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“We believe, but help us, Lord in our unbelief.”

If you have kids, do you remember the phase of their asking incessantly that same question—WHY? Why does it rain? Why do I have a belly button? Why do I have to brush my teeth? But as we get older, we ask that same ‘Why?’ question from childhood, but reframed with adulthood issues: Why did my wife get cancer and die? Why didn’t I get that job? Why did I get fired? Why is the world so messed up? Why should I trust the Bible?

These are personal questions, and they’re hard questions. The challenge of trying to understand God and be a person of faith in a world of suffering and pain is called theodicy—from theos: God, dikē: judgment. This word, originating from Gottfried Leibniz, describes the attempt to vindicate God in response to the problem of evil or pain. Or, to use the words of Cappadocian Father, Gregory Nazianzus (d. 390), we are people with “faith seeking understanding.” We believe, but help us, Lord in our unbelief (Mark 9:24).

And who hasn’t raised the question? We all have. Why, God? “Why, O Lord, do you stand far away? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?” (Psalm 10:1). “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). “Why have you forgotten me? Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?” (Psalm 42:9). “Awake! Why are you sleeping, O Lord? Why do you hide your face? Why do you forget our affliction and oppression?” (Psalm 44:23-24). “Why do you hold back your hand, your right hand?” (Psalm 74:11).

Some people, like Harold Kushner in his classic book, When Bad Things Happen to Good People, take the approach that God simply isn’t capable of overcoming all evil. “If God can’t make my sickness go away, what good is he? Who needs him? God does not want you to be sick or crippled. He didn’t make you have this problem, and he doesn’t want you to go on having it, but He can’t make it go away. That is something which is too hard even for God” (129).

Too hard even for God. Is God weak, or does He have reasons beyond our understanding from withholding His power in our broken and fallen world? The beauty of the Christian faith, unlike any other religion in the world, is that God doesn’t answer the problem of suffering with a technique we can try, a philosophical explanation we can give, or a mystical experience we can have.

One of the great texts in the New Testament that gives us a divine answer to the problem of suffering is the shortest verse in the Bible. When Jesus’s close friend dies, He goes to the tomb, and the text simply says, “Jesus wept” (John 11:35).

God walks with us in our pain. God enters our suffering through Jesus. For some reason, we tend to think of God as an absentee landlord, but He isn’t. He has entered our world so that we might enter His. Through the freedom He granted, our world has been corrupted, and one day He will right the wrongs and “wipe away every tear from [our] eyes” (Revelation 21:4).

We believe in a suffering Savior who “endured the cross, scorning its shame and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2). Therefore, as Peter Kreeft writes, “God doesn’t give us a lot of words to answer the problem of suffering. According to Christianity, he gives us a single word, and his name is Jesus” (Metaxas, Socrates in the City, 55).

Thank You, Lord, that You didn’t send a philosopher to intellectualize our pain. Thank You that You didn’t send a theologian to theologize our pain. Thank You that You sent Your Son to embrace our pain. And we give thanks that one day our momentary affliction will give way to an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison (2 Corinthians 4:17). In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Posted by Rick Grover, Lead Pastor with

Stop Beating Yourself Up

If you ever beat yourself up with condemnation, join the club.

Sometimes I find it much easier to forgive others their trespasses than to forgive my own. I carry a big stick, one the likes that Negan has never seen. (If you missed the reference, that’s okay.) The only difference is that I pummel myself with it far more than anyone else. Maybe that’s a good thing, but any kind of pummeling is far from the call of Christ.

Revelation 12:10 pictures the great dragon as satan—Hebrew for “the accuser”—who accuses us before God day and night. My problem is that I don’t need any help; I accuse myself plenty before God.

Before you think I’m just down on myself, I’m not. I’m just aware of the many times I have been down on myself, and I want to change. Maybe you do, too. Here are few thoughts to help guide us:

First, the way God sees us is far more important than the way we see ourselves. In fact, we need to start changing the way we see ourselves from down below to up above. The Bible teaches that God delights in us (Psalm 41:11). He longs to be gracious to us (Isaiah 30:18). He desires that we turn our hearts from evil and come to Him (2 Peter 3:9). Too often, our eyesight doesn’t capture the vision of God. We see ourselves through our sin; He sees us through the righteousness of His Son, Jesus Christ. “God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Second, God’s memory is far more important than our memory. If God “remembers [our] sins no more” (Isaiah 43:23), why do we? Why do we keep playing the same clip over and over and over in our minds? This is where we need to “take every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). Obedience to Christ includes letting go of the past and moving forward in grace. Whether that applies to your own sin or the sin of someone else, “do not dwell on the past” (Isaiah 43:18), and move on with your life.

Third, how God forgives us is far more important than how we forgive ourselves. “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). God is the Judge, not us. If He chooses to forgive us (which He does), why can’t we forgive ourselves? Are we greater than God that we should hold onto the past with a grip mightier than that of God’s grace? Do we not trust God’s forgiveness or His power to cast our sins as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12)?

The next time you think of yourself as “such a worm as I,” remember that in Christ you are a son or daughter of the King. When your memory exceeds the memory of God, let it go and move on. And when you beat yourself up over past mistakes, put your club down and receive God’s forgiveness. Following Jesus requires us to forgive (Matthew 6:14-15) and that includes forgiving ourselves.

Posted by Rick Grover, Lead Pastor with

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