Where is God when it hurts? 2 Corinthians 1:3-11
I feel helpless when I’m around people who are in pain. I feel just a little guilty. They lie there all alone, perhaps moaning in great pain. Their faces twitch, reflecting what’s going on inside. And there is no way I can bridge the gap between us to penetrate their suffering. I can only watch. Anything I attempt to say seems stiff and totally unnecessary, even cruel, as if they were just lines I had learned in seminary.
Many years ago a mother phoned me to pray for her 3-year-old daughter. She had been playing outside in the afternoon, became very ill and was taken to the doctor. She ended up in the hospital where at 10:00 P.M. She died. I knelt with that father beside his precious baby’s bed. I put my arm around him, saying, “I know how you feel.” The guilt came immediately, because I could not have, in a lifetime, felt his pain.
What do you say to someone who is in great pain, either from their own pain or the pain of a broken heart?
First let me give you some bad examples:
Don’t try to bring guilt. “There is something in your life that is not pleasing to God. You must have stepped out of His will somewhere. These things just don’t happen to real Christians! What’s God trying to tell you?” I counseled with a young couple years ago, that were almost irreparably damaged by a minister who told them, “The only reason God took your baby is because you haven’t been going to church.” I wonder where he found that in the Bible?
Don’t try to be too happy. One lady brought flowers, sang hymns, quoted happy psalms about babbling brooks, and mountains clapping their hands. She was kind of a professional cheerleader for the sick. Proverbs 14:13, “Even in laughter the heart may sorrow, and the end of mirth may be grief.” Proverbs 25:20, “Like someone who takes away a garment in cold weather, and like vinegar on soda, is one who sings songs to a heavy heart.”
Never assume that you know more than God knows. Never say things like, “Sickness is never God’s will.” (I will deal with this fallacy later in this message). Or, “The devil is at work, and God will wait until you muster up enough faith to believe you will be healed.” Or, “If God doesn’t heal you, you may not be His child.” It is just plain foolish to make a person who is hurting to hurt even more. Your job is to bring comfort.
Never say, “You need to come to the place where you can say, ‘Thank you, Lord for giving me pain. I love you God, for putting me through this time of pain and suffering.’” That would give you a gruesome picture of God as some great, hideous monster pinching people between His fingers, stomping on them, and pulverizing them with His huge fists, until they cried out, ”Okay, God I love you for doing this to me.”
One thing to never forget, “God never does anything TO us. Everything He does, He does FOR us.
Another example of what not to say: “You have been chosen to participate in Christ’s sufferings. You have been appointed to suffer for Him, because of your great strength and integrity, He will reward you.” The response may be, “Why me God? Choose someone else, there are lots of people in this world stronger than me. Please choose someone else.”
Although some of the above examples may be true, and part of God’s word, your suffering friend may not ne ready to hear them yet.
Why do God’s children suffer?
Do God’s people suffer because of sin in their lives?
Consider Stephen, the Apostle Paul and other heroes of the faith. They were our great examples. Paul and Stephen were both preaching Christ, they suffered for it. Consider the great trials of faith which to God’s servants were caused to suffer.
Hebrews 11:32-38, “And what more shall I say? For the time would fail me to tell of Gideon and Barak and Samson and Jephthah, also of David and Samuel and the prophets: who through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in battle, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. Women received their dead raised to life again. Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted,[a] were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented— of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth.” They suffered because of their faith, not from the sin in their lives.
John 9:2,3, “And His disciples asked Him, saying, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him.”
Do God’s people suffer because of a lack of faith?
Again, I remind you of God’s Hall of Fame in Hebrews 11. The heroes of the Bible were full of faith. For example, consider, Epaphroditus, Trophimus and Timothy:
Philippines 2:25-30, “Yet I considered it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother, fellow worker, and fellow soldier, but your messenger and the one who ministered to my need; since he was longing for you all, and was distressed because you had heard that he was sick. For indeed he was sick almost to death; but God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow. Therefore I sent him the more eagerly, that when you see him again you may rejoice, and I may be less sorrowful. Receive him therefore in the Lord with all gladness, and hold such men in esteem; because for the work of Christ he came close to death, not regarding his life, to supply what was lacking in your service toward me”
2 Timothy 4:19,20 “Greet Prisca and Aquila, and the household of Onesiphorus. Erastus stayed in Corinth, but Trophimus I have left in Miletus sick.
1 Timothy 5:23, AMP, “Drink water no longer exclusively, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent illnesses.” Paul did not prescribe more faith for Timothy, he suggested medicine!
Satan has always harried God’s people with the question…“Why does God allow His children to suffer?”
