My dear friend John West sent me this quotation, which both he and I find to be very helpful.
“Suffering is not God’s desire for us, but it occurs in the process of life. Suffering is not given to teach us something, but through it we may learn. Suffering is not given to punish us, but sometimes it is the consequence of our sin or poor judgment. Suffering does not occur because our faith is weak, but through it our faith may be strengthened. God does not depend on human suffering to achieve his purposes, but sometimes through suffering his purposes are achieved. Suffering can either destroy us, or it can add meaning to our life.” – Attributed to Rev. Ray Firestone.
I wish every Christian could keep these two realities in balance: We live in a fallen world, and we are at war…
There was a Fall…
In Adam’s fall, ownership of this world was transferred to Satan. Sickness, suffering, brokenness and death define every realm and every sphere in this world. Floods and hurricanes; venomous snakes and insect-borne diseases; wars and divisions; hate and separation; political unrest and social upheaval; death and dying and suffering and torture, and incurable diseases and…and…! Please don’t blame God, because NONE of this was or is His plan! He did not cause the Fall; rather, He stepped into this mess in Christ Jesus to give us the ability to begin stepping out of it—through Him!
We are at War…
The invasion of Jesus Christ and His Body, the Church, behind enemy lines has greatly upset the current owner of this fallen world (and all who remain trapped in fallenness)! From the start, Satan tried to kill Jesus—and succeeded in killing hundreds of innocent boys in and around Bethlehem. He tried to confuse, harass, and sidetrack Jesus, but failed miserably. Satan felt immense satisfaction in finally killing Jesus—through Jewish religiousness and Gentile political-ness—not realizing that Jesus’ death and resurrection would reconcile both Jewish and Gentile believers to God and each other and initiate the invasion of His Church into every corner of this fallen world…!
Satan’s days are short, and he knows it. Soon, the war will be over, and the Fall will be reversed. Perfection will be restored—on earth as it is in heaven (!)—and Jesus’ Bride the Church will rule and reign with Her Groom over a perfect creation devoid of all the curses and calamities of the fall—forever, and ever, and ever, and ever…!
Until then, keep these truths in mind and in balance:
As fallen people in a fallen world, suffering will happen. God in His goodness can use it both to reduce the effects of the fall in our lives and to elevate us as warriors in the battle. But He does not send it upon us!
In a war, there will be casualties. Paul lost his head. Peter was likely crucified. John was exiled—after being boiled in oil. All the first apostles were martyred, and millions have died since battling for and with the Truth. Satan continues to target believers, who are beheaded, stoned, imprisoned, struck with disease, discouraged, isolated, hated irrationally, and otherwise…treated like Jesus was…!
We live in a fallen world, and we are at war with the father of lies and his fallen horde—all the while living in a cursed world. But my friends, in Christ Jesus we shall prevail! In fact, in HIM, we have already won!