The Problem of Pain
Posted by Michelle Tepper on May 4, 2017Topic: Uncategorized
Topic: Big Deal Questions
The problem of pain and suffering is by far the hardest question of life. Part of the difficulty when faced with this question is that there are so many different and important ways to engagement that we must fully consider, when we dare to look pain and suffering in the eye in our own lives and the lives of others.
If someone asks about suffering, the first responsibility we have is to ALWAYS take the time to stop, listen, ask God to help us understand why they are asking. Any answers that you come across that help you on this issue (even if it’s from RZIM’s Big Deal Questions event) must come second to the important responsibility of caring for the person who asked the question. Depending on the person, this may mean that in their situation it will never be appropriate to share a ready-made answer for suffering with them. The second responsibility we have is to learn how to have true compassion, be willing to suffer alongside those who are suffering no matter how awkward or long this process might feel.
I understand that the advice “to just be there” can seem frustrating or like we aren’t really answering, but exactly the opposite is true. In fact this is foundation for the only answer for suffering that has ever been of practical pastoral help for my own heart and the hearts of others on this topic.
Nearly 5 years ago a family member of mine died suddenly and tragically. We were living in England at the time, and the funeral was back in the states just days before a large Christian summer festival where I was due to be speaking on the problem of pain and suffering. Directly after the funeral I flew through the night, then drove 4 hours across England just in time for the event that day. During the days and hours leading up to the event, I was haunted by questions like; Do my answers still make sense? Do these same answers help in my or my own family’s pain? And-if not-should I really be sharing them with anybody?
During those dark hours of questioning one verse kept coming to mind. John 6:68 “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life,” In this story, the disciples were faced with either being offended with what seemed like the harshness of Jesus’ diagnosis of the human heart or choosing to trust the character of the good, loving and powerful God he had revealed in their midst. When Jesus asked if they would abandon him as others had, he was admitting how hard it seems to follow him at times and also giving his disciples the freedom to question him and even look for answers elsewhere if that is what they desired. However, presented with the reality of another life, a life without Jesus, Peter cried out–where else could we go?! He realized that without Jesus all he was left with was the same suffering, but different lifeless words.
All other systems, explanations, religions, offer alternative answers to the problem of pain, but in Christ, the Word has been made flesh. The answer is a Person, and not just any person, but the God of Love himself. The God who showed that no sacrifice would be too great to keep him from coming right to us. He entered into the very center of all of the suffering that our empty words, broken promises and self-centeredness had created, to demonstrate the true power of his love through the cross and resurrection.
Every person that walks this earth regardless of age, race, culture or religious background will face suffering. Even if you give up on God, at some point you will have to wrestle with finding other answers that help in times of suffering. Look into the answers that other worldviews give to problem of pain and suffering. Do they provide answers that make sense, provide a way out and actually comfort in our times of greatest need?
When I am faced with the darkness of suffering personally and in our world, I try to return to these difficult questions authentically and honestly. Each time I am powerfully comforted when I remember that God, our suffering savior, offers more than just words. He answers with himself: in history through Jesus Christ, in the present through relationship with Him through his Word and the Holy Spirit, and eternally through the power of the resurrection.
I pray that you would know the God of all comfort, today and always as you remember what he has done and that the reality of the comfort you find in Him would give you supernatural strength and confidence as you comfort others in their suffering.
Come hear Michelle Tepper speak at our next big youth event in Winnipeg this July.
Big Deal Questions is a one day event for students who are looking to think through answers to their big questions and it is also a safe place to bring friends who are not yet believers. No question is off limits and we will offer an invitation for students to encounter the Christian God.
The Big Deal Questions event this year will take place on July 15, 2017 at the Canadian Mennonite University in Winnipeg following our Summit on Human Rights. If you are between the age of 12-18, we hope to see you there! We are confident this will be a highlight for 2017!
Visit www.BigDealQuestions.com for more information