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How To Learn Sign Language

Evil, Pain and Suffering (in ASL)

We live in a world that
experiences suffering. If we were to cast our
eyes across the globe on any given day, we
would see an immense amount of pain and
suffering that is experienced by people
in the world. Just recently in the
southeastern part of the United States, F5
tornados struck an entire section of the
state and killed over 200 people. Earthquakes
on a regular basis around the globe,
hurricanes, tsunamis, plane crashes, car
wrecks, disease, sickness. And, many times those
end ultimately in death. When we survey the
situation, and we see the pain and suffering
that goes on, sometimes the weight
of all that pain and human suffering
makes us question, “Where is God?”
“Why have all these bad things
happened to us?” “If God is so powerful
and He loves us so much, why hasn’t He done
something to ease our pain and to ease
our suffering?” “If He loves us, why doesn’t
He stop the suffering?” You know, the skeptic
has used that argument to attempt to militate
against the idea that God even exists. They
have said that if God really exists, Who
loves us, and Who has the power to stop
this pain and suffering, then He would do that.
They’ve been unsuccessful. They can’t use that
argument to show that God doesn’t exist.
But, that doesn’t change the fact
that we experience pain and suffering
in our lives. And, we do wonder
why God allows this to happen. Why
does God allow a child to be diagnosed
with terminal cancer? Why does God allow a
young mother to be tragically taken from
her family? Gideon, in the Bible, had
a very similar question in his mind. He was
assured that God was with him and he said
that if God is with us, then why have
all of these bad things happened to us? And
that’s a great question. Why have all of these bad
things happened to us? We’re going to explore
that question. We’re going to answer
some of that aspect of the problem of
pain and suffering. And, what we’re going
to do is give some reasons why an
all loving God, Who is all powerful,
could allow the suffering and pain that
we see in our lives. And, we’ll see that
not only does suffering and pain not militate
against God, but we will be able
to see God’s presence in the pain and
the suffering. When we start to
look at the question of why does God
allow the suffering and pain that He
does, we need to go to the Bible
for the answer. You say, why would
we go to the Bible for the answer, there’s
a very good reason for that. You go to
the Bible for the answer because that’s
where we learn that there is even a problem.
And what I mean by “problem” when we
discuss the problem of evil, pain and
suffering, we’re asking why a loving
God, Who’s all powerful, would allow suffering
and pain. Well, where did we
get the idea that God is a loving God? We
got that from the Bible. Numerous passages
tell us that, but in 1 John 4:8, we read
that God IS love. But, where did we
get the idea that God is all powerful?
We got that from the Bible just as well. In
several passages we read that God is all
powerful, that He’s omnipotent, that
He can do anything that He desires to do that
would take power to do. So, we see that God
is love from the Bible. We see that God is all
powerful from the Bible. And, we also see
throughout the Bible and throughout our
human experience, that God does
allow suffering. Why is that?
One reason that God allows suffering
is because His love values freedom.
What do I mean by “His love values freedom?”
I mean that when He created humans, He
made them in His image. He made humans
with the ability to be able to speak, to
be able to think, to be able to decide
what those humans want to do or don’t
want to do. And, with the
freedom to decide, with the freedom
of choice comes the responsibility
of consequences. You see, God has
the power to create a group of
beings that couldn’t decide for themselves.
Robotic creatures that would always do
exactly what He wanted them to do. Creatures
that wouldn’t have the freedom to
choose. But, if He gives His creatures,
humans, the freedom to choose because
He loves them, then that freedom has to
come with consequences. One of the main reasons
that people suffer is because we have
the freedom to choose and we suffer because
of our own consequences. Can you imagine
a world where all of the consequences
were the same? Imagine a world
where a person went and worked
hard all day to earn money to live, and
another person stole to live and every
consequence was the exact same, to
the person who worked hard and to the
person who stole. Imagine a world
where consequences were the exact same
if you decided that you were going to
take care of the poor and feed the hungry,
and you were going to do the best that
you could to help others and the
consequences were the same for that as
if you decided you’d walk down the
street and murder anybody that you
didn’t want to have deal with, or you
wanted their things. You wanted to take
their material possessions. What if the consequences
were all the same. Could we ever learn
from a world like that? No, we certainly
couldn’t. In fact, in the
very beginning when God put Adam
and Eve in the garden of paradise, He
designed that garden for them to be able
to live forever. He never wanted them
to have to experience suffering and pain
and death. But, He allowed
them to freely choose to
disobey Him. And, when they
freely chose to disobey Him, those
consequences of their free choice, hit
their lives very heavily. Do you know that
sometimes what occurs in our lives,
the suffering and the pain, it’s because of
our own poor decisions. But, there are
other reasons for the suffering and
pain that goes on in the world today. We understand that
much of the pain and suffering that
comes into our lives is because
God allows us to have the
freedom to choose. And sometimes
we choose wrongly. Think about a
person who decides to drink alcohol.