Every doubter, Agnostic or Atheist asks the same question, “If there is a God, why does He allow suffering in the world?” All of the skeptics of history asked the same. “If there is a God why is He so unfair with His distribution of pain and suffering in the world?”
They asked Jesus this question in Luke 13:1-5, “Now on the same occasion there were some present who reported to Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. And Jesus said to them, ‘Do you suppose that these Galileans were greater sinners than all other Galileans because they suffered this fate? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or do you suppose that those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them were worse culprits than all the men who live in Jerusalem? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.’” Jesus turned their question from “Why did they die?’ to “Why are you here?”
As a pastor I have been asked to stand with people in every conceivable circumstance. Many, when faced with a tragic situation ask, “Why my loved-one? Why this? Why me? Why now? Why? Why? Why?”
Allow me to tread on thin ice for a moment…Natural acts or act of God? Insurance companies, to avoid paying off, consider some tragedies an “Act of God.”
A little boy came home from Sunday School with this story, “When Moses got to the Red Sea, they couldn’t get across, so Moses got out his cell phone, called in the Israeli Air Force to bomb the Egyptians, then called in the Corp of Engineers to build a pontoon bridge.” Dad asked, “Is that what the taught you?” “Well, no! But you wouldn’t believe the story they told us.”
Before the written word of God was given, Gods suspended the laws of nature in order to prove Himself to His people. There was a time when God came down to personally intervene in the lives of His people. There were miracles when God sent rain in answer to a farmers prayers. He stopped the sun and sent it backwards in answer to another’s prayer. He divided the sea, closed hungry lion’s mouths, and walked with men in fiery furnaces. Does He still do that? This could really put God on the spot. I remember several years ago, people prayed for God to turn a hurricane to spare them. How was God to answer when the hurricane turned into the path of others who were praying for the wind to blow the other way? How can God answer a farmer who desperately needs rain, when another is praying for dry conditions so he can build his barn. Matthew 5:45, “He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”
These acts of nature, hurricanes, typhoons, tsunami’s, floods, etc. are wrongly called “Acts of God.” The are “Acts of nature.” Nature is morally blind, without values. It churns along, following its own laws, not caring who or what gets in the way. To say that God was judging someone when a hurricane hit is an affront to the love and grace of God.
I submit to you that God created nature, set it in motion and nature will act just as nature should act.
Isaiah 55:9, MSG, “I don’t think the way you think. The way you work isn’t the way I work. God’s Decree. ‘For as the sky soars high above earth, so the way I work surpasses the way you work, and the way I think is beyond the way you think. Just as rain and snow descend from the skies and don’t go back until they’ve watered the earth, doing their work of making things grow and blossom, producing seed for farmers and food for the hungry, so will the words that come out of my mouth not come back empty-handed. They’ll do the work I sent them to do, they’ll complete the assignment I gave them.’”
And there are laws of attrition. If a wing falls off of an airplane, or a bridge collapses, or a dam breaks because of its age or perhaps poor construction, how is that God’s doing? If a bridge falls and hundreds of people die, was God out to get someone on that bridge, and hundreds had to die so God could kill that one? If a plane crashes and many die, did God have to kill them all just to get to the one He was after? How ridiculous is that? I know this, If God is after you, I don’t want to be in the same car with you when your time comes. How can we accuse God for human error or attrition? There is the second law of thermodynamics, that says, “Everything deteriorates gradually over time, everything on earth is running down, decaying and failing.”
But, Pastor, do you mean there are no miracles today? No, I’m not saying that at all! Every child of God is a miracle and experiences miracles every day in his life.
1. The miracle of the deity of Christ. Jesus Christ, one Person, fully God and fully man. Jesus' two natures, human and divine, are inseparable. Jesus will forever be the God-man, fully God and fully human, two distinct natures in one Person.
2. The miracle of salvation, our union with Christ. My new life in Christ is a miracle. I am a new creation in Christ, Jesus Christ lives in me. The power of God’s Holy Spirit is in my life, working every day through me. 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.”
3. The miracle of God’s Word. Everything God has to say to us is in the Bible. It is a complete revelation of God to men. 2 Timothy 3:16,17, “ All Scripture is inspired (God-breathed) by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.”
4. Our human bodies area miracle. Psalm 139:13,14, “For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb. I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; wonderful are Your works, and my soul knows it very well.”
5. God has given us the miracle of pain, the gift nobody wants! Pain is God’s gift to tell us that something’s wrong, ignore the pain and you’ll be in trouble. Pain is not God’s way of punishing us but, it is nature’s warning to both good and bad people there is a problem. Life would be unlivable and very dangerous if not for pain, for example, lepers do not have pain censors, that’s why they must do body checks regularly to see if they have been injured. Pain is the price we pay for being alive. Dead cells can’t feel anything.
