top

Overcoming Adversity 101, Part 4: The Long Ranger

God hates tragedies and the suffering that results. Jesus spent much of his time on earth removing it.  Throughout the Bible God instructs us to clothe the naked, feed the hungry, visit those in prison, pray for those who are sick, look after orphans and widows and loose the chains of injustice.

“God has not despised or disdained the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help” (Ps. 22:24).

“The Lord is close to the broken hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Ps. 34:18).

The desire we feel to relieve the suffering of others was first felt by God.  He shows this every day by His acts of compassion.  He brings people out of chronic sickness, cures others form terminal diseases, spares drivers from near fatal accidents and rescues many from financial collapse. In heaven, the curse of sin will be expelled forevermore.

The Long Ranger

However, God does have another response to suffering other than that of relieving it.God sees the long range picture.  In The Case for Faith, Peter Kreeft asks, “How can a mere finite human be sure that infinite wisdom would not tolerate certain short-range evils in order for more long-range goods that we couldn’t foresee?” [i]

Conceding that the difference between us and God is as great as that between us and a bear, Kreeft paints an interesting scenario.

Imagine a bear in a trap and a hunter who, out of sympathy, wants to liberate him. He tries to win the bear’s confidence, but he can’t do it, so he has to shoot the bear full of drugs. The bear, however, thinks this is an attack and that the hunter is trying to kill him. He doesn’t realize that this is being done out of compassion.

Then in order to get the bear out of the trap, the hunter has to push him further into the trap to release the tension on the spring. If the bear were semiconscious at that point, he would be even more convinced that the hunter was his enemy who was out to cause him suffering and pain. But the bear would be wrong. He reaches this incorrect conclusion because he’s not a human being.

How can anyone be certain that’s not an analogy between us and God?[ii]

God does the same with us, yet we cannot understand his loving motivations anymore than the bear could understand the hunter’s.

God is all-knowing. He is aware not only of present good and evil, but future consequences as well. Since His wisdom exceeds ours – as much or more than the hunter’s exceeds the bear’s – it is possible, Kreeft asserts, that a “loving God could deliberately tolerate horrible things…because he foresees that in the long run that more people will be better and happier than if he miraculously intervened.” [iii]

God has demonstrated this truth…in His own life…through His death on the cross.

Dei-cide

At the time, no one caught the slightest glimpse of how much good would result from the terrible tragedy. Yet God saw that it meant the redemption of mankind, the possibility of entrance into Heaven for those who believed…and the opportunity of believers to have Christ’s very life deposited in their hearts.

Kreeft asserts, “if it happened there – if the ultimate evil can result in the ultimate good – it can happen elsewhere, even in our own individual lives. Here, God lifts the curtain and lets us see it. Elsewhere he simply says, ‘Trust me.’”[iv]

The story of God’s dei-cide mirrors what is taking place in each of our individual sufferings. Imagine that you are God’s enemy, the devil. You’re itching to kill Him, but you can’t. However, as Kreeft describes,

[God] has this ridiculous weakness of creating and loving human beings, whom you can get at. Aha! Now you’ve got hostages! So you simply come down into the world, corrupt humankind, and draft some of them to hell. When God sends prophets to enlighten them, you kill the prophets.

Then God does the most foolish thing of all—he sends his own Son and he plays by the rules of the world. You say to yourself, “I can’t believe he’s that stupid! Love has addled his brains! All I have to do is inspire some of my agents—Herod, Pilate, Caiaphas, the Roman soldiers—and get him crucified.” And that’s what you do.

So there he hangs on the cross—forsaken by man and seemingly by God, bleeding to death and crying, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” What do you feel now as the devil? You feel triumph and vindication! But of course you couldn’t be more wrong. This is his supreme triumph and your supreme defeat. He stuck his heel into your mouth and you bit it and that blood destroyed you.

Now, if that is not a freak occurrence, but it’s a paradigm of the human situation, then when we bleed and when we suffer, as Christ did, maybe the same thing is happening. Maybe this is God’s way of defeating the devil. [v]

At the time, even Jesus’ disciples couldn’t conceive of any good emerging from the seemingly irreversible tragedy of Jesus’ death on the cross. Yet it was – and will forever be – the best moment in history! The good that emerged cannot be measured.

In a similar way, we may not can feel or foresee any possible good emerging from our present trials.  Yet as we see what God accomplished through the cross, we can trust that God will somehow bring good out of our sufferings too.

Question: What is it about God that assures you He can be trusted to bring good from your current suffering?

RELATED POSTS:


[i] Lee Strobel, The Case for Faith, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2000), 69-70 Lee Strobel, The Case for Faith, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2000), 43

[ii] Ibid., 44

[iii] Ibid., 53

[iv] Ibid.,53

[v] Ibid., 53-54

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, Shades of Grace will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Leave a Reply

top