Psalm 73 is a wisdom psalm. The psalmist struggled to understand why the wicked prosper, and he was envious of them (vv. 2-3). They were saying that God didn’t even take knowledge of him; that He didn’t care about him (v. 11). His efforts to live a pure life seemed futile because all the while he himself was suffering (vv. 13-14). It was not until he finally sought God for answers that he came to understand the fearful destiny of the wicked in complete destruction (vv. 17-19). With a convicted and penitent heart, he then realized that he should never have complained and questioned God (vv. 21-22). He knew that God had always been there for him and would ultimately bring him to glory (vv. 23-24).
It is here that the psalmist exclaimed: “Whom have I in heaven but You? And there is none upon earth that I desire besides You. My flesh and my heart fail; But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (vv. 25-26).
The coronavirus pandemic has brought a great hardship to many people around the world. It has caused a great problem for the church because most have not been able to assemble as a congregation. If I tell you all today to look with me in God’s word, the Bible, some might respond, “I don’t even know if there is a God. Where is He? What is He doing? Why doesn’t He take this all away? And, what does a book written thousand of years ago have to do with us today?” My answer is, “Yes, there is a God, He will take this all away and everything else in this world; and the Bible has everything to do with us.” All of this is not much different from the persecution endured by the church in Jerusalem when they were scattered from their homes, their jobs and separated from family and friends (Acts 8:1-4). It is to these Christians and others like them that Peter writes his first epistle. He gives them a message of hope that is just as relevant and powerful as it was when it was first written.
There are a lot of things we do not understand about suffering. Many of our questions go unanswered but there are some things we can know.
We can know that God knows all about our suffering (Psalms 56:8).
We can know that God understands everything we are going through (Hebrews 4:15).
We can know that God truly cares for us (1 Peter 5:7).
Suffering hurts. We don’t want to suffer. But it will help us to know that there are at least five benefits of suffering for the Christian.
1. It tests our faith (Jam. 1:2-4). If we meet our trials with faith, we will develop the patience needed to mature spiritually. It is when our faith is tested that we grow and become strong. So, we can rejoice even in our trials. Do you remember how God tested Abraham’s faith in Genesis 22, commanding him to sacrifice his son? Can you imagine a greater test of faith? Hebrews 11:17-19 explains what Abraham was thinking. He believed God would raise his son from the dead. That is a great faith. Do we have the faith of Abraham? Will we trust God enough to do what He has asks of us? God wants to know if you will keep faith even in the greatest tests of life.
Some don’t understand how God could allow the suffering in this world, nor how He could ever send anyone to hell.
Let me say, I don’t understand it all either. No one does. Our finite minds cannot completely comprehend the infinite God!
The Bible says, “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out! ‘For who has known the mind of the LORD? Or who has become His counselor?’” (Romans 11:33-34).
According to statistics, places of worship are the safest places in the world. Yet, we all are very aware of church buildings that have been devastated by weather, blown up by bombs and attacked by gunmen. This past Sunday, a gunman attacked a Baptist church in Texas, killing and injuring most of the worshipers. This came just weeks after another gunman entered a church of Christ in Tennessee, killing one and injuring several others. While our hearts go out to these victims and their families, all of this has caused some to mock our faith in God and to ridicule the power of prayer.
Tragic storms hit east Texas. People died. Many were injured. Homes and businesses were destroyed.
We ask, “Where was God?”
Some say that He doesn’t exist, but what happened in east Texas does not change the fact that there is a God. God is the only logical, reasonable explanation for the existence of our universe.
Robert Dodson is the Preaching Minister for the Northwest Church of Christ.
6059 Azle Avenue
Fort Worth, TX 76135