Becoming Bitter or Better
Brother and sister,
On one of our trip to Indonesia we are called by a lady to pray for her son who have been very very sick for a long time. This lady was so distressed with his son’s sickness. She has lost one son and a daughter previously. This lady could not bear the possibility of losing another son. Dian and I come to her house. We pray for salvation and healing for his son, while this lady was crying besides his sick son. We also pray for the father, mother, the son’s wife and then we left. A couple days later we heard that the son die…….
You can imagine how devastated this lady is…
We have seen a lot cases like this everywhere we go…
This world we live is full of sorrow, sufferings, heartache, disappointments, illness, abuse, betrayal, injuries and death, brokenness, and disasters.
But the question that millions of people want an answer to is why? Why does there have to pain and suffering?
That question was first asked thousands of years ago by Job, and it’s repeated through out the Psalms. Why God? Why is this happening?
Throughout the wars, 9/11, earthquakes , the tsunami, the famines of Africa, and many more, many lives were lost. Why God? Why would a God who is good and full of love allow these things to happen?
All of us have had personal times in our own lives of disappointment and tragedy and we too have wanted an answer to that question.
Back in 1999 I received a phone call from my brother informing me that my father was very sick. I flew home. A couple days later my father passed away in my arm. Two days after the funeral another tragedy struck. My sister had an motor accident, bleeding and unconscious. A nearby truck rushed her and me and my wife to hospital. On the way to hospital on top of that truck I hold my sister in my arms, covered by the blood from her injury, I looked to the sky and cried out to the our Lord….Why Lord….why…?
In a matter of days I lost two persons that I love…
In 2011 I lost my son after fighting leukaemia for 4 years. Again…I cried out…why Lord…what sins did I do to deserve all of this?….
That was a parent’s worst nightmare to bury a son…and on that day I was faced with that nightmare…
Brother and Sister,
The Bible said in 1 Corinthians 13:12 says that in this life, we only see dimly, and from our perspective, we don’t understand life or God at times.
(“12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”)
Yet there are some things that we can understand and I’d like to share with you some possibilities for why God allows suffering in our lives.
There are some key biblical truths that provide enough light for us to find the right direction. We may not clearly understand everything, but we know we’ll eventually get to the right destination and understand it better.
So what are those biblical truths that will help our understanding?
1) God is not the Creator of evil and suffering-
The question has been asked- “Why didn’t God create a world where suffering and evil did not exist?” The answer is simple: He did. The Bible said in
Genesis 1:31 “ God saw all that He had made and it was very good.”
So if God is not the author of pain and suffering, where did it come from? God created humankind with a free will, which is necessary if we are to be able to express our love to God and to one another. We are all created, not like puppets on a string, but with a free will. We have the choice that we can love God or we can reject Him. We choose to be kind and generous or selfish. We choose to be good or bad. God gave us that ability with a free will
Because humans have made a choice to reject God and His way of life, evil exists. The evil exists when we choose to be selfish, arrogant, uncaring, hateful and abusive and the results are pain and suffering. Some have estimated that at least 90% of the world’s suffering is due to our choices of selfishness and sin.
For example, people look at famines and wonder why God allows starvation. There is enough food in the world to feed everyone. It’s our own self centeredness and lack of caring that causes this suffering.
Then there is natural evil like what we saw in the power point. Earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, tsunamis, etc…The pain and suffering from these are astronomical.
Why would a God of love allow this to happen? The Bible said in Genesis 3:18 says it’s because of sin and selfishness that the world got corrupted and “thorns and thistles” entered the world. The earth and all of nature was cursed when sin entered our world. Mosquitoes, blow fly, deadly spider, weeds in your yard, cyclone and hurricanes are a result of natural evil.
So from a biblical point of view, we must understand that God did not create evil or suffering.
But couldn’t He have foreseen that evil would happen? There’s no doubt that He did but think of it this way. As parents, before you had children, didn’t you know that there was a real possibility that your children might suffer disappointment, pain, heart ache, that they might even endanger themselves or rebelling against you?
Even so, you had them because you knew of the even greater potential for love and real meaning in life. It’s the same with God, He knew that we would rebel against Him but He also knew that many would choose to love Him and follow Him and live eternally with Him. It was worth it to Him, even though He would have to go through the great pain of giving up His Son on a cruel cross.
So this is the first truth that sheds light on our understanding of suffering, that God did not create evil or suffering.
2) Although suffering isn’t thought of as good, God can use it to accomplish good. God can use this to draw people to Him.
Throughout the Old Testament, we recall how the people of Israel would turn back to God only after a period of suffering.
