What About That Guy?

Hey, thanks again for sending in questions related to our recent sermons. As you know, we are in the middle of our series on Job, who is a biblical character who endured extreme suffering. One of the things that we said this last Sunday is that God is our loving Father and good Creator who is in control of all things and orders all things for his glory and the good of those who love and follow Him. Is that any evil or suffering that God has allowed into our lives, he has allowed that on purpose, really for our good because he loves us. And we talked about how there will come a point in the future, and maybe this isn’t until eternity, but we will look back on everything that has happened in our lives and give thanks really that comes not only from Job, but from the witness of the entire scriptures.

Romans 828, right? He uses all things for the good of those who love Him and are called according to his purpose. And so if he has allowed all things or if he has allowed all things and he’s going to work them for our good, then that’s something that is ultimately going to build us up. Even if it was an evil thing, even if he hates the thing itself, he is going to work it somehow for our good. And that is why he has allowed us into that’s why he has allowed it into our lives.

So the question this week is really what about these extreme forms of suffering that we see? And how can that ever possibly be used to better someone’s life, build them in some way? Or the illustration that we use from C. S. Lewis’s Problem of pain is that he’s using it to make us into a masterpiece.

It’s part of the scraping and carving process of us, that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance character, character hope. Like it’s all part of our development process. And then we see these extreme forms of suffering and we say, how could that ever be part of a good development process? You can think about tragedies that have happened around the world or maybe to people that you know personally. It’s kind of asking, what about that guy suffering over there?

That doesn’t seem like that could be good at all ever. So we’ll step back to some of the things we said the previous week. First, that’s a great question. I think we’ve all asked that from time to time. But again, just big picture.

If God can turn the tragedy of the cross, worst injustice that has ever happened in human history, if he can turn that for the good of the entire world, then he could do that with any tragedy. So nothing is beyond God’s reach to turn upside down and use for good what was meant for evil. God is powerful enough to do that. We know that first of all. But secondly, I would say, be careful looking into somebody else’s suffering or trying to understand somebody else’s story.

Another C. S. Lewis book, one of the Narnia books, a Horse and His Boy, when one of the characters meets the lion aslan the Jesus character for the first time is figuring out that it’s a lion, this character has had lots of run ins with other lions earlier in the book. This character is scared of lions. This lion has caused seemingly trouble both to this character and other characters in the book.

And this character is coming kind of aware of, oh, my goodness, this is the lion who’s been giving me trouble, but it’s talking to me. And so in this encounter, the character Shasta, I think is the way you pronounce it, although I’m not positive if that’s the correct pronunciation. Shasta asks, So were you the lion that gave trouble to this other character, Arvis? And the lion says, yes, it was me. And then Shasta asks why?

And the lion says, like, Dear child, I’m only telling you your story. I don’t tell you the story of another person. That is between me and them. That’s not for you to know. That’s just over here.

I think. Where CS? Lewis got that was from Jesus at the end of the Gospel of John John 21 22, jesus says, the death that Peter is going to die kind of predicts that or foreshadows that, and then he doesn’t say anything about John. And so other disciples are like, does that mean John’s going to stay alive until you return? And Jesus says, if that’s something I want to do, that’s between him and me.

That’s not for you to know. And so I think that’s where C. S. Lewis got that, that God really only tells us our own story. And so if we’re looking into the suffering of someone else and we say, God couldn’t use that, I would say be careful because that person might have a different perspective on it.

The people I know with the strongest, most inspiring faith are the people who have endured the worst suffering. And I think it is just a living out of the suffering produces perseverance, perseverance character, character hope. And so if you actually go talk to someone in that position, oftentimes they are hanging on to God in a way that we are not hanging on to God. And we don’t know everything that God’s doing in their lives, and they may not know until maybe eternity. So it’s a little bit problematic to be looking into somebody else’s story and say, I know what’s going on here, or how could we know what’s going on here?

Because honestly, we don’t know. And I’ll say during this series it’s been interesting. The people in our congregation who at least some of them who I know are enduring suffering right now, they have come and talked to me about how much this series has helped. It’s amazing that when somebody is going through suffering, that hearing, God is in charge. God has a plan.

God will use this for your good. That helps almost more than anything else could help. And so when we’re looking out across the spectrum of all these tragedies that are happening, to say, well, God couldn’t be doing anything good there, that’s almost like the exact opposite of the best thing that we could be. Telling that person. Because the best thing to tell that person is God is doing something here, right here in the middle of your tragedy.

God is at work for your good, and someday you will connect those plotlines. So I would say just be really careful looking into somebody else’s story because you might be inadvertently taking away the hope that they really need. I think I’ve found the people who get most upset about the idea of God’s in control of everything. And God’s in charge of our suffering, even though he’s not like the direct cause of it, he has allowed it. The people who are most upset about that are really people who have not endured extreme suffering themselves, but they’re worried about people who have endured extreme suffering.

The people, on the other hand, the people who most embrace that God is in control are the people who have endured extreme suffering. And I think that speaks back to god only tells us our own story. So I would look at your life and say, what is the most helpful thing to process your own past? And is it God is in control? Or is it God’s not in control?

God can’t do anything with this, or God didn’t know it was going to happen, or there’s no one at the helm of the ship like good luck. I mean, none of that is going to be good news. The thing that’s going to be good news for you, the thing that’s actually going to help you piece your life back together, is to believe there was a plan. God is in control. God never lost control.

God has not forgotten about me. God will bring this around for my good eventually. Just like kind of job foreshadows that God has allowed this because of his heart for us, because he’s making much of us. Even though we don’t know exactly what the final masterpiece will be, we can have faith that there really will be a final masterpiece that we will look back on and say, praise God that he brought me through that. Well, I hope that was helpful.

Thank you for sending in the question and we will see you next time.