Monday, February 21, 2011

Suffering: Sin and Sanctification (and alliteration thrown in)

I spent yesterday crying about all the pointless pain in the world. Well, other than the going-to-church, eating, dance raving parts of the day.
Throughout the past year, God has taught me a lot about pain, life and the meaning of existence. Mostly, that without pain we cannot have joy. But that's another story, and another post on its way. 
I'm learning that we can "rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us."
Pain as a part of sanctification I am beginning to accept, but what I cannot accept or understand is all the pointless pain. Yesterday I talked to my best friend from Africa/Iowa, and could only cry as she shared how she lays awake at night, haunted by the face of babies she's held from the hospital in Kuitiala. Wondering if they're even alive. Why does God allow a baby to be born just to suffer for two days and then die? Often for no better reason than the shortage of proper medicine and supplies. I don't see the point in that, or any way God can weave a baby's painful gasping for air into his little, collapsing lungs, into His bigger story of redemption. I don't understand why God allows it.
But this morning He showed me He doesn't. We do.
There are two kinds of suffering in the world. Suffering as a part of sanctification, which must be surrendered to and even embraced, and suffering as a result of sin.
All the pointless pain in the world, pain with no redemption in it, is the result of our direct disobedience and rebellion. God's clear commands are to protect and provide for the innocent and weak. When we fail to do that, babies die in Africa for lack of malaria medicine, and lukewarm Christians sit on their couches wasting their lives in America.
If we are not actively seeking justice, "defending the fatherless and the widow" then there is blood on our hands (Isaiah 1:15. You should just read the whole passage).
I am the problem.


  1. WOAH, talk about starting with a bang.

  2. Ah, convicting. :-/

    This reminded me of something Donald Miller said in BLUE LIKE JAZZ when he was talking about fighting in Uganda, and how it's not about 'other people over there,' that the problem starts with me. I realized how true this is and how sheltered Christians are. And this is such a painful thing to talk about, because once you acknowledge you are the problem...don't you have to do something about it?

    I know you in real life BTW. It's Mandy :)

  3. Thank you, Anna, for your insight. I understand the pain you are experiencing and I, too, am the problem. I ask God every day to show me how I can be more like Jesus. We must be willing to surrender ALL if God is going to use us as agents of hope, encouragement, healing, and change in desolate places, both here and afar.
    You are an amazing young woman and I am blessed to know you. Your ability to convey your feelings is a wonderful gift from God and a blessing to all those who read.

  4. I think you've captured this beautifully, Anna. Victor Frankl (our buddy) says that to find meaning and purpose in *unavoidable* suffering makes that suffering into sacrifice. But to maintain circumstances of avoidable suffering is not just foolish, but actually sacrilege.

  5. Anna - Ben and I were actually talking about this very issue this morning when he read Romans 9:18-23. We see here that even pain and suffering is something that God allows for His glory, to display his wrath. It is to make us even more thankful for being chosen by Him and His wrath not falling on us. Hard to understand, but God is sovereign and the Most Just One.