With clenched fist and teeth gritted, many a man has groaned, "Why?"
Perhaps you have wrestled with that yourself. Why these calamities?
Tragic sufferings stalk the young and old, rich and poor alike. The well-known Kennedys are not the only family acquainted with such affliction.
Is there any rhyme or reason to the seeming mishaps. I believe there is. The Bible gives a great deal of light for the dark valley of affliction.
The answer is not simple, for there are a number of possible explanations for sufferings. Let us study some right from Scripture.
I. INEXPLICABLE NATURAL CALAMITIES
Two startling tragedies had just occurred in the country and the late news was being discussed with Jesus in Luke 13:1-5. People wondered about those worshippers whom the Roman governor Pilate had slaughtered - and, what of those 18 upon whom the tower had fallen? Could it be that Providence was punishing their secret sins?
Jesus' answer burned into their hearts: No! They were no greater sinners than you are. Indeed, if you don't yourselves repent you shall all perish.
There is something to think about. We can't always explain a catastrophe in terms of the desserts of the victims, but always our startled eyes should be lifted toward God in our own repentance.
II. ATTACKS FROM SATAN
Now, simply because we cannot always explain a calamity, does not mean God does not know what is going on. There are no "accidents" with God. Indeed, in many cases he spells out the answer in Scripture.
In the very same chapter 13 of Luke, a woman pitifully stooped is confronted by Jesus. Life must have been difficult for her. Few cared enough to notice, but "when Jesus saw her, he called her to him," verse 12. Thank God, our Savior cares and is able to help us. The woman walked out tall and straight!
This was no ordinary ailment. She was a woman,"who had been crippled by a spirit," 11. This seems to imply an evil spirit which was causing the affliction. Notice, too, that Jesus first declares her freed from the clutch of this evil force, 12. Then He places His hands on her and performs the outward healing, 13. He later states plainly that she was one "whom Satan has kept bound for eighteen long years," 16.
Christians have every right to call on the risen Christ to bring us relief if we suspect that we are being victimized by our great enemy. (Naturally, prayerful reflection is required to make this determination.) Claiming such Scriptures as Colossians 1:13,14; 2:9,10 will help in this.
III. OPPORTUNITY FOR GOD'S GLORY
Seeing the sad sight of a middle-aged man who had been born blind prompted the disciples to ask the Lord, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” (Turn to this in John 9.) They put the matter into the very words which are in many minds today.
Again Jesus counters this shallow view of suffering -- that wants to pin everything on somebody's particular sin. This man's affliction, he explains, is for the special purpose "that the works of God might be displayed in him," 3. Wonderful it is that our darkest night will display God's glory in the brightest manner.
Thus, Jesus went on to heal the man and later draw him into a full understanding of his divine ministry. Today many are healed by God and the whole matter results in added glory to God. On the other hand, many are left to suffer on and prove God's glory in another way. They show how God's grace is sufficient to go through the suffering. This was the Apostle Paul's experience, 2 Corinthians. 12:7-10.
IV. CHASTISEMENT, CORRECTION OF A CHRISTIAN
Oh the joy of understanding God's discipline! A careful study of Hebrews. 12:1-12 will assist you here. If a proper view is gained of this type of affliction it results in greatly renewed hope.
Even though the grievous situation may still be there, the questioning will be gone and the sun of hope will rise again.
First, determine what sin may have brought God's rod on your back. Then forsake that sin.
Next, as Spurgeon used to say, Kiss the rod and the Father will presently lay it up. Oh, the joy of seeing that my troubles are really a proof of His love toward me. My questioning is now gone. Guilt feelings are relieved. There, is hope ahead. I even thank Him for the humbling chastisement.
V. STROKE OF JUDGMENT
Not always, but sometimes a suffering falls on man's head as a direct punishment for his particular sins. It was certainly so with Achan in Joshua 7. When God demands capital punishment, it is not to correct or rehabilitate the guilty. The civil officer's sword mentioned in Romans 13:4 is not a "spanking" instrument.
God warns that those who trifle with communion are punished by a stroke of judgment: "That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep." I Corinthians 11:30.
VI. PURIFICATION OF FAITH
Now, this next kind of suffering is not to be confused with chastisement. Here we mean that very special exercising of faith spoken of in I Peter 1:6,7. Often a believer may be deeply puzzled as to why such a trial has come upon him. Alfred Edersheim says, "For God to explain a trial would be to destroy its object, which is that of calling forth simple faith and implicit obedience."
What an honor to have the Father choose us for deeper fellowship and more fruitfulness for Him. See John 15:2. The Apostle Paul found it worth his many afflictions in order to be spiritually advanced. Are you also willing? Meditate on the message of this poem:
I knew Thee not, Thou wounded Son of God,
Till I with Thee the path of suffering trod;
Till in the valley, through the gloom of night,
I walked with Thee, and turned to Thee for light.
I do not know the mystery of love,
The love that doth the fruitless branch remove;
The love that spares not e'en the fruitful tree,
But prunes, that it may yet more fruitful be.
I did not know the meaning of the Cross:
I counted it but bitterness and loss:
Till in Thy gracious discipline of pain
I found the loss I dreaded purest gain.
And shall I cry, e'en on the darkest day,
"Lord of all mercy, take my cross away"?
Nay, in the Cross I saw Thine open face,
And found therein the fullness of Thy grace.
George Wallace Briggs, 1875
Always remember that though there are manifold "temptations," there is also "manifold grace." Seek God's enlightenment as to why you are in the fire of trouble. Then move accordingly. He will help you. Even in cases where you are without understanding, hold to James 1:3. " because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance." Praise God!