Reflection #20 – Escape from Suffering

During our COVID-19 shutdown, Pastor Zekveld plans to provide a personal reflection each weekday.

Escape from Suffering

Why is there so much suffering in the world? Why does God allow it? Why doesn’t He put a stop to it? Is there a way out? For many people these are pressing questions right now, cries from the heart for those who are face-to-face with poverty, sickness, and death.

All suffering has the same source – mankind’s fall into sin in the Garden of Eden long ago. When our first parents, Adam and Eve, rejected God and His word, they brought the world under a curse of suffering and death.

Someone said: “When Adam and Eve broke the rules in the garden they broke the world.”  (Timothy Barnett, “The Bible, Jesus, and Covid-19,”

So all suffering has the same source, but not all suffering is the same kind.

Some suffering comes from “Moral Evil: war, violence, abuse. We may suffer as a result of our own moral failures and sins (family breakdown caused by alcoholism or adultery), or we may suffer terribly because of those who sin against us (slavery, theft, rape) .    

Another kind of suffering comes from what we call “Natural Evil: hurricanes, drought, cancer, viruses.

Although God is not to be blamed for the suffering in this world, He does rule over it and could stop it if He wanted to. For His own perfect reasons – some of which we do know (God is calling us to turn back to Him), and many of which we don’t know because we don’t know the whole mind of God – God allows suffering.

Even though He allows it for a time, our good and gracious God has a provided a way of escape from  all suffering and one day He will put a complete stop to it, as long as we take His way of escape.

But God’s way of escape is not the same as escapism – man-made dead-end roads that lead only to eternal suffering.

One example is karmic religions. Whatever suffering you bear you deserve personally for being bad in your past lives, and now you have to suffer your way out of it alone, until after many lives of living rightly, you enlighten your way into an impersonal Nirvana. No one can help you. To help someone is to slow down his progress. You’ve got to heal yourself. It is a merciless system.

Another false method of dealing with suffering is atheism. In a universe of electrons and selfish genes, some people will get lucky, and some are going to get hurt. That’s nature’s way, Mother Nature’s random, heedless indifference. If you’re suffering, too bad for you. There’s no answer, but here’s a pill for some relief, and several stiff drinks on the side when you’re feeling low, and, when you really run stuck, Dr. Death has a syringe to administer your final solution.

Imagine if atheism were true. Imagine there’s no heaven, It’s easy if you try; No hell below us; Above us, only sky. Imagine all the people living for today. (John Lennon)  What a terrifying thought! No God, no right, no wrong, no justice, no injustice, no way out.

There’s no answer there. Reducing man to a machine is a tragic, hopeless lie. Under Stalin, Hitler, Mao, Pol Pot and the abortion machine, atheism has brutally killed hundreds of millions in the last century alone.

Others pursue the hedonistic path. Try pleasure. Escape from suffering in an endless Disneyworld of vacations, entertainments, narcotics, fantasies, new-and-better partners. But when we awake, the pain is still there. Each pleasure-pursuit leaves us only more empty, and closer to dead.

In contrast to every form of escapism that man invents, God alone offers the true escape from suffering. How? He came into this world and suffered for us. No other god has ever done this.

The one true God who made the world, and placed it under a curse when mankind rejected Him, was so pained by our misery and suffering, that He came into our world in the person of Jesus Christ and suffered for us in order to remove suffering from us.

God the Father knows what it is to lose a Son. Jesus was the victim of horrible abuse and injustice. He cried. He cried out to His Father in pain. He knows what it is to be persecuted, betrayed and utterly alone. He knows all about suffering. He’s been through hell for us. He truly feels your pain, and He cares.

He was a man of sorrows. He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows, and by His wounds we are healed. (Isaiah 53:4-5)  He took all our suffering and made it His very own until it destroyed Him, and then rose from the grave in victory. In Jesus Christ all suffering finds its personal answer.

Because of Him one day God will put a stop to all suffering for everyone who takes His way of escape.