The title of our sermon this morning is the opportunity suffering provides, and I get to speak a little from personal experience this morning, which is cool. There’s not much else that I’ve been going through except processing a lot of the things that I get to share. So I’m excited to do that. But I just want to say thanks and what I mean by that is our daughter, Lucy, has been she’s been in the hospital for quite a while. She’s out now.
But this month we spent most of the month in the hospital. It’s been a different experience for us. We we didn’t expect it, and it’s just been a lot of surprises this month. But we just wanted to say thank you. I think we’re overwhelmed by how much the Church loves and how much you guys have given and prayed and checked on us and everything.
I’m just grateful. And Molly is, too. I just wanted to kind of, I guess, like she, there’s so many unanswered questions, but a geneticist is kind of helping us understand that she does have something she was born with. A rare genetic disorder. It’s called Falconi Bickel syndrome.
Only about 100 or so people have it, but we don’t know how to treat it exactly. There’s some great ideas and lots of really cool resources, and I just feel really blessed to be in America to have the resources we have, right. Things could be so much worse. But I’ll just say this. Your prayers are needed in their we’re grateful for them.
We feel fragile. Week by week, different things come up, and we’re learning kind of how to deal with it. But I’m just grateful. Like God has been really gentle with us. We felt his hands holding us.
We really have. So there’s been many prayers prayed, but many, many prayers answered. And so I just wanted to share that with you because it reminds us that I’m just learning what answered prayers are. Praying more of them than I prayed in my life. So we’re grateful she’s here and that she’s doing much better and she’s stable at the moment. So thank you.
I did want to kind of show you a slide here. Just so you see, you guys are. I think the biggest part of why God is hearing our prayers, but we’re still grateful. I was expressing that the hospital’s been amazing, right? Great doctors, great nurses, nurses that are like friends that I want to keep up.
We have a whole list of phone numbers from nurses that just want to know how she’s doing on a personal level. We want to follow up and just tons of tons of I just wanted to put their faces up here because I’m grateful, and this is only about half or a third of the list. But, you know, we’ve spent a lot of time in hospitals, and I know some of you guys have as well. But if you’ve ever been in a hospital, you might know there is this chart that you see it here.
And I know a lot of people have seen it, man, but it’s called the pain scale, and essentially it’s all about seeing, like, where are you at?
Because pain really is a relative phenomenon. It’s relative to where you were yesterday, where you can imagine your life going to your neighbor’s life that you can actually witness, you know, like the pain is relative. So I guess this morning I want to ask you in your mind and your heart rate yourself, where are you at? I think I don’t want to pretend that we’re going through something and no one in the world is. That is so not true. And I think what’s helped us is to stay in touch with other people’s lives and what they’re going through.
But where would you say that you’re at this morning? It might be you might be in the red zone. I doubt you’re in the red zone if you’re in this room, but at least emotionally, on an emotional level, there’s different kinds of pain that you could be there. And I know that we’ve already talked about mental health, and I know there’s all kinds of sufferings that we go through. They’re not just physical or financial.
They’re emotional, they’re relational. There’s persecution. There’s a whole deck of cards in the game of life that you could be dealt on what suffering will come your way. And I know the Bible promises suffering.
So I’m just curious, you know, are you in touch? I mean, for us, it’s been challenging, but I wanted just to share kind of perspectives with you that have helped us. And if you are going through something or if you’re about to go through something, you don’t know it yet. I’ll equip you with some ways to think that please God. So let’s see what we got, Lucy. Alright. So here’s a scripture I’ve been holding on to this week. And this is what I do in times when I need it.
And I’m like, yeah, I don’t know if I have time for a long, quiet time or whatever, but I know I need this. I write scriptures down. I put them in my pockets. And these are kind of when you see a scripture with this kind of background, just know, like, these are our survival scriptures. And right now I’m holding on to this one.
And in first Thessalonians 413, it says, brothers and sisters, you do not grieve like the rest of mankind who have no hope. And it’s a reminder to me how much you know, no matter how much bad news comes our way, we as Christians, we’re always gonna have reasons for hope. And in the hospital, I showed you tons of faces like we had real interactions and are still having real followup interactions with all these people. And it’s really encouraging to see they realize we have some backup plan.
You know, there’s some kind of hope that adds things unfold, and they’re worried to kind of come and tell us the new secret that they have that they want to tell us about Lucy’s health or something like that, that we’ll just take it and Amen.
