Tuesday, April 27, 2004


Suffering is a fact of life. We all endure suffering to some degree, because we live in a fallen and sinful world. We live in a world filled with people in rebellion against their own creator God, who made them in his very own image (Note: The image is not physical).

Suffering is a byproduct of sin. Because of Adams fall the whole creation was corrupted and came under the curse of sin. Suffering because of labour to produce food and suffering of the mother during child birth are products of the sin of the fall. We sin and suffering is produced. Most of our suffering can not be tied down to any specific sin. I won’t twist my ankle for telling a white lie, nor will I break my arm for telling a bigger lie. God didn't make this world that simplisticly. In fact, God created a very intricate and complicated world. This is true of nature and it is true of the world of human lives and relations. It is true socially, morally, culturally, etc...

In this sinful world, good and bad suffer alike. Sometimes whole lands and cultures are swept out of existence and millions of people suffer having no idea why they are suffering. I often think of World War II when I think of suffering. Over 50,000,000 (50 million) people were killed in that war, and more than halve of those killed during that war were civilians. Over 27,000,000 (27 million) civilians, including women, children, babies and old folks, were killed even though they were not combatants.

Many times times more people than these were displaced, lost homes and families during the war. World War II was a tidal wave of death, destruction and human suffering that was far greater than anything that had been seen before in human history. Millions of people were swept to their deaths by powers, forces and events that they could not possibly understand much less control.

World War II was made almost inevitable due to the way the second most destructive war in history (i.e. World War I) ended. Events were set in motion by the Treaty of Versailles, which officially ended the First World War. The outcome of this treaty set forces the stage which ultimately led to the WWII. Only a small handful of men had anything to do with generating that treaty. Very few, of the more than 50 million men, women and children killed in WWII had anything to do with Treaty of Versailles, yet these many millions of people were swept up and destroyed by its consequence.

Many of those killed, during that bloodiest of all wars, were very devout Christian people. The ten Boom family was one group of Christians who were swept up and killed in that titanic war. The ten Booms were Reformed Dutch Christians. They were arrested and sent to death camps for the crime of saving Jews from the Nazis' planned extermination of European Jews. Like the ten Booms countless numbers of Christians underwent great suffering and often painful death during WWII, many others helplessly watched as their love ones suffered and died around them.

Now let me fast forward for a moment. I am certain there were a number of good Christian people killed in the planes, Twin Towers and Pentagon on 9-11. Why did innocent people die on 9-11? Why did the ten Booms and so many other civilians have to die in WWII?

Did WWII take God by surprise? No; God knows all things in history from eternity, not only that, but he has ordained all that comes to pass in this world. The suffering of the ten Booms was ordained by the Lord before the creation. It is probable that we will never know all there is to know about the "whys" of suffering. But we can know that all these things are in God’s hands. He is able to , and does, turn all sins that are committed in such a way that they must accomplish the Lord’s Holy will.

How is this done? I don't know. God is God and He has told us in His Scriptures that it is so. “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28) God has not given us specifics on how this is so, but we know it is so from God’s Word. That is a great comfort when we are undergoing suffering. We can have comfort even while we are in pain and undergoing great struggles, even struggles that lead to death for ourselves or our loveones.

Because God is sovereign, the Christian can take comfort in the fact that ultimatly none of our suffering is meaningless.

Coram Deo,