They take in more alcohol than
their body can handle. They are passed the
level of intoxicated. They get behind
the wheel of a car. They drive down the
road, they lose control, smash into a
telephone pole and they’re paralyzed
for the rest of their life on this earth,
whose fault is that? Can you blame God
for wrong decisions that a person makes
that cause pain and suffering in his or
her life? Certainly that’s not
God’s fault. But, you and I both
know that some pain and suffering
that comes into our lives is not
because we made wrong decisions.
No, sometimes innocent people
suffer. Imagine that same
scenario with the person who has taken
in too much alcohol, they’re drunk, they’re
behind the wheel, except this time
they don’t smash into a telephone pole.
This time they swerve into the middle of
the road and an oncoming car that
has an innocent two-year-old. That
drunk driver smashes into that oncoming
car, that 18-month-old loses his life because
of the wrong decisions of that drunk driver.
Does that seem fair? Why didn’t God
stop that? Why would God
create a world where we are impacted
so devastatingly by the wrong
decisions of others? The answer to that
is fairly simple. The answer to that
is that God is no respecter of persons.
God doesn’t decide who gets the freedom to
choose and who doesn’t. In fact, when God
created humans He endowed them with
the ability to make decisions that
had consequences. But those consequences,
they didn’t just impact the person making the
decisions, but those consequences impact other
people around them. You know, it might
be tempting to say “God, I would use
my freedom of choice correctly so
give me the freedom to choose. But God,
there are some people out there
that wouldn’t. Some people out
there that would choose to do wrong,
that would choose to make decisions
that would cause pain in my life.
God, I don’t think you should let
them have the freedom to choose.
I don’t think you should allow the
situation to be such that their choices
would have consequences like
my choices have.” Now you see,
that’s just not the way that
God operates. When God created
humans, he endowed them with the
ability to choose. And sometimes those
choices bring about consequences that
cause pain and suffering in the lives
of even the innocent. Is that unfair of
God to give everyone the freedom to choose?
No, it’s not. Since He’s no
respecter of persons, we all have
the ability to impact those around
us. There are other reasons why God
allows the pain and suffering that go
on in this world. We understand that
some of the pain and suffering that
comes into our life is because of our
own wrong decisions. We also understand
that since God doesn’t respect one person
over another, He allows everyone to
make decisions that impact those around
them. And, some of the pain and suffering
that comes into our life is because of
the wrong decisions of others who are
living around us. There’s another reason
why we experience pain and suffering. And
that’s because sometimes past generations have
made decisions that impact the present
generation. We can thing of
all kinds of examples of this, but one good
example is the idea and use of asbestos.
For many years, people thought that
using asbestos was a great idea. They
mined it and they put it in insulating
fibers that they used to insulate
military vehicles. They used to
insulate factories and it was very
effective. It was fire proof,
virtually, and they thought it was a
great idea. And then they started
seeing that the people who were mining
asbestos were dying prematurely of lung
disease. They started seeing an increase
in lung cancer and other medical problems
that were due to an association with
asbestos. Hundreds of
thousands of people died because
people in past generations didn’t
understand that asbestos was not
a good idea and harms people when
they breathe it in. There again, are we
to blame God for the deaths of those
hundreds of thousands of people? No.
God allowed past generations to make
decisions and those decisions affected and
impacted not only people in their
generation, but future generations.