The person who smokes two packs a day for twenty years, or that abuses his body with years of excessive drinking, or overeating can never say, “Why am I so sick, why must I die so young?” He can never accuse God for his own excesses!
“But pastor what about cancer?” Someone has written this about cancer: “Cancer cannot cripple love; it cannot shatter hope; corrode faith; eat away at peace; destroy confidence; kill friendships; shut out memories; silence courage; invade the soul; reduce eternal life; quench the spirit; or lesson the power of the resurrection.”
Now, there are some things we just do not understand! Even Paul, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit had this to say:
Romans 11:33-36, MSG, “Have you ever come on anything quite like this extravagant generosity of God, this deep, deep wisdom? It’s way over our heads. We’ll never figure it out. Is there anyone around who can explain God? Anyone smart enough to tell him what to do? Anyone who has done him such a huge favor that God has to ask his advice? Everything comes from him; everything happens through him; everything ends up in him. Always glory! Always praise! Yes. Yes. Yes.”
And Isaiah writes, “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts’ (Isaiah 55:9).
How do we handle pain and suffering?
We must look at it as a ministry.
Fanny Crosby lost her eyesight and made it a ministry, writing beautiful poems about the wonder, love and majesty of God. “Fanny Crosby was probably the most prolific hymnist in history. Though blinded by an incompetent doctor at six weeks of age, she wrote over 8,000 hymns. About her blindness, she said: ‘It seemed intended by the blessed providence of God that I should be blind all my life, and I thank him for the dispensation. If perfect earthly sight were offered me tomorrow I would not accept it. I might not have sung hymns to the praise of God if I had been distracted by the beautiful and interesting things about me.’”
Here’s just one of her 8000 hymns:
“Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine! Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!
O what a foretaste of glory divine! Heir of salvation, purchase of God,
Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood.
This is my story, this is my song, praising my Savior, all the day long;
This is my story, this is my song, praising my Savior, all the day long.
Joni Eareckson Tada is a remarkable woman. Injured in a diving accident at the age of 17, Joni has had to endure more physical suffering than most of us ever will. Though she suffered a deep depression and lost the will to live in the aftermath of her accident, she gradually came back to a deeper relationship with God. Because of her early struggles, she has become strong in her faith and is a testimony to the world of how when we are weak, God is strong. Her story is not one of bitterness and despair, as we might imagine it to be, but one of love and victory. In 1979, Joni moved to California to begin a ministry to the disabled community around the globe. She called it Joni and Friends Ministries (JAF Ministries), fulfilling the mandate of Jesus in Luke 14:13,23 to meet the needs of the poor, crippled, and lame. Joni understood first-hand the loneliness and alienation many handicapped people faced and their need for friendship and salvation. The ministry was soon immersed with calls for both physical and spiritual help for the disabled.
Rex Harrison (not the actor) was born with just tiny, useless stubs for arms and legs, but he made a ministry of music. He was used greatly in a Teen Revival we conducted in Miami and many other outreach ministries in which he was involved.
Dr. B.R. Lakin, was one of my personal heroes in the ministry. He was an evangelist that started riding a mule through the hills of West Virginia preaching wherever he could. He said, his real ministry didn’t begin until he laid his most precious possession in the ground, his son, Bill who was killed in an automobile accident. Through his pain, He reached literally thousands of souls for Christ in his years of ministry.
It’s hard to minister when you are hurting. You can go through life as a miserable person, feeling sorry for yourself, depressed, affecting and infecting everyone with whom you come in contact. Or you can make your pain into a ministry, especially to others who are hurting. There is no greater minister than the person who has gone through suffering. I really didn’t know how to minister at a funeral until my mom died. I really didn’t know how to show compassion for the disabled until I became disabled myself.
The question to be asked when suffering is not “WHY?” But “What do I do now?”
Why do God’s children suffer? 2 Corinthians 1:3-11
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ. Now if we are afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effective for enduring the same sufferings which we also suffer. Or if we are comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation. And our hope for you is steadfast, because we know that as you are partakers of the sufferings, so also you will partake of the consolation. For we do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, of our trouble which came to us in Asia: that we were burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired even of life. Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead, who delivered us from so great a death, and does[a] deliver us; in whom we trust that He will still deliver us, you also helping together in prayer for us, that thanks may be given by many persons on our[b] behalf for the gift granted to us through many.
1. That we may be able to comfort others (Verse 4). Schools do not have courses about how to comfort others. But every believer has the Paraclete, the Comforter living in him. John 14:26, “But the Comforter, which is the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, He shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.” John 15:26, “But when the Helper (Comforter) comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me.”
