Monday, April 16, 2012

At the Intersection of Faith and Suffering

For the most part, my life has been served to me on a silver platter. I am a white, upper-middle class, educated male living in the United States of America. I have a beautiful wife, a heart-melting two-year old daughter, steady employment, and all kinds of career opportunities and aspirations. In a certain sense, it doesn’t get any better than this.

During these times, I find it easy to reflect upon and discuss the wonderful truths of God’s goodness and sovereignty while nicely tucked away in a suburban Starbucks.

But then the silver platter teeters…

The seemingly charmed life stumbles…

In short, 2012 has not been kind to my family. Between nagging health issues, continued failures at pregnancy, and, most recently, the deaths of two close family members, it seems that suffering has invited itself over for a long visit.

How should my family respond to this?

How should I respond to this?

When the “rubber meets the road,” does my “coffee shop theology” actually affect my response, or is it merely an abstract theological concept to be left next to my cafĂ© Mocha?

To be sure, suffering is a concept that, specifically as Americans, we distance ourselves from. And, although it would seem appropriate to not seek suffering, it also seems that by distancing ourselves from suffering we are, in fact, distancing ourselves from a major theme within scripture.

So, how can my family be helped during times of suffering?

How can I be helped?

One of the most helpful biblical concepts to reflect on during times of suffering is that Jesus is King. If I believe that Jesus is King, the corollary is that he is supreme and sovereign over everything (Job 42:2; Ps 115:3; Eph 1:11; James 4:15), including my suffering. When Satan presented himself before God, he was only able to inflict suffering upon Job to the extent permitted by God (Job 1:12; 2:6). Therefore, if we affirm that God, in Christ, is supreme and sovereign over everything, including our suffering, then we must trust him, even during the dark times of the soul.

Moreover, we have the greatest example of suffering, namely Jesus Christ. Paul declares to the Philippians that Jesus was obedient to God, even unto death on a cross (Phil 2:8). Through this death, Jesus endured both physical and spiritual suffering. In considering just the actual crucifixion, we are able to merely glimpse the physical suffering endured by Jesus.

Indeed more so, Jesus endured spiritual suffering. God poured out his wrath on Jesus in order that we might have reconciliation with God. In these moments of spiritual suffering, Jesus must have embraced a terrible anguish as he endured the terrible wrath of God (Is 53:10; Rom 5:9; 2 Cor 5:21).

Therefore, if Jesus, the only one worthy and deserving enough to not suffer was willing to be obedient in his response to God, even unto physical death and spiritual separation, who am I to not also respond in humble obedience? May God grant unto my family the grace, mercy, peace, and understanding to follow in the footsteps of Christ.

May God also grant unto you these things when suffering visits.

God, grant us hope.


  1. Thanks for this great post Dan. We are so sorry for the trials you and Heather (and family) have been going through this year. As one who has lost two family members within a year (my mother and her brother) I can relate to the suffering (although I can't imagine having to go through it within the short time you have had to), But I learned through my experience much about suffering. first- we are to rejoice in our sufferings. Hard thing to do, But as you have already stated, we know that Jesus is King and that God is Sovereign. He has declared the end from the beginning and He has told us how it ends, That is why we can rejoice in times like these. Second- I believe we suffer so that we can relate with others in their suffering.
    "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. 5 For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ."

    That is just two of the many things I've learned over the years that I wanted to share with you and encourage you. Thanks again for the post.
    God Bless.

  2. Dan - I recently read N.D. Wilson's *Notes from the Tilt-a-Whirl* and found it to be immensely comforting/helpful/perspective-giving in terms of addressing suffering. There are many other reasons I would recommend it but for this alone: he "gets" it. You can tell he's been there and so his words about looking at the Creator, at the big picture, toward the New Creation, ring true.