Questions answered by Rev. K. Munday

What about Suffering?

This question was prompted when the tragedy of Aberfan was being discussed. A coal slag heap moved on to a Welsh village was but one of many deaths including 116 school children. That was but one of many tragedies that happen every day.

Sometimes we hear of a seemingly healthy person suddenly struck down with an incurable diseases, or a sportsman suffering an irrecoverable injury at the height of his career. And constantly our help is solicited to relieve the hungry millions of the world.

What has Christianity to say about these things, and perhaps more important, what has it to say to those who suffer them. Or to the mourners who are left behind?

Before we try to blame God for the mismanagement of the world, we must first see that we bear responsibility for some of our calamities. Can we blame God if a child is knocked over by a drunken driver? If a building collapses because of faulty workmanship, whose responsibility is that? And when we think of hungry millions, what about the beef mountains in Europe? Some years ago I heard of wheat being thrown into the sea because it did not fetch the required price. Whose mismanagement of affairs was that? Did God build the concentration camps? Did He trigger off the hundreds of wars that have taken place during the twentieth century? We must face the fact that men has it in his own power  to make the world a happier place.

We do recognise however that some tragedies are quite beyond human control, when for instance a little dies from cancer. Such cases are inexplicable, and we realise that they happen to all kind of people, the rich, the poor, the religious and the irreligious. And after a careful reading of the Bible one must admit that it does not give us the complete answer to the mysteries of life, but it does offer some clues that will help us to at least partly understand.

First: There is a sinister evil power in our world, working against the interests of the human race. It is not God who sends cancers, neither does He break up homes, send our loved ones to mental homes, nor ruin marriages. Living as we do in an imperfect and sinful world, these things are bound to happen, and while we close our lives to God they will continue to happen. They never happened before man walked out on God.

Second: We should not ignore what I would call the secondary result of suffering. It can cause us to think deeply about the world and our place in it. It can also strengthen character. Have you noticed how cheerful a blind person can be? And there are some people who have lost hands, but learned to paint with their feet! What triumphs these are for the human spirit. Neither must we forget the compassion that suffering arouses in others. A sickness can draw a family together, and if I was involved in an accident on my way from this studio tonight, London’s traffic would move over for the ambulance to reach me. Nurses on night duty would stand by to receive me, and if necessary the surgeon would sweat his way through the night on an operation to save me. Then loved ones would come and visit me. Even misfortunes can be opportunities for good.

The best bit of news in the Bible is that one day we shall get the answers to life’s mysteries, and if we are still thinking about suffering, remember. man has not borne it all. There is a hymn:

‘There is a green hill far away – Outside the city wall
Where the dear lord was crucified – Who died to save us all.’

Christ knows what suffering is, and undeserved suffering too, yet He bore it that you and I might know forgiveness and He’s still offering it…..if you will receive it.

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