06 Jul The World We Were Created For
Suffering can be a stranger to some of us and a familiar face to others. It can be self-inflicted and directly correlated with our own sin, inflicted on us from someone else, or it can simply be inflicted by our world that is at enmity with itself.
Whether we feel the weight of the tension now or we feel it later, the world we live in is broken. We are born into a world where we will suffer, but the story doesn’t end there.
When we suffer, we experience the natural human instinct to question and doubt God. We ask Him why He would let these things happen to us. We ask why He let our loved one suffer from a fatal disease. We ask why He would allow a child to be born with a disability. We ask why there is so much injustice in the world. We ask why He allows evil into our lives.
“We are born into a world where we will suffer, but the story doesn’t end there.”
Let’s back up a few steps and think about the world we live in: if we have only ever known this world where people die and suffer, then why are we still bothered by it as if we are surprised when the stream of suffering enters into our lives too? Have you ever wondered why we ask God about pain and evil when every person we have ever known has died or is in the process of dying?
We know the reality, but we don’t let it sink in. We build up walls of denial and float on the temporary pleasures of the tangible. We put greater expectations on this world than this world could ever bear. We expect something from it that it cannot produce for us, and when it doesn’t produce, we begin the question game with God.
“We build up walls of denial and float on the temporary pleasures of the tangible. We put greater expectations on this world than this world could ever bear.”
But we are missing something here. Suffering doesn’t punch a hole in God’s character—it affirms His existence. How can we make an evaluation that something is bad without a standard of what is good? We have a knowledge of something better for us. We have an underlying understanding that suffering is not what is “supposed” to be. We know of a holier, righteous good that is somewhere outside of ourselves.
We are stamped with a spiritual DNA that runs its course as we experience suffering.
Something else is going on behind the scenes. In the moments of finding ourselves in disappointment or despair over suffering, our souls are pulling from a familiar longing that lives in the past and in the future—we are remembering and aching for the perfect, pre-fall life in the Garden of Eden and the redeemed future Kingdom. Suffering reminds us of what we have not actually experienced but what has been woven into our souls. It releases us to hope for the world we were created for.
“Suffering doesn’t punch a hole in God’s character—it affirms His existence.”
Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later. For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are. Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us. We were given this hope when we were saved. (If we already have something, we don’t need to hope for it. But if we look forward to something we don’t yet have, we must wait patiently and confidently.) —Romans 8:18-25
If we live without suffering, we won’t crave the world we were created for. We can’t force ourselves to crave something that we don’t need or want. But there will come a day, if it has not come already, when we realize that our attachment to this life is unhealthy. Part of the role and the mercy of suffering is to release this grip we have on the world and get us ready for our home in Heaven.
Suffering should not distance us from God—it should make us crave Him more.
This post was adapted from the Decade 20 talk on Pain and Suffering by Matt Williams. Decade 20 is a gathering in which we seek to challenge the 20-something cultural narrative with an honest look at Jesus and the Bible. The next Decade 20 will be from 7:00-9:00pm on July 11 at our Downtown campus. Come join us at 6:00pm for hotdogs, music, and corn hole.