And we’ll laugh through the appointment and we’ll deal with it later. But God is a God who gives us so much hope. And there’s also a call that as a Christian, you have so much hope that you should be ready to offer other people hope. And so I think people have noticed that. And that’s something I’m holding on to.
I’m grateful to see purpose in the pain by seeing that. Bad news stings. But it just doesn’t have the same sting. And so even though you can still grieve as Christians, we get to grieve differently. And so without this hope, I really think we can never move past the questions that all of us hope or no hope. We inevitably ask someone the deepest and hardest questions.
And it really is a one word question. But the hardest question that has no answer is why? Why God? Why? My toddler is starting to ask this question.
But this is one of the first questions that frustrate parents and parenting like, can you stop asking why? Why? You know. But we learned that it’s probably one of the deepest questions, and it might give us the most answers. But we come up the most empty handed most of the time when we ask it.
And if we’re honest, we all ask God why from time to time. We might not verbalize it, but man, our attitudes, our dispositions, the way we take the blows of life. We ask God why, and I don’t get it. And I want to know, what’s the point of all this? Why me?
Why now? Why not him or her? Don’t you know, I just don’t need this right now, right? So why is it happening? I hate this question because sometimes I ask it and it always has a bad aftertaste.
Like, what do you do with it as soon as you ask it? You know, you just realize you won’t get an answer. You don’t and asking it’s your only move. You know, you played your only move, and here you are, and you just sit with it and you’re empty handed, and all you can do is just endure. And I think I hope some of you guys can relate to this.
I know you can. Whatever your situation in life, just know you might be the only one with it, but you’re not the only one with the situation, you know?
So let me just if you’re feeling like you’re focused on yourself, it’s hard. We fought to not focus on ourselves. This has given us some great perspective. I’m not sure how in touch you are with this, but so much so much of the world this very second is enduring the most extreme suffering. Man, it’s unspeakably heart wrenching if you learn or want to want to look it’s sobering, even if you can only see it through a screen.
I mean, there’s so many examples, and honestly, I’m going to spare you pictures. This is a UNICEF photo of the year. It’s just one photo taken, but it really says a lot. You can just see the world is going through so much. For the sake of the presentation.
I did a five minute Google search and I encourage you if you are really going through pain, perhaps do the same. It’s sobering. And it’s actually helpful because you realize a minute in that your life could be way, way harder, no matter how hard it is. So my caveat this morning is I’m not comparing my trials to yours.
I hope you’re not gonna get that out of this. I hope you’re not gonna get out of it that I’m making light of your challenges either. But God has a plan for when we go through. He has a plan for us and an intention and a purpose for our suffering. An American life, even on its worst day, is just so not worth comparing to, you know, and I think that’s a helpful thing, because like I said before, all pain is relative.
I think our pain meter. You might have put the number down, too, if you yeah. Wait. I mean, there’s stuff going on, okay, because when I realize these things, though, I honestly still ask the same question. And I’m not a fan, but I ask it again.
Why? Like, I’m looking at the suffering in the world. And what is the point? It’s it makes me sick, you know, it shakes my faith. If I meditate on it too long. It’s tough to look at.
This is an artist, one of my favorite artists, because she’s so moving in the way she she depicts. But during World War One, she lost all her kids, all of them. And throughout the whole war, she just drew pictures of mothers and their children, and losing their children in war. And man, she had some rough life blow after blow. And I know that if you sit on it too long, you ask why? You do.
And it’s the reason, honestly, why some people are so resolute about that they don’t believe in God. They don’t believe the possibility of of a good, all powerful God. If he would let suffering happen in my life or in their lives, why wouldn’t he stop it? And I think that that’s a good question to sit on.
It’s silly to me that that’s an argument against God. Honestly, that’s one of the greatest apologetics for God. And I’ll tell you why, because the existence of suffering in the way it unsettles us. It actually points towards the case for a really good God because we were made in God’s image. And if that’s true, the disturbance we have by it, it shows our cards, right.
That somewhere deep inside of us, we know that there’s a way that things should be. There’s a way that things ought to be. And by that standard of goodness, we agree that things right now in our world, in our lives, they are terribly wrong, terribly wrong. And we ask, Why right? We say Why?
