By Rev. Jeremiah Cheung
Suffering is a mystery. We cannot explain it with a formula or with a reason. Today, the world is faced with the COVID-19 crisis, many people have already died and many people have fallen ill. How can we explain this and how are we to face this?
From the Bible, we know that suffering comes from at least eight sources. We talk about the first four sources this week:
1. Suffering is a result of sin and punishment
This is the most common explanation and also the most straightforward explanation. There is suffering because we have sinned. God is a just God, so He must judge sin, therefore suffering happens. This is exactly the view held by Job’s three friends and it is also a belief held by many Christians. This viewpoint can be called retribution and it is also what we call the law of cause and effect. But this single explanation for suffering creates problems and brings on many unfair situations. True, suffering comes as a result of sin’s punishment; however, we cannot simply stop here.
2. Suffering is a type of wake-up call
Suffering is often related to sin. Many forms of suffering come from sin. This is an iron-clad fact that we cannot deny. Yet we must understand that not every suffering is due to sin, although many sufferings are inseparable from sin. Do not be deceived, sin is like fire. No one plays with fire without getting burned by it. After Jacob wrestled with God, he became lame. From that point on, he had to walk with a limp. Is that not the biggest reminder for him — Jacob, will you still rely on yourself? Will you still dare to be casual and careless?
3. Suffering is a form of discipline
Suffering refines us; it makes us more mature and enables us to bear greater responsibility. The Chinese have this old saying – “Before entrusting man with a great responsibility, heaven refines him first.” To whom does the term “heaven” refer in this saying? The Chinese do not know, but we know that it is God who created the heavens. God may allow suffering to come upon a person because God desires to mold him and prepare him to bear heavier responsibilities. Isn’t the Lord’s sending of Moses into his 40-year exile in the wilderness the best proof of this?
4. Suffering is a test
Refining forges a person’s capabilities, but a test is a warning, a wake-up call. Job is the best illustration for this point. Job said to himself, “When he has tested me, I will come forth as gold.” Suffering purifies a man. There are many impurities in our lives and suffering is like fire sent to purify us.
We talk about the next four reasons for suffering in our post next week. Stay tuned.
苦難是一個迷, 我們不能用一個方程式來解釋，也不能用一個理由來解釋，現在全世界都面對Covid-19的問題, 不少人已經離開世界，也有不少人在患病之中，我們當怎樣去解釋，怎樣去面對呢?