Who can understand what it’s like for a parent to gradually move into the darkness of dementia or Alzheimer’s than one who has seen it in their own mom or dad?
Who can understand the anguish of seeing a marriage and a family fall apart, than one who lived through it and survived?
Who can understand the loss of a child than one who has laid their most precious possession to rest?
Who can understand what it’s like to live with and alcoholic parent, than one who was made to suffer as a child watching a parent they loved slowly deteriorate into oblivion?
Who on earth understands? The person who has been through these situations wrapped in the blanket of God’s comfort. God’s choicest counselors are the ones who have endured the stinging experiences of life and made it through!
2. That we may not trust in ourselves (Verse 9). When Paul hit rock bottom, he knew he could sink no lower than the “everlasting arms.” (Deuteronomy 33:27). Pain and suffering reduces us to dependence on God or dependence on self.
Psalm 46:10, “Be still, and know that I am God…”
Job 13:14,15, “Why do I take my flesh in my teeth, and put my life in my hands? Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him. Even so, I will defend my own ways before Him.”
Proverbs 28:26, “He who trusts in his own heart is a fool, but whoever walks wisely will be delivered.”
Proverbs 3:5, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding.”
James 4:8, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.”
3. That in everything we might give thanks (Verse 11). You will never be able to handle this until you come to grips with the first two, comforting others and trusting in God completely, not yourself. 2 Corinthians 4:17-18, “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”
As I have visited those who were in great pain I’ve discovered a God-given strength of faith. The first hospital visit I ever made was in Lynwood, California. The woman as dying of cancer. I went into her room with fear and trembling, having never prayed in a hospital before. What happened? She prayed for me! She had kind of a loving camaraderie with God, an understanding of God unlike any I had seen before. She was so aware that God was with her, it was obvious that she had an intimate relationship with Him. I wanted some of that!
So where is God when it hurts?
He has been there from the beginning, designing a pain system that bears the stamp of His great creative genius, that equips us for life on this planet.
He has watched us reflect His image, launching mighty adventures, carving out great works of art, living on this earth with a mixture of pain and pleasure so closely related they sometimes become indistinguishable.
He has used pain, even in its grossest forms, to teach us to trust in Him.
He has watched this rebellious planet creating for itself new and more horrible ways to suffer, mercifully allowing us to continue on our self-guided way, while blaming Him for our own creations of misery…wars, etc.
He has let us cry out and echo Job with louder and harsher fits of anger against Him, blaming Him for a world we spoiled.
He has joined us, through His Son, He has hurt and cried and bled and suffered. He has dignified for all time those who suffer by sharing their pain.
He has promised supernatural strength to nourish our spirit, even if our physical suffering goes unrelieved.
He is now ministering to us through His Spirit and through members of His body, who are commissioned, much of the time by their own suffering, to bear us up and relieve our pain.
He is waiting until the world shall see the last explosion of pain before the full victory is ushered in when pain, suffering, and sorrow will be no more.
Revelation 21:3-5, MSG, “I heard a voice thunder from the Throne: ‘Look! Look! God has moved into the neighborhood, making His home with men and women! They’re His people, He’s their God. He’ll wipe every tear from their eyes. Death is gone for good—tears gone, crying gone, pain gone—all the first order of things gone.’ The Enthroned continued, ‘Look! I’m making everything new. Write it all down—each word dependable and accurate.’”
“Through It All”
I've had many tears and sorrows, I've had questions for tomorrow,
There've been times I didn't know right from wrong,
But in every situation God gave blessed consolation,
That my trials only come to make me strong.
I've been a lot of places and I've seen so many faces,
But there've been times I've felt so all alone
But in that lonely hour, n that precious, lonely hour,
Jesus let me know I was His own.
So I thank God for the mountains, and I thank Him for the valleys,
I thank Him for the storms He's brought me through.
Cause if I never had a problem I wouldn't know that He could solve them.
I wouldn't know what faith in His Word could do.
Through it all! Through it all!
I've learned to trust in Jesus! I've learned to trust in God!
Through it all! Through it all!
I've learned to depend upon His Word.
If this message has been helpful to you, please let me know. firstname.lastname@example.org
Unless otherwise noted, the New King James Version of the Bible was used. Also The New Living Translation (NLT); The New American Standard Bible (NASB); The Message (MSG); The New Century Version (NCV); The Amplified Bible (AMP); The King James Version (KJV), The New Life Version (NLV); English Standard Version (ESV); J.B. Phillips New Testament; Easy to Read Version (ERV); Common English bible (CEB); NET Bible (NET) and The Living Bible (TLB). Contemporary English Version (CEV).