Because we understand that things are never supposed to be this way, never supposed to be this way. What’s gone wrong? You know, pain, though it’s not pointless. It’s not pointless when it points the world to God, and it has the opportunity to do that. So turn your Bibles to John chapter nine. If you’ve ever asked God, why? Why this? Why me? And wondered what he would say, And you want an answer, this is a conversation he had with some disciples. And we have a story where Jesus weighs in and the disciples literally ask, they say, Why Jesus, please weigh in on the why of suffering. So let’s read John chapter nine. We’ll read verses one through three today main text.
So it says, I guess, okay. As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man who had been blind from birth. Rabbi, his disciples asked him, Why was this man born blind? Was his? Was it because of his own sins or his parents sins?
It was not because of his sins or his parents sins? Jesus answered, this happens so the power of God could be seen in him. And we’ll stop there. There’s a Fuller story. There’s a longer version, but I want to focus on I just want a milk these three verses, there’s a lot in them. And I think the first thing I noticed on verse one here is that it says, as Jesus was walking along and he saw a man born blind. It says that he saw the man. It says that he saw him. And to me, that’s a significant thing.
He sees. He sees them in that the Apostles, this is probably a common thing, right? Like there’s no medicines. There’s no help for people with these kind of needs. Nowadays we hide them because we can we can fix problems. Back then? No. So the Apostles, they must have noticed that Jesus was giving his attention to this man. So much so that John notes it in the gospel. He could have just said, we walked by together. We were together. And we came about a man blind.
But he said that when all else would look through him and not notice this man and his suffering, Jesus noticed him. Says he saw the man. And that’s noteworthy. I just want to encourage you, l’ll pause here is just if you feel that no one else knows about your suffering or knows what you’re going through, you could be right. But I assure you Jesus does. He does.
He sees you. Your pain matters to him. It does. So this man, I mean, he was born blind. He had a life of this.
He was born blind. And here they are asking. Almost, it just sounds so inconsiderate to me. Like, let’s let’s ask Jesus right in front of him, you know, like, hey, hey. Why was he born blind?
And it’s so offensive when you think of the options that they give in their own logic, they can only offer two options here. You see this? A) somehow this man, maybe it’s A, he sinned. It’s his fault. It’s justice for his sin. I mean, he’s born blind.
I don’t know how that works, but I think that’s nonsensical, right. But in their mind, that is an option, right? And then number two, perhaps his parents, it’s their fault. They sinned, and they’re getting what they deserve. Like they never had the thought that God made him blind by design.
That’s absurd in their minds. It’s not an option. And perhaps that it could be God’s sovereign intent. You know that because God would do this, right? I feel like they probably would have thought that’s impossible because God doesn’t make mistakes.
And that would be a mistake. No way he wouldn’t do that. You know, that would shake their view of God. And there are suffering that shake our views of God and hard things. And we wonder, God, do you see, like, all the good I’m doing?
Almost, it’s the concept of reciprocity, right? I do this for you. You follow through for me. And we feel that way with God. When we miss the heart of the gospel and Grace that we think we’ve earned something good.
So we should get something in return. And even the good news doesn’t work that way. The bad news doesn’t work that way either. You you already read Jesus doesn’t take either option. But God’s ways, they’re just not like this in God’s word he never makes a rule that sufferers always deserve their suffering. Sometimes it works that way. I think experientially we learn like, if you’re going to eat all the cookies and ice cream, you’re gonna have a massive stomach ache.
And you realize there’s a correlation between what I did and how I’m suffering now. But God’s rules, he doesn’t have one like that. He doesn’t have a rule like that.
Consider this. This has been one of my pocket scriptures. Exodus four verse eleven it says, this is Moses and God having some discourse. And Moses, he saying like, look, I got some things wrong with me. So, guys, there’s a truth in here that’s helpful. He says, who makes a person’s mouth?
You stutter, right? Who decides whether people speak or do not speak, whether they hear or do not hear, whether they see or do not see? Is it not I the Lord? You can apply that to a lot of things.
Who decides if you have a rough hand in life? I’m not casting a bad light on God. We’re gonna see some really great things. But I just want you to know, like God’s, not. Your suffering hasn’t escaped him.
And perhaps God is a part of it. He sovereignly. He’s sovereignly there with it. There’s something here. God, God has an intention for things, right?
Karma doesn’t decide suffering. That’s one philosophy. Karma right. You do this and bad things come your way, right? No, God decides is this is a harder truth.
But I need to grasp truth, and I need to wrestle with it. But he alone knows why. You know, he knows why. And we rarely get an explanation. And the disciples in our story, they were clueless.