We might try to protest and say that
well, that just doesn’t seem fair. But
there are lots of things from the
past generations that we accept and
that we enjoy and that we are very
glad that we have. Right now, I’m
speaking to you and I’m wearing
contact lenses. I think contact
lenses are one of the most
amazing inventions that have come
down the pike in the last twenty,
thirty, forty years. I have terrible
vision, but with my contact lenses in,
I can see 20/20. Now why is that?
Well, that’s because very smart people
in past generations studied how light
comes into the eye and they invented
tiny pieces of plastic that you
can put into your eye and
you can see. We walk into houses,
many of us, and turn on water faucets and
we drink clean, pure water out of those
faucets. Not that we came up with the
technology that would do that. We have a
cell phone that we can dial a number
and reach someone in Ireland. We have
a computer that we can get on and
we can type in something in the
search engine and pull up information.
Not that we came up with that technology,
that has been passed down to us for
many, many years. What are we to
do? Accept the benefits of the
decisions of the past generations,
but not accept the consequences? No.
There again, we see exactly what is
going on. God allows people to choose,
they make decisions and those decisions
impact others. We’re impacted by
the decisions of past generations.
And, our decisions will impact future
generations. Is God unfair for
allowing humans to freely choose and for
their choices to have an impact on future
generations, for the good or for the bad?
Certainly not. We can’t blame God for
the pain and suffering that comes into our
lives because of the wrong decisions of
past generations. There are other
reasons, other ways that our lives come into
pain and suffering because of certain
things that are at play in this universe.
We’ll explore some of those as we
continue. God designed a
universe that’s regulated by natural laws. We
understand that. Natural laws we
study, we use them on a regular basis
to benefit us. We understand the
law of gravity and we study it so we
can determine what we need to do to
create an airplane that would take us
from one city to another city. We
understand what our bodies need in
order to survive… they need water,
they need food. And so we find
places where there are sources of clean
water and we drink that water. But, the
same chemical properties of water that allow
us to live, can cause us pain and
suffering. The same chemical
properties of water that allow us to live,
that water can drown us. The same properties
of gravity that we use to study to our
benefit, if we find ourselves in the wrong
position, falling from a building, those laws
of gravity and other physical laws, cause
pain and suffering in our lives. That’s
how God designed the world. Can you
imagine a world where there were not
physical laws that you could study and
understand and know how they operated.
Imagine a world where the physical laws did
not stay the same. Sometimes, the
skeptic says, “Why didn’t God design
a place where physical laws don’t cause us
pain and suffering?” If we were to ask
that question, we would have
to then ask, “What would a world
be like where you didn’t have regular,
physical laws that always acted in the
same way?” Suppose in the middle
of a baseball game the pitcher was
throwing the baseball and it was going to
hit the batter. And, so God adjusted
that physical law of gravity so that
that ball did not strike the batter.
Suppose that a plane was going to be
falling from the sky and was going
to crash and so God adjusted the
law of gravity. Can you imagine a
world like that? That would be a
world of chaos. That wouldn’t be a
world that we would understand to be
regulated by an intelligent God
and Designer. In fact, a world like
that would speak more for atheism than
it would for a world that was created
by a loving Designer. Natural laws are at
play that cause pain and suffering
in our lives. When we think of
things like tornados, earthquakes, hurricanes,
tsunamis, those are caused because of
the natural laws that are at play. We know
sometimes we look at those natural laws
and we ignore them. Sometimes a person will
understand that if they will put their house,
or if they build a city in a certain place, there
is a high probability that there is going
to be an earthquake. And, yet they will
still build their house or that city by that
particular location. And when an earthquake
occurs and causes death or pain and suffering
in that particular instance, what are we
to do? Are we to blame God for creating
a world that has natural laws that we
can study and that we can know how
things will react to other things? Is it
God’s fault that He created a world that
natural laws will bring about, sometimes,
pain and suffering in our lives, especially if
we decide to ignore certain things that
we could avoid? No, you can’t blame
God for that. When we look at
the universe, we understand that there
are natural laws at play. And those natural
laws can be used to our great benefit.
But, sometimes, because of the way those natural
laws are set up, they bring about pain and
suffering in our lives. What are we to do?
