Vol. 8-18 – 04-30-2023 – Suffering, then a Conversation with God
What Does God Think About Our Suffering?
For the Lord will not cast off forever, but though He cause grief, He will have compassion according to the abundance of His steadfast love; for He does not afflict from His heart or grieve the children of men. –Lamentations 3:20
Lamentations is primarily a funeral dirge. Funerals were held most often the same day an individual died (still practiced in parts of the world). Traditions for funerals vary—most hold to cultural norms.
When I was first married, I worked for a vault company. We made burial vaults among other concrete items. I was amazed to find out what went on at funerals, especially the burial gardens.
So, I expected in reading Lamentations to find a lot of verbiage surrounding death and mourning. Certainly, the intro verse has not geared in that direction (much of Lamentations is not). The book is instructional in an effort to present life as it comes. Sometimes our lives experience suffering.
Do you ever wonder what God thinks about our suffering?
He was a close friend. The program director at WHAZ Christian radio. He also did a program of recorded music and commentary. We had much in common. Believers. First names. Church leadership. Then one day he told me. He had cancer in his vocal cords. It was too advanced; medical personnel could not stop its progress.
As he lay in the hospital in his final days, I would often visit with him. He still kept others at the forefront of his life. He would ask me to help him get into the wheelchair because there were some he needed to visit with. You see, he never stopped sharing the gospel. He believed what God said.
All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age. –Matthew 28:18b-20
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, [they] are a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to Himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation . . ..Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making His appeal through us. 2 Corinthians 5:17-20a
Did God not know about the suffering that we would experience while on this earth? What does He expect of us? Larry kept on keeping on. He and I agreed. God leaves us here to do what He has placed us to do. The most important work is to spread the gospel. That is what Matthew 28 says. Some get so academically minded; they substitute their learned apologetics for the simplicity of the gospel.
Lamentations 3 shows us the compassionate heart of God. He will have compassion according to the abundance of His steadfast love; for He does not afflict from His heart or grieve the children of men (Lamentations 3: 32b-33).
One of the stairsteps in the beginning verses of Psalm 37 is to be still (the original language is to hush). One cannot hear God while complaining or whining regarding the way life is treating them.
So, is God concerned? We will get back to that. In the meantime, consider reading the book, Is God Really in Control? Trusting God in a World of Hurt, by Jerry Bridges.
And you shall speak My words to them, whether they hear or refuse to hear, for they are a rebellious house. –Ezekiel 2:7
Ezekiel is not the easiest book to read through, but it is one of the most important books in the Old Testament. The Community Group I teach has been studying the book of Ezekiel, since August of 2022. It is a major book of prophecy. Our plan is to study the book of Daniel next, then push on into the study of the book of Revelation. Needless to say, these studies draw conversations.
We do not hear of Ezekiel until we get to the book God had him write. God spoke, Ezekiel wrote. It is a hard book. The words are often harsh. Ezekiel is put in the place of speaking God’s exact words. Ezekiel is both deaf and mute—God brought that on. The words were still expected to be brought to the exiles (they were exiled due to their abominations toward the holy God).
Ezekiel resorted to monodramas. That required a lot of creativity. Can you imagine carrying on a conversation without speaking, a whiteboard, or a laptop? Next, he is required to do monodramas to portray pictures that demonstrate the Judeans’ abominations toward God. Lastly, Ezekiel portrays the future for Judea and the significant other nations—he does this through prophecy.
God gathers Himself to Ezekiel. Ezekiel does exactly what God wants. The Judeans have some that respond in repentance and will be restored. This is not the first time God has responded to people in this way.
The conversation with God is confrontational – from those that want to live in their own way. One section of Ezekiel paints a picture of the Judeans acting immorally. God uses the picture of abomination toward Him as adulterous. The Judeans perverted their relationship with God.
You cannot pervert someone you want to love you. You cannot pervert the home that He gives you. You cannot expect your family to have right relations with the holy God if you disregard His principles and laws. So, God confronts. He had made covenants that described exactly what would be the outcomes if they disobeyed. Like teenagers that think their authority will not come to confront them, the Judeans just went on with life as they liked it.
Ezekiel monodramas (if that is a word) God’s words: what you are doing is wrong; it is not going to turn out well for you. There is a price to pay for your disobedience.
God never celebrates when we struggle with disobedience. Instead, He confronts us, corrects us, invites us to repent, and will restore us if we choose to repent. If you have not realized it yet, God weeps with us when we struggle. Struggling wreaks havoc upon our lives. It has never been different.
We also have a responsibility in our conversations. Our conversations with God expose God’s truths. He wants us to pay attention to His truth. Then when we have conversations with people struggling or disobedient people, we can portray the truth of God’s Word.
Of course, in order to do that, we need to be in His Word; and believe His Word.
We should never be intimidated to share God’s truth because we fear reactions that could be negative. However, we do need to share God’s truth with love and respect. Do so with love, grace, and mercy–which comes from our God to help us in our ministry to others.
What will happen to someone you love if you do not share God’s truth?