They had only two guesses on hand, a or B. And they were wrong. And like Job’s, friends, you know, the disciples they thought there was this logical, we want to control things.
So they thought there was like a a scientific method to it all right? You reap what you sow. They had good quotes to the back their view. So they were looking for a cause.
But suffering just doesn’t work that way. Suffering doesn’t. Not all pain makes sense. This was the test, the quiz they gave Jesus. You know, some suffering does right.
But for most, God only knows. And we’ve said this. They’re asking for the cause, a or B. But Jesus wouldn’t respond in terms of a cause. He did give a response, but he gave a response in terms of the purpose.
And that is more helpful, the purpose of their suffering. And here is his answer in verse three again. He says it wasn’t because of his sins or his parents in. So it’s not A, it’s not B. It’s C.
This happens so the power of God could be seen in him. That’s where we’re landing. You know, it was never really the story is about a blind man, but it’s really not about the blind man. He’s not, this story doesn’t revolve around him.
He’s not the center of the story. This story was always about God. He went through all he went through for the sake of the glory of God to be seen. You can read the rest of the story, and you can see that God does heal him. And clearly, God not only heals him, but he sets himself up to be the hero of the story.
And he gets the glory that’s due him through it all. And ultimately for us too, our suffering is not about us, but what suffering does. It makes our world small, so small that all we can see is us. You know, we lose sight of God.
We lose sight of others and that we have to fight against them. You guys are suffering even that’s not about ourselves. Ultimately, our suffering reason unknown. Right? It’s all about God.
God must have his glory. We have to get over ourselves.
The point of the morning. It’s been said already, but you might want to write this down. Hey, well, my point slide is pointless. You should write it down. It’s pretty easy to write that down.
The point this is it our pain isn’t pointless when it points the world to God. Our pain is not pointless when it points the world to God. I mean, I think that statement is always true if you look at the logic of that, but it has a purpose. It has a point and that’s the opportunity that suffering provides, pointing the world to God. You know, when God is bigger and when he’s bigger and he’s greater than our suffering, it’s obvious to people around.
It’s been encouraging. I think we’ve been fighting for this mindset, but there’s been one or two nurses that have really, really kind of drilled us on like, What’s your deal? And to know that they’re noticing, at least in this aspect of our lives at this current moment.
Joyful song sung within a prison cell. They are uniquely glorious, are they not? And peaceful prayers prayed in the eye of a storm. They are glorious too. If you consider so many stories in the Bible, you notice that God is glorified when people are, they’re not focused on themselves and their suffering considered Daniel in the Lions den.
And the result of that like, it’s so clear that dots are connected. This is absurd what we’re putting you through and your God is amazing. And you have a a firm faith. Like who is he that you would be unfazed by the worst hand, we could deal you.
There’s so many examples in the Bible and I think a good question to start asking ourselves is this is a good test question. If God could be glorified in your suffering, would that make it worthwhile to you? Trying to find some worth and some purpose, like in at all? If God can be glorified in your suffering doesn’t make it worthwhile? There is a unique and glorious opportunity for God’s power to be seen in our pain. Our pain has a point and so much of our society shuns and it hides its weakness.
And those are missed opportunities. Satan knows the stakes are high. He really does. He knows the opportunity at hand with suffering, at least for God’s glory. And he also sees an opportunity to turn our hearts against God in our suffering.
I think that’s a little more familiar to us. We see that happen more often. I want to just read Job chapter two. It says a lot more than I could even just mention. So I’m going to read it.
It’s not too long. It says one day the members of the Heavenly Court came again to present themselves before the Lord and the accuser, satan, came with them. Where have you come from? The Lord asked Satan. This is in heaven, here in the court.
Satan, answered the Lord, I’ve been patrolling the Earth, watching everything that’s going on. Then the Lord asked Satan, Have you noticed my servant Job? He’s the finest man in all the Earth. He’s blameless a man of complete integrity.
He fears God and he stays away from evil. And he has maintained his integrity, even though you urged me to cause him harm without cause. There’s some, there’s a backup story. This has already happened.
But Satan replied to the Lord’s skin for skin. A man will give up everything he has to save his life. But reach out and take away his health and he will surely curse you to your face. Okay? Alright.
