Wednesday, May 28, 2008

A Question to Ponder


I have been asked to speak at a summer series in the Dallas area this July. My assigned topic is: "The Problem of Suffering: Reading Job." I pleaded for another topic. But since "The Allegory of Light and Darkness in John's Gospel" was taken, I accepted. Most of the time, however, I try to avoid this topic because my thoughts are out of step with mainstream Evangelical Christianity. So, here's the scenario: Two people of roughly the same age are lying in side by side hospital rooms. Both are dying of the same illness. Both people have devout family members praying over them. One person makes a recovery while the other dies. Why? Did God only hear one plea and reject the other? Did they have secret sin their lives? Did they pray hard enough? Was their faith strong enough? What's going on here? Think about it, and let me know what you think.

7 comments:

Mark said...

First, let me say that this is my OPINION only!

I do not believe there is miraculous healing in today's world.

If God does work miracles today, then he is very selective about what kind of injuries and ailments he takes care of. I have never seen a person with a limb missing pray and have the limb regenerate. So, based on that and the idea that God is not a respecter of persons, I can't believe God heals cancer but not other ailments.

I believe that God works in our lives in a spiritual sense and allows the natural order of the world to continue without interference. When, as the scenario states, we have two "equals" with the same illness and one recovers, it is not the result of prayer. It is the result of the design of God's creation.

"Suffering" exists because of two reasons. The first is the natural order of things. For reasons that science have not fully discovered, viruses and bacteria exist in this world as part of the overall system. Remember, God created it all and called it "Good." That means it's here for a reason. However, sometimes our contact with this creation can make us sick.

The second reason for suffering is the consequences of actions. This induces suffering two ways, directly and indirectly. (I believe I covered this concept on a previous post, the one about the butterfly effect.)

The indirect consequences occur when other people make choices that set events in motion that end up effecting you. Look at Myanmar... the greedy, power hungry government is making choices that induce a great deal of suffering in the people that live there.

The direct is much easier to see. I don't complete my work, my boss fires me.

Just some thoughts....

Charles North said...

Mark. Those are good thoughts. Thanks for your honesty. I am a big believer in free will and natural law. If I were a medical doctor I think I would have some hostility towards a lot of my fellow Christians.

J.R. said...

Here's my thought.

All things happen for the glory of God. The result of the one dying would create an opportunity or opportunities to glorify Him. More so than that surviving would have. The same would have to be true for the other scenario.

Make any sense?

Kerrie said...

I may be way off base from the topic but I’ve got some thoughts.

I think we (me included) have tunnel vision in how we see God at work in our lives, and how we pray. In my opinion we have possibly missed the whole point of the faith God requires of us as disciples.

I've thought a lot about this scenario especially recently in light of a young family member/friend's death. As I prayed for her healing and begged God to reverse her illness there was a part of me that thought somehow through my own and many others fervent prayers and efforts we could "make" her well. If OUR faith was strong, and WE maintained faith in OUR prayers and in OUR goodness as a people, faith in HER life as a Christian, that WE could collectively make God intervene differently. Well, she died anyway.

I grieved horribly and became seriously angry for weeks at God because he didn't come through and heal her in the physical way I had intended and basically refused to follow what I and others had asked him to do. Seems to me I was putting more faith in myself, my understanding and my prayers than in God. Do we only believe if he does what we ask? How arrogant is that?

What I’m starting too realize finally is this:

Real faith in God does not express itself by me requiring proof through answers to my demands ...that is not faith. I'm thinking faith has more to do with believing in God’s power regardless of the outcome. That means we make our sincere requests to God and then truly turn things over to him and have faith that He will provide, care for and watch over as he sees appropriate. And as I’ve said so recently…sometimes that means life sucks! That does not however mean that God is not at work.

I don't expect to ever understand the cause and effect relationship between our prayers and faith in God to care for us, and the realities that we end up with. I believe that is beyond our capabilities as humans. I also believe it is not up to us, with our limited understanding of God, to decide and judge whether God chooses to do present day healings and miracles.

We suffer for many reasons already expressed and this life is not about us and our comfort. So in my opinion the crux of the matter comes down to not, “why was someone not healed?” but “where is our faith?”

Charles North said...

Kerrie. I was thinking about that whole situation when I wrote this post! Your definition of faith is good - and I agree. What bothers me is the expectation that some people have of God bending to their will just because they ask.

Mark said...

I just think it is hard to answer the question about suffering without addressing how God works in our lives today.

A big part of me wants to believe that once the church was established in Acts, God set the wheels in motion and is now "hands-off" with the physical world. Even in the New Testament, we see that miracles were the exception rather than the rule in daily life. They usually occurred for a very specific purpose. I have trouble asking God to work a miracle... rather, I tend to ask God to work through the hands of the doctors... I don't know if that's a lack of faith on my part, me limiting God, the right understanding of God working in our lives, or none of the above.

I'm always growing in my faith and understanding. Ask me the same question in 5 years and I may have a different answer!

The key thing to remember is, it's not about our physical health and well being! It is about the health of our faith and relationship with God and each other.

Kerrie said...

Yes it is arrogant to think that just because we ask and believe that it should happen. Sometimes if we are not careful we carry over that old C of C doctine/attitude that we have to "work our way" to make it happen philosiphy even when in regards to our praying. There may be a lot of intense praying going on but maybe not much faith in the one we are talking to. Somewhere in the middle of our grief and prayers to God we need some basic attitudes of submission, acceptance, and trust.