Eat right, exercise, die anyway.

Suffering: Wrong place, wrong time

Why Suffering?

Much suffering results simply from being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Luke 13:1-5, The Tower of Siloam
John 9:1-17, The man born blind
Ecclesiastes 7:10-18, Who knows?
Ecclesiastes 9:11-12, 10:8-9; Matthew 5:45, Chance
Ecclesiastes 11:7 – 12:8, Eat right, exercise, die anyway.

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Luke 13:1-5, The Tower of Siloam (12/15/14)

Earlier we saw that some of my suffering is the inevitable, earthly, and direct result of my own sin. In fact, most of the Old Testament and some of the New Testament takes the position that my suffering is not just the result but the proof of my sin. Other scriptures question or dispute this position, however (e.g., Job, Matthew 5:10-12, and 2 Corinthians 11). This week we’ll look at the case for suffering as a result of being in the wrong place at the wrong time – that is, you didn’t do anything wrong, and neither did anyone else. You were just a victim of circumstances.

This is probably the most difficult “reason” for suffering to accept, because there is no answer to “Why?” Jesus himself tells us that sometimes bad things just happen without warning, so we had better repent now, while we still can.

John 9:1-17, The man born blind (12/16/14)

Many years ago, I was talking to the wife of one of my professors and asked her about their children. They had two daughters, and a son who was in an institution with a physical age of about 30 and a mental age of about two. I asked if he was improving. She explained that he never would. I said I was so sorry. She said – quite calmly and with no bitterness whatsoever – that it wasn’t necessary, because “I just feel like a statistic.” As a well-educated woman, she knew that sometimes children are born who will never be “normal.” That’s just the way it is, statistically, and her son happened to be the statistic.

One of these statistical children, a blind boy, was born 2000 years ago in Jerusalem. Jesus has returned to the city for one of the festivals. His disciples, in common with most Jews of their generation, thought that the man’s blindness must be the result of somebody’s sin. Jesus said, No! No one sinned. Nevertheless, his blindness presented a special opportunity for the glory of God to shine forth. Here’s an example of a man who was just in the wrong place at the wrong time and happened to be born blind. Fortunately, he was later in the right place at the right time, and he could see at last!

Ecclesiastes 7:10-18, Who knows? (12/17/14)

The day before yesterday I said that having no answer to “Why?” other than “wrong place, wrong time” is more difficult to accept than “my sin, your sin, everybody’s sin.” Nevertheless, sometimes it’s the correct answer; it’s best that you understand and accept that before you get into the middle of a bad situation that is really no one’s fault. It turns out that a biblical writer – widely thought to be the wise King Solomon himself – gave us much the same advice thousands of years ago.

Ecclesiastes 9:11-12, 10:8-9; Matthew 5:45, Chance (12/18/14)

Sometimes bad things happen to us, and we suffer, and nobody is to blame! This is very hard to accept. We always want to point the finger of blame. “It’s all because he/she/they/the Republicans/the Democrats/the Devil did me wrong.” Or if we really can’t think of anybody else to blame, we wonder anxiously: “What did I do wrong?” Worst of all, we think God remembers something we don’t: “Why is God doing this to me?” Nope. Sometimes it’s just the breaks. King Solomon said that time and chance happen to us all. On the other hand, Jesus said that God is good to us whether we are good or bad. Best we do the same.

Ecclesiastes 11:7 – 12:8, Eat right, exercise, die anyway. (12/19/14)

This week we’ve been looking at the biblical support for the “wrong place, wrong time” type of suffering. Let’s assume that we are so well-behaved that we commit very few sins of the type that backfire on us immediately. We are so charming and likeable that no one sins against us. We are so lucky that we avoid accidents, natural hazards, carelessness, bad genes, and disease. Guess what? We are eventually going suffer because we are old and feeble! As my son’s tee shirt said: “Eat right, exercise, die anyway.” King Solomon said the same, although I think we need to make some allowance because he was having a really bad day.

Here's a key to the symbolic language in the reading:
1b-2Because when you get old,
3your arms and hands will tremble, your legs will be weak, your teeth will fall out, and your sight will fail.
4Even though your hearing will be poor, the slightest sound will startle you awake.
5Weakness and poor balance make you fear the slightest unevenness of the road. Your hair will turn white, and the least weight will be a burden to movement. Desire for food, drink, and companionship will be gone.
6And you’ll die.

More on Why Suffering?
Suffering does not originate with God.
Most suffering is caused by sin and evil.
Some suffering results from my own sin or someone else's sin.
God punishes sin to instruct us.
Some suffering results from being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
God is with us, and God and our Christian family share the burden of our suffering.

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