There are many views within churches about suffering.
Over the years, I have found it is human nature to gravitate to a particular view found in the scripture and stay there.
Naturally, those who have faced difficult situations and needed a miracle – whether physical healing, a financial breakthrough, or a relationship restored – tend to see what prayer and faith have done for them. This is their message and they, with good intentions, tell others through encouraging, teaching, or preaching.
My church background wasn’t word-of-faith (Kenneth Copeland, et al) but we did see the healing and restoration Jesus displayed and therefore this was presented with confidence.
In my personal suffering of trying to make ends meet financially, loss of a business, loss of relationships, and more, I often sat wondering at those in my church who stood and testified of what God did for them. I suffered more when I wondered why I was left out of these wonderful answers to prayer. But it didn’t stop with me. I wondered about many others, too.
When we stand up in church and say God healed me, or God spared my loved one from death, the next question is: what about me? Doesn’t God care?
These aren’t only church goers who think this. More importantly, these are people we want to reach with the gospel. People who don’t go to church.
Is our message to them that through faith, every sickness will be healed? Every one we love will be protected? Spared from death? We know this isn’t true so why aren’t we addressing this honestly?
A biblical principal that worked for us can make us inadequate in helping people who are suffering. We think it’s a simple solution to stand on the word of God and have that ever important quality of faith.
Yes, the Bible says much about the importance of faith. But it also says much about suffering.
Problem is, those who have had good outcomes with their faith preach it, as if it is all that is needed. It is an injustice to people to not address the other side of things. Whether it is a small church or a big name preacher on television, people are being misled.
I get it. The Jesus movement of the 70’s ushered in a fresh, vibrant faith in a personal God who is not sitting on a throne somewhere watching the world go by. The Bible came alive, no longer rote prayers or passages that didn’t touch our hearts and minds. Worship took a new expression and one could feel the presence of God. Church wasn’t just for Sundays or Easter. Faith became a life style; a real connection with God.
Denominational churches were felt to be lacking and non-denominational churches sprung up in living rooms across the country. Of course, the denominational churches, if they preached Jesus Christ and him crucified, were our brothers and sisters, too, and not to be dismissed. Yet, I wonder, if in our desire for “God doing a new thing” which is always exciting, some threw the baby out with the bath water; forgot the richness of those hymns and the value of liturgy and ceremony.
Fortunately, there are churches that have learned to combine both. That is because the Church is an ongoing masterpiece referred to as the Bride of Christ. Over the centuries, with each church age, we walk in more light as our eyes are opened to wonderous truths from the scripture.
Yet, there are certainly some, and perhaps there will always be, remnants of pushing faith and exluding suffering, as if it is something God never allows. Hearing that Jesus took our infirmities on the cross and by his stripes we are healed is one scripture often quoted in prayer.
This is a truth. Thing is, I think far too many are left without an explanation when they or their loved one was not healed. There is silence. Then they continue on with their sword of the spirit and the shield of faith because God wants us to be victorious.
Have we thought about how God wants us to be victorious in our pain and suffering? When we didn’t have a good outcome?
The fact that we trust him, find comfort in him, and are able to endure is victorious.
If we are not telling both, we are setting people up for disappointment, disallusionment, and more suffering.
Up next: suffering part 2.