There are times in all our lives when suffering gets our attention. Only suffering lifts our eyes off ourselves, and makes us lift them towards God. God wants you to notice him, to hear what he has to say to you.
The King of kings, the Creator of the universe wants your attention.
Suffering may be the only means of doing that. It may be the only means of getting you to slow down, quieten your heart and mind, removing all the clutter and all the noise.
We are a people who live such hectic lives, racing around, being busy and God sometimes just pulls us up short and says – Okay, if I have to make you lie on your back to get you to look upwards.
I can testify to that on many occasions in my life, and I am slowly learning that, since all of my suffering and tragedy.
Now let me ask you a few questions:
Would David have turned again to God if Nathan had not confronted him with his?
Would Pharaoh have let the people of God go without the plagues and the angel of death?
Would Joseph have become the humble man with love and compassion for his brothers if God had not allowed him to be sold into slavery in Egypt?
Would Namaan have turned to the living God if he had not been struck by leprosy?
Would the woman of Samaria had a life changing encounter with Christ if she had not gone to the well in the heat of the day because of her past life?
Brothers and sisters, we could list many examples not only from the bible but from our own lives when God used suffering to grab someone’s attention – to deliver them from sin, to draw them closer to Himself. It is because He wants you to hear His voice, to know His love, …to experience His grace.
We saw that in the life of Joseph who was sold into slavery by his brothers, falsely accused and falsely imprisoned. After many years, he was put into a role of authority and was able to save the lives of his family. He said, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done”. When you are in a loving, committed relationship with God, He will take your pain and use it to bring good to your life and glory to His name.
If we could see the big picture, we would know that pain is sometimes a way of God disciplining us for our long term good. God can accomplish something positive out of our negatives. The Bible said in Roman 8:28 “And we know that in all things, God works for the good of those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose.” If we are committed to following Jesus, He will take the pain that we can’t understand and turn it into good.
God took the worst event in the history of man and brought forth the most wonderful thing that has ever happened for man. God, in the form of His son Jesus, died upon a cruel cross so that we could be forgiven and redeemed. His death seemed like the end, it seemed like the worst thing that could ever happen. But on the 3rd day, He defeated death by rising from the grave giving us the opportunity of eternal life, which is the best thing that could ever happen. God will take our suffering and bring good out of it even though we don’t understand it in the midst of our pain.
So let’s understand that God didn’t create evil and suffering; and He will use our suffering for our own good and draw us to Him
3)TO BUILD AND ENCOURAGE OUR FAITH.
Here is another reason God uses suffering in our lives. It is a means of encouragement and building in our faith. When we come through a time of testing, of trial or of suffering, our faith in God is strengthened.
We know that when all seemed lost and hopeless, when all the things of earth failed us, when friends deserted us, when those who were supposed to protect us didn’t, when the pain seemed unbearable, we experienced his arms around us, protecting us, lifting us back to himself. Without the suffering we would never have known the depth of His love, the power of His strength and the wonder of His grace.
Most of you are familiar with Psalm 23, if not please take time when you go home and read it. Notice some things when you read it that the sheep does nothing but follow. The Shepherd does it all. It is only after the valley and the shadow of death, in the presence of enemies that the goodness and mercy flows.
Some examples from the Bible
Peter – his faith must have been encouraged by those few steps out of the boat into the storm waves. He must have learnt even more, when he began to drown and Jesus rescued him. His faith was really shaken when he denied Jesus three times. How much must it have been restored when Jesus told him ‘feed my lamb Peter.’ Don’t you think his sermon on the day of Pentecost, where 3000 people saved, was helped and shaped by those experiences?
Would Paul have been the compassionate and passionate missionary without his thorn in the flesh? Would he have had the strength of faith without the experiences of jail, of being shipwrecked and the numerous whippings? Would he have known God to be sufficient in all and every situation without such experiences?
Mary and Martha – ever wonder what happened to their faith after Lazarus was raised from the dead? How could it have been encouraged if their beloved brother had not died?
Thomas – how his faith must have changed after going through that period of doubt. How his heart must have been encouraged to see Jesus again and have his questions and doubts answered. Yet without the suffering he would not have had the experience.
Zaccheus, the tax collector (Matthew), the Samaritan woman at the well, the prostitute who anointed Jesus’s feet with tears and Nicodemus who came by night. Don’t you think that the suffering these people experienced helped, shaped and moulded them for Jesus.
So God also use suffering to help build our faith
4) There is no comparison between our suffering and the good God has in store for those who love Him.
I don’t want to minimize anyone’s pain but it helps if we take a long term perspective on our sufferings. Paul said, (2 Cor 4:17)“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” This said by a man who went through more suffering than most of us will ever know. He also said, (Rom 8:18) “For I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” Paul had a long term perspective on pain, he looked at things from an eternal point of view and we need to get in the habit of doing that as well.