What we’re to do in those cases is to
understand that God loves us… to understand
that God created these natural laws, and to,
as much as possible, be aware of how
they operate so that we can use them
to our benefit. Those are some
of the reasons for pain and suffering: our own wrong
decisions; the wrong
decisions of others; the wrong decisions
of previous generations; and, the natural laws
that are at play. But, we’ve been
looking at this idea of pain and
suffering, asking ourselves why God
allows it to happen. We’ve looked at some
of those reasons. But, maybe there’s
something else we should consider. Maybe
we should consider and understand
that sometimes, sometimes there are
great benefits to suffering.
Let’s explore some of those
benefits. You say, “How can
suffering, how can pain be beneficial?”
Let’s just analyze that question
on a physical level for just
a moment. Is it the case that
sometimes a physical pain can
cause us to look for a cure
to something? Is it the case that
sometimes physical suffering can show
us that there is a greater problem that needs
to be taken care of? Certainly. That
happens all the time. In fact, I’m thinking
about one of my friend’s father who was
in a board meeting. And, in that meeting
he started having some problems
with his chest. He started feeling
an ache and a pain. And he didn’t think
much about it. He thought it
might have been indigestion, so he
excused himself from the meeting.
One of his friends thankfully, saw what
was going on and followed him out
of that meeting. And my friend’s father
started to sweat, and he started to have
severe chest pain. His friend quickly
loaded him into a car, drove him
to the hospital. At the hospital they
said that he had just a few
minutes to live. He had had a
heart attack. A heart attack in
a certain artery that was called the
“widow maker.” That if he had not
gone to the hospital and had not received
treatment for that heart attack, he
would have died within minutes.
What sent him to the hospital?
The physical pain that he was experiencing
alerted him to the fact that there was something
that was even more important going on.
Is it the case that on a fairly regular
basis, physical pain can tell us
something needs to be checked out?
That there is something greater at play that
needs to be considered? Certainly it happens
all the time. Thinking of a young
man who had severe pain in his
side. He didn’t know what it was,
he didn’t know why he was hurting, but
that pain continued. So he went to the
hospital. And, at the hospital they
informed him that his appendix was
about to rupture. If he hadn’t had that
pain, he wouldn’t have gone to the
hospital. If his appendix had
ruptured, there’s a good chance that
he would have died. Why did he go to
the hospital? Well, he went because
of the pain that he was experiencing.
Is it true that pain in this life can have
physical benefits and help us see something
that’s going on that is even greater
than that pain, that needs attention and
that alerts us to a severe danger?
Yes. Not only can pain and
suffering on a physical level have benefits and
cause us to look for greater dangers, but
pain and suffering can have benefits on
a spiritual, emotional, psychological level.
In fact, when we see a person going
through severe trials and struggles,
often that is where the real character of
a person is built. The “metal” of a person’s
character is forged in the fire of trials. After
all, where only the sun shines, it’s always
a desert. Many times in the
storms of life, that’s where we really
see what we’re made of. That’s where we really
form our character. James, in the Bible,
told us that this would be the case. In
James 1:1-3, he said: “My brethren, count
it all joy when you go through various trials,
knowing that the testing of your faith
produces endurance.” The writer of Hebrews
said that Jesus Christ, “… though He were a Son,
yet He learned obedience by the things
which He suffered.” The psalmist writer in
Psalm 1:19 said: Before I was afflicted
I went astray, But now I seek
Your will.” What are these verses
trying to tell us? They’re trying to
tell us that in the middle of our
suffering that’s where much of our
character is built. And, that’s where
we see human character at
its finest. I’m thinking of a
young man, right now. Many years ago he
was at a camp and he was blind. And,
at this camp they were going around
the circle and they were asking what
each one of the campers were thankful
for. When it came time for this young
man to answer, the other campers
wondered what he would say. He
was blind, he didn’t have the
abilities that the others had. When it
came time for him to say what he was
thankful for, he said, “I am thankful that I
am blind, because I can see things that those who
have sight cannot see.” I contacted him just
recently to ask about that particular time
in his life. And he said yes,
he had said that. And as he had matured
he understood that if he had a choice,
he wouldn’t have picked blindness. If
someone had said to him you could go
through life without being blind or being
blind, he said, “No. I wouldn’t have
picked blindness. But, in my blindness
I have seen the love of God. And, I have
seen things that I never would have
seen had it not been for my
disability.” I’m thinking of
another man right now. This particular individual
was diagnosed with a debilitating disease.
