I read this today and it made a lot of sense to me – Nicky Gumble and the Alpha Bible in One Year on suffering:
“A young New Yorker named Glenn Chambers had a lifelong dream to work for God in Ecuador. At the airport on the day of departure, he wanted to send a note to his mother but he didn’t have time to buy a card. He noticed a piece of paper on the terminal floor and picked it up. It turned out to be an advertisement with ‘Why?’ spread across it. He scribbled his note around the word ‘Why?’ and put it in the post box. That night his aeroplane exploded into the 14,000 foot Colombian peak El Tablazo. When his mother received the note after the news of his death the question burned up at her from the page … ‘Why?’
Why does God allow such suffering? We are constantly confronted by suffering. It outrages and bewilders us. It is the single greatest challenge to the Christian faith. The amount of suffering and its distribution seem to be random and unfair.
Theologians and philosophers have wrestled for centuries with the mystery of undeserved suffering, and no one has ever come up with a simple and complete solution. Today and tomorrow’s passages are only part of the answer, but each of them gives us some insight. In today’s passages we see that although suffering is never good in itself, God is able to use it for good in a number of ways. God loves you. Your suffering is also God’s suffering. He suffers alongside you. Yet he does not always simply remove suffering from your life; he sometimes uses bad things to bring about his good purposes.
1. God uses suffering to transform us
Are there times in your life when, because of circumstances, you have felt shaken? Times when you have lost your bearings and felt tempted to give up?
Today’s psalm reminds us that we need not be shaken, even in times of suffering. David describes the kind of life that God intends us to lead. The guidelines he gives are things we can hold on to during the difficult times.
‘Those whose walk is blameless, and who do what is righteous …’ (v.2a).
Tell the truth
‘… who speak the truth from their hearts’ (v.2b).
Do not gossip
‘… who have no slander on their tongue’ (v.3).
Do not hurt your neighbour
‘… do their neighbours no wrong’ (v.3).
Keep your word
‘… who keep their oaths even when it hurts’ (v.4b). This means doing whatever we have committed to do even when it does not suit us (a particular challenge for our generation, when a simple text message can cancel an arrangement at any moment).
‘… who lend their money without usury’ (which is excessive interest) (v.5a).
‘… who do not accept bribes against the innocent’ (v.5b).
As our character is formed more and more into this description, difficult circumstances and suffering have less of a destabilising impact upon us. As the psalmist notes, ‘Those who do these things will never be shaken’ (v.5c) and we will dwell in the sanctuary of the Lord (v.1a).
Paul explains in Romans that as times of suffering lead to character formation, so that character formation leads to knowledge of secure hope and experience of God’s love (Romans 5:3–5). The truth is that hope and love are the greatest stabilising forces that we can know in the face of suffering and uncertainty.
Lord, thank you that you accept me as I am, but you do not want me to remain that way. Help me to live a holy life. Help me to see the trials and difficulties I face as part of my character formation.”
A psalm of David.
1 Lord, who may dwell in your sacred tent?
Who may live on your holy mountain?
2 The one whose walk is blameless,
who does what is righteous,
who speaks the truth from their heart;
3 whose tongue utters no slander,
who does no wrong to a neighbor,
and casts no slur on others;
4 who despises a vile person
but honors those who fear the Lord;
who keeps an oath even when it hurts,
and does not change their mind;
5 who lends money to the poor without interest;
who does not accept a bribe against the innocent.
Whoever does these things
will never be shaken.
For more, see http://www.bibleinoneyear.org
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