And the same will be true for us in heaven, we may have suffered for 66 years, or 96 years on earth but when compared to the goodness and joy of eternity, we won’t even remember the pain we had on earth.
Paul said in 1 Corinthians 2:9 “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived, what God has prepared for those who love Him.”
God didn’t create evil, man did. He will take our suffering and pain and turn it into good when we love Him and trust Him. Suffering and pain will be over soon and there will be no more of it. And all of our suffering and pain can’t compare with the goodness and joy we’ll experience in eternity one day.
The question may be asked, “if God is all powerful and loving and good, why doesn’t He do away with evil in the world?” The answer is, just because He hasn’t yet, doesn’t mean that He won’t. It’s kind of like reading half way through a book and wanting to know why the author hasn’t made things better before we get to the end of the book. The bible clearly teaches that one day all suffering will end and people will be held accountable for the evil they’ve done. So when is that day coming? Why does God wait so long?
One of the answers is that we as people are delaying God from doing away with evil.
The Bible said in 2 Peter 3:9 “The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”
The day for suffering and evil is coming to an end, but out of His great love for us, God is patiently waiting and giving us opportunities to turn to Him.
Have you turned to Him brother and sister? Don’t wait until it’s too late.
At the end of this service I invite you to come forward for prayers and I will ask our Pastor and the elders of the church to pray for you
Brother and Sister,
Most of us have been through challenging times and our attitude in the midst of these moments has shaped who we’ve become—bitter or better.
We’ve all seen examples of how the same suffering that causes one person to turn bitter, to reject God, to become hard and angry.
There are people who rejects God after relationship that does not work, prayers that has not been answered, sickness that has not been healed, tragedy and death thats happening to them.
But we also have seen examples of where sufferings can cause another person to turn to God, to become more gentle and more loving and more tender, willing to reach out to compassionately help other people who are in pain.
So when tragedy strikes, as it will;
when suffering comes, as it will;
when you’re wrestling with pain, as you will—
and when you make the choice to run into his arms, here’s what you’re going to discover: you’ll find peace to deal with the present, you’ll find courage to deal with your future, and you’ll find the incredible promise of eternal life in heaven.
If ever there was a man who had the right to become bitter it was Joseph. Joseph’s mum died when he was just a young boy. His own brothers were so jealous of him that when he was seventeen years of age, they sold him into slavery to get rid of him. It looked like everywhere Joseph turned, things went wrong in his life.
He tried to do a good job. He decided to keep himself sexually pure, and he was accused to rape and put in prison. Then he was forgotten in prison by a butler, a man servant, after he had done a great favour for him. If ever anyone had the right to be bitter, it was Joseph. Yet, Joseph chose against bitterness towards God. Joseph chooses instead to obey God.
Another example, David. He does not have a trouble-free life. We’ve discovered that his life consisted of one trial after another. He spent years in the wilderness, running for his life even though God had already anointed him as king. His family was a dysfunctional family. His son Absalom was going to kill him. David committed adultery and murder and he suffered the consequences of his sin. But David chose instead to repent and to be closer to God.
Like David, we can’t control much of the difficulty and suffering that comes into our lives, but we certainly can control how we respond to those afflictions. And depending on how we respond, we can either become bitter or better.
Brother and Sister,
Whenever I go through a difficult time in my life, I have a choice. I can let my anger against God control my life, I can sit there and get stuck in self-pity. Or I can, like David, choose to humble myself and enter into God’s grace and mercy. I can reflect on the fact that I am a sinner, saved only by the grace of God.
The Apostle Paul, was able to apply the very same lessons in the midst of his suffering. We know that Paul was tormented by his thorn in the flesh, whatever that was. We also know that he was arrested, beaten and persecuted for his faith. But Paul faced all these trials with a deep sense of humility.
Are you hurting today and don’t understand why?
Are you suffering and has been praying and are you still waiting for an answer?
Or do you have a specific prayer request? Or do you want to receive Jesus for the first time…
Turn to God and let Him assure you that He loves you and that one day, you will indeed “understand it better “
He understands your brokenness and sorrow, He understands betrayal and forsakenness. For He went through all of these things on our behalf when He suffered and died on the cross simply because He loves us.
Each of us has a choice to become better or bitter in our lifetime. The better is that God loves, forgives, and makes a way for His people to escape bitterness. The bitter is a lifetime wasted in regret and anger—burdened and burdening others.
We repent and humble ourselves Lord…Help us Lord…In Jesus Name.