After his diagnosis, just a few days, I
think it was four days after he was
diagnosed with that disease, his 16-year-old
daughter was driving her car and was
killed in a car accident. Not many months
after that, he was confined to his bed
where he stayed, and has stayed for
many, many years. But, throughout the
struggles and trials that he has been
through, they have forged his character
to such a degree and caused things
in his life that he would never trade
for all the money in the world, for all
the comfort in the world. In his
debilitation, he has written several books.
They have been printed by the thousands and
have been distributed all over the world.
Those books are used to provide comfort and
encouragement and spiritual understanding
and edification to people, thousands and thousands
of people all over the world. And, that might
never have happened if he hadn’t been
through these sufferings and trials
and struggles. What else happens in
sufferings and struggles? We see people’s character
shine in ways that we never, ever could
see their character shine without the
struggles. We see those victims
of earthquakes and hurricanes and tornados.
Those victims being cared for by the loving and
compassionate people all over the world
who are coming to help in those
times of struggles. Many times when
we experience pain and suffering,
we realize we are not alone. There are
others that care about us, that love
us, and that love and care and
compassion shines brighter than it
ever would have shined had we not
been going through those struggles and
those trials. Do pain and suffering
have benefits in our lives where we grow
emotionally, spiritually. Absolutely. It’s
important that we need to consider
that we allow that suffering and pain
that comes into our lives to cause us
to be better, not to cause us
to be bitter. You see, the same
sunshine that melts an ice cube, bakes
clay into a hardened substance that cannot
be used for anything else other than what
it has baked into. We need to made
sure that the suffering and pain that
comes into our lives, we use it to draw
closer to God, to draw closer to
others, to make us better, to melt
our hearts, and to allow us to see
the love of God. But, there’s another
reason that God allows pain and suffering.
And, that is to remind us of eternity.
You see, this world was never designed
to be our home. God created this
world in order to be the perfect
vale of soul making. God’s purpose in
this life for us is not for us to
be comfortable 24-hours a day,
7 days a week. It’s not for us to
feel all the physical comforts and avoid
all of the pain. God’s purpose for us
in this life is for us to understand that He’s
our Creator. And, that the only thing
that can truly set us free is the truth.
And, when we understand that there
is a Creator, and we build a relationship
with Him, then anything that helps
us to draw closer to Him, well that’s
something that can be used to remind
us of eternity. This world is not our
home. We are just passing through. We
need to remember that. C.S. Lewis expressed
that thought when he said pain and suffering
are God’s megaphone to rouse a deaf world.
Why is it that the world needs to be
roused? Because many humans are forgetting
their purpose here in this world. They’re
forgetting their reason for being on this
globe. And it’s not so we can be
comfortable. It’s not so we can have
everything that we want. It’s so that we can
form a relationship with God. Because
after this life, there is the potential for
eternal life. A life that lasts forever,
that has no ending. It’s important for us
to remember when we ask the very
legitimate question, “Where is God when
we suffer?” The answer is
very simple. God is in the
exact same place that He was in
when His son Jesus Christ
suffered. Jesus Christ was
perfectly innocent. Had never done
anything that would cause suffering to
come to His life. Had never made a
wrong decision, never committed a sin.
And yet, He suffered excruciating pain
for our sins. When we think of
the suffering that comes into our lives,
and we wonder where God is, we need to
remember Jesus Christ hanging on that
cross. We need to remember that God
had the power to stop that suffering,
but He didn’t. Why? He didn’t
stop that suffering because He wanted
something better for all of us. He wanted
all of us to be able to experience eternal
life. A life that would last far longer than
the few years that we’ll be here
on this earth. Where is God when
we suffer? He is loving us. And,
He’s in the exact same place He was
when He allowed His son to suffer
for us. Let’s use our suffering to
get better and not to be bitter.

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