There are a lot of terrible things that happen in the world, even in our own lives. How do we account for inexplicable suffering, sadness, bad situations that are not getting better? If you don’t have a doctrine of the fall of mankind, which broke the world and cursed it, these questions must eat away at your view of the competency of God at being God. After all, why can’t he superintend the world well enough to keep such disasters from happening, why do thing suddenly go wrong for no apparent reason? But if you believe the world is deeply broken because of a primordial act of rebellion against God, then suffering becomes intelligible as a part of the fall out of that original act of rebellion. People suffer because this world is broken by sin.
“Man’s chief end is to glorify God“
- So that we know our chief end ought not be earthly things, which we may never get, or shall never satisfy our souls.
- It corrects us
- When we don’t use our lives for the glory of God
- When our chief consideration in life is our own glory
- When we oppose God’s glory.
- It calls us to make God’s glory our chief.
- Magistrates ought to pursue it.
- Ministers ought to promote it.
- Masters of family must lead their families in this.
“Man’s chief end is to enjoy God for ever.”
In this life
- For seeing the wickedness of making enjoyment of this age our chief end.
- Enjoy God in his ordinances of worship
In the age to come
- Enjoy God now that we may enjoy him hereafter.
- Let it spur us to duty to do these things now.
- In sorrow now, there is a day coming of pure enjoyment in God.
Body of Divinity, 6-26
“I once heard it said that life is a series of divestitures. And, as much as I militate against loss, separation, and pain, I know that it’s true. That divestiture is part of the fabric of our lives is evident by the fact that even babies know how to say “bye-bye.”” -Elyse Fitzpatrick, Comforts from the Cross
“We suffer because we mistakenly believe that God’s goals and our goals are identical. Into this confusion and sorrow, your Savior, who isn’t insensible to your pain, speaks. “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).” -Elyze Fitzpatrick, Comforts from the Cross
- Suffering is real and will not go away. But death comes as the end, and death brings an end to suffering and [gives] eventual peace. [MATERIALISM]
- Suffering is an illusion. It simply is not there, but is imagined. [EASTERN RELIGIONS]
- Suffering is real, but we ought to be able to rise above it and recognize that it is of little importance. [EXISTENTIALISM]
- God suffered in Christ. God knows what it is like to suffer, and therefore can offer help to sufferers. [CHRISTIANITY]
From Alister McGrath, I Believe
“When my father found his father at Mount Pleasant after the war ended, he was shocked at first to see how he had been wounded. In fact, he was speechless. So my grandfather’s first words to his son were “I am confident that I will find great blessing in it.” And that is what he said about everything that happened to him for the rest of his life, all of which tended to be more or less drastic. I remember at least two sprained wrists and a cracked rib. He told me once that being blessed meant being bloodied, and that is true etymologically, in English–but not in Greek or Hebrew. So whatever understanding might be based on that derivation has no scriptural authority behind it. ” -Marilynne Robinson, Gilead
“We can rest contentedly in our sins and in our stupidities; and anyone who has watched gluttons shovelling down the most exquisite foods as if they did not know what they were eating, will admit that we can ignore even pleasure. But pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” -C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain
Let me implore the reader to try to believe, if only for the moment, that God, who made these deserving people, may really be right when He thinks that their modest prosperity and the happiness of their children are not enough to make them blessed: that all this must fall from them in the end, and that if they have not learned to know Him they will be wretched. And therefore He troubles them, warning them in advance of an insufficiency that one day they will have to discover. The life to themselves and their families stands between them and the recognition of their need; He makes that life less sweet to them. I call this a Divine humility because it is a poor thing to strike our colours to God when the ship is going down under us; a poor thing to come to Him as a last resort, to offer up ‘our own’ when it is no longer worth keeping. If God were proud He would hardly have us on such terms: but He is not proud, He stoops to conquer, He will have us even though we have shown that we prefer everything else to Him, and come to Him because there is ‘nothing better’ now to be had. The same humility is shown by all those Divine appeals to our fears which trouble high-minded readers of Scripture. It is hardly complimentary to God that we should choose Him as an alternative to Hell: yet even this He accepts. The creature’s illusion of self-sufficiency must, for the creature’s sake, be shattered; and by trouble or fear of trouble on earth, by crude fear of the eternal flames, God shatters it ‘unmindful of His glory’s diminution’.” -C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain
“The sacrifice of Christ is repeated, or re-echoed, among His followers in very varying degrees, from the cruellest martyrdom down to a self-submission of intention whose outward signs have nothing to distinguish them from the ordinary fruits of temperance and ‘sweet reasonableness’. The causes of this distribution I do not know; but from our present point of view it ought to be clear that the real problem is not why some humble, pious, believing people suffer, but why some do not.” -C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain
“The Christian doctrine of suffering explains, I believe, a very curious fact about the world we live in. The settled happiness and security which we all desire, God withholds from us by the very nature of the world: but joy, pleasure, and merriment, He has scattered broadcast. We are never safe, but we have plenty of fun, and some ecstasy. It is not hard to see why. The security we crave would teach us to rest our hearts in this world and oppose an obstacle to our return to God: a few moments of happy love, a landscape, a symphony, a merry meeting with our friends, a bathe or a football match, have no such tendency. Our Father refreshes us on the journey with some pleasant inns, but will not encourage us to mistake them for home.” -C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain