By: Rev. Lew Stier
I received a lot of great questions on this topic—and they are very wide ranging in scope. I will try to give a very simple answer to three topics on Satan, evil and suffering, and death in my weekend message.
But as I thought more about all of these questions it seems the main theme running through all of them may be simply put into one question asked two different ways.
First: “Why do believers in Jesus Christ have to suffer the same things non-believers suffer?” Second: “Why does it seem believers suffer more than non-believers?”
For LCMS Lutherans especially this questions comes up because as we all learned in our teaching from Luther’s Small Catechism in preparation for Confirmation to confess God the Father as the “Creator and Sustainer” of our lives. In the questions on the explanation of the First Article about the Father’s action to preserve us, question # 117 on page 98 of the 1942 blue edition asked: “How does God preserve you?” It offers a two part answer.
Part “A” says: “He gives us everything we need to support this body and life (His Preservation). Part “B” says: “He defends me against all danger, guards and protects me from all evil” (Government of God). And that is all it says. So naturally, questions arise.
Why does Jesus say in this world we will have to deal with all kinds of trouble (John 16:33)? Why does Ananias have to tell Saul soon to become Paul the most noted believer ever—how much he is going to have to suffer for the name of Jesus? (Acts 9:16)? How do we answer THAT?
Speaking only on behalf of believers in Jesus Christ—and because the answers will only make sense to believers I must say this: We always live under the guidance and governance of God and we should always understand He will take good care of us because all things work together for our good as we learn from Romans 8:28.
Yes, there are times when dangers threaten us but we also know there are times when God does divert those dangers from attacking us. We just do not know when He does this; we may be oblivious to some dangers at times or we praise Him when we do realize He protected us and outcomes could have been a lot worse.
Then there are definitely times when God allows misfortunes, sickness, wars, poverty, accidents and every other calamity under the sun to happen in our lives even if we do believe. They could be punishment for sin—but how would we know for sure? There is a much stronger possibility they are really going to be events planned to have an outcome to bless us.
God will guard and protect us in every case so the evil or suffering we have to endure will bring us into a closer relationship with Jesus Christ and be used to give all glory to God. In other words—they will be worked out for our good and the situations are used to carry out the purpose God planned for those calamities.
We trust God’s Word when He says “I will never leave you or forsake you” (Deut. 31:6) and when David teaches in Psalm 46: “God is our refuge and strength; a very present help in trouble.” We take it on faith and we see it happen every day of our lives. So as Jesus said: “Do not be afraid, be at peace because I have overcome the world for you” (John 16:33).
Simply Put: Bad stuff will happen, pain and suffering will come but in and through faith Jesus has you covered!