when things are truly bad. I met someone almost 10 years ago who I mentioned a couple of weeks ago. He was helping me make connections that would alter my life in big ways as a military contractor. As we started to become true friends, I heard about the turmoil in his life. His ex-wife had burned down his house, his older sons were doubtful of their mother’s involvement which was creating conflict and his truck was broken into and some of his belongings were stolen. Yet, he found time to help me. As we talked, he kept referring to the strength of Job and all of his troubles. Neither Job nor my friend lost faith.

In the grand scheme of things, I have a very good life. We are constantly waiting for the proverbial “other shoe to drop” but we never seem to let minor set backs slow us down. I have seen people’s lives changed in the blink of an eye and never really thought beyond my role as a rescuer as to what would come of their emergency once we left. As I get older, I see people who struggle every day with medical conditions, financial issues, workplace stresses and relationships. I’m sure age has nothing to do with it; maturity does. It is how we deal with these problems that is key to our happiness. Unfortunately, some turn to substance abuse to escape, while others turn to friends or family for help. Healthy choices have long-term effects. The others only ease the pain temporarily and then pile on more problems for later. If you are struggling or know someone who is, seek long-term answers because your problems are, in the grand scheme of things, short-term.

20 “Although the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, your teachers will be hidden no more; with your own eyes you will see them. 21 Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” Isaiah 30:20-21

When I first started planning this devotional, I was looking only at verse 21. It is easy to write about listening to the voice that says, “This is the way”. However, it is important to remember that God also brings adversity and affliction. It sounds crazy to think that God brings these bad things to us but we must remember, “Everything happens for a reason”. Sometimes they build strength for what is yet to come, other times they provide you wisdom to advise someone else later in life. In some cases, God is using you as an example of faith for others to see – a living witness.

We are reminded that no matter what ‘bad thing” is happening to us, “your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” Much like when you must open the door when opportunity knocks, you must be ready to hear God’s voice. He won’t necessarily speak directly to you or send an Angel in your dreams, but wouldn’t that be awesome! God uses all of us in different ways to send His messages. It was my new friend, who was experiencing far worse things than I was, that was sending me the message that it was going to be okay. The day we spoke was transformational for me. Looking back, I know that it was God telling me that, “This was the way”. Keep listening!

You Can’t Fail

I’d like to end 2015 with a great reminder and another departure from my standard format. Let’s start this week with the verse that is very appropriate for both the Christmas holiday that just past and the start of a new year.

“God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them.” 2 Corinthians 5:19

This is why we had Christmas – so God could reconcile with the world. His people, born of sin, could not be with Him in eternal life unless we had a savior. This is great news. But think about what this verse means for you in 2016. God is NOT counting your sins against you! Sin is not measured by severity. It is all sin and we can’t stop ourselves from doing it. Just as we think we are living really good lives and following the commandments, we are still sinning. If you become so confident that your “godly life” is more pleasing to God – you’re sinning. The complaining that you do about your boss or that one family member – you’re sinning. We can’t help it!

There is an old saying, “what would you do if you knew that you couldn’t fail?” We can be so afraid of our selves or our lives that we stop trying. For some people, this fear can be paralyzing. They are afraid to try things or explore new ideas because they are afraid to fail. Others will get so down on themselves because of sin that they give up on getting to know God. They’ll say “God could never forgive me what I’ve done”. God has already forgiven them, you and me! Our sins have been erased through our faith in Jesus Christ; He took them all to hell and left them with the devil. Sin has no place in our lives. God does not and will not count them against us because He loves us as any Father would love His children.

Start 2016 confidently and don’t worry about sin being the anchor in your life. We are all special people in God’s eyes, so go strongly and confidently into 2016; like you can’t fail. Trust in God, rely on Him for guidance and strength and see what happens. Happy New Year!