Do with him as you please, the Lord said to Satan, but spare his life. So Satan left the Lord’s presence and he struck Joe with terrible boils from head to foot. Job scraped his skin with a piece of pottery, shattered pottery as he sat among the Ashes. His wife said to him, Are you still trying to maintain your integrity?
Curse God and die. But Joe replied, you talk like a foolish woman. Shouldn’t we accept? Should we not accept only good things from the hand of God and never anything bad? So in all this Job said nothing wrong.
And this story is not about this morning is not about Job. But I wanted to just point a few things out.
It gives us some clues that Satan may have a direct hand in our suffering and that’s more helpful to know. Okay, God, you’re sovereign. I’m so proud of him. You couldn’t tarnish him if you tried. It seems like a taunt to me.
Honest, honestly. Like a triple dog. Dare you to go after Job and I’ll let you. And that just seems weird. And the disciples in John Nine wouldn’t have they had this text.
They had Job two. You know, Job’s rotten friends, right? They would think this is weird. They did think this was weird revealed in their way of thinking. Right?
Why would someone so good get something so bad? Because they’re so good? That’s nonsensical.
Why would he get this as his reward? But the story is really not about job and eventually God’s like. Alright, Job, let me talk now. You’ve hinted that I’m great and I’m awesome and I might have something to say. I got something to say and I got the mic and let me tell you what’s up.
It’s all about God. Yes, it does hurt Job for a brief time for the length of the book. It’s a long book so we can say for a time. But God was seen in all of his truest glory through Job’s suffering. And you know, I think that there’s just so much to learn from this, so much to learn that if you’re suffering, perhaps think God could be very pleased with you.
And he could really think that the stakes are the highest with you for God’s glory to be seen. Like if you can overcome this and glorify God with whatever you’re going through, man. One more pocket scripture. It’s second Corinthians 4:17 I love this one. It’s it’s perspective giving, it says, for our present troubles are small and they won’t last very long.
Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever. You know, in our troubles, our worlds can get so small we can lose sight of God. We can lose sight of where He’s bringing us. We can lose sight and we need to remember. We need to hang on and we’re hanging on by grasping at God’s truths. Through all the my misguided thinking that maybe this is for this or that or my weird answers to the why question.
I’m trying to hang on to the truths, and this is a huge one to tether my heart to. I read scriptures like this and it gives perspective. The hard times are small, it says, compared to the good times that are coming very, very soon, very soon for you. Relief is almost here. And there is something to note here that it is the troubles themselves.
The troubles are they themselves. What are producing the glory that will soon arrive like the no pain, no gain kind of thing in the gym that applies to our troubles in our life when we’re with God. It says that it says it’s achieving for us a weight of glory that far outweighs it all. And what I mean to say in sharing this is that my suffering, your suffering, our sufferings. They’re doing something.
They’re working something. It’s not meaningless. And I need to know that. And I need to hold on to that. Pain is not pointless when it points the world to God and so in conclusion today I’m gonna ask that we consider one more man and he has a title in the Bible.
Isaiah 53 calls him the suffering servant. He’s the suffering servant. Isaiah 53 says that this man was familiar with pain, like one from whom men hide their faces. It was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer.
And about this man suffering, we got to ask in terms of cost, why? Why did this man suffer? Was it a his own sin or B somebody else’s sin?
You know, interestingly, the answer for this, why it’s actually here this time and the answer is B. He specifically died on account of your sin. Isaiah 53 five says he was he was he was pierced for our transgressions.
He was crushed for our iniquities. So we got to sit here for a bit. You know, the sin, our sin? Is the cause of God’s greatest moment of suffering.
But I also want to ask why in terms of a different category. And that is the purpose. What was the purpose of all this pain? Why did Jesus submit to this? What’s the point?
I mean, what was the point of this? Is it pointless?
Do you want to know why? He suffered in order that Jesus could put an end to all sin all pain and all suffering that comes with it forever. He wanted to make things right again. He wanted to put things back together. And so it started with sin. And he ended sin and with its suffering as well.
So remember, our pain is not pointless when it points the world to God. And God, god did this himself. He’s gone, he knows what pain is in its finest form. And so I just want to encourage us with this.
This is our Communion meditation. We’ll meditate on this. You have a quiz ahead of you here, turn to Isaiah 53 It’ll help you. But next time you’re going through a really rough day and you hear your heart muttering, Why God? Why? Just remember that pain and suffering they have been dealt with. And in the meantime, God’s gonna use and he may use your temporary suffering to point the world to God for just one more day. Amen.