Faith and Suffering

Reading Time: 5 Minutes

It was ages ago, but I still remember one of my favorite professor’s message about faith in a chapel talk. His text was Jesus’ famous teaching about faith moving mountains.

Jesus said, “For truly I tell you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.” (Matthew 17.20).

My professor asked the question, “What happens when you speak to the mountain and it doesn’t move?”

He answered the question with these words, “When you speak to the mountain and it doesn’t move, dig. If you dig, you will find gold.”

What I later learned was that the professor had a handicapped daughter. He surely prayed for her healing but to no avail.

As he dug into the situation of having a severely handicapped child, he found the gold of her unique personality and God’s grace.

The Pain of Suffering

It is not a question of whether humans will suffer or not. Rather, it is a question of when they will suffer, for suffering is part of human existence.

People who suffer will sometimes change their entire view of God and the world.

One of my favorite authors suffered when his childhood faith was destroyed with the unexpected death of his father.

His response was to stop believing in God. In effect, he said, “I trusted God and he failed me. I am only left to trust my effort and ability.”

The good news is that in his 30s the program of Alcoholics Anonymous led him back to Jesus.

No Happy Talk

There was nothing happy about the distress of God’s people in Isaiah’s day. They surely prayed for the mountain to be moved, but the mountain of their troubles remained.

They may have dug into the mountain of their sorrow, but there seemed to be no gold to be found.

Isaiah prayed about the deep pain of their situation.

O Lord, in distress they sought you,
they poured out a prayer
when your chastening was on them.

Like a woman with child,
who writhes and cries out in her pangs
when she is near her time,

So were we because of you, O Lord;
we were with child, we writhed,
but we gave birth only to wind.

We have won no victories on earth,
and no one is born to inhabit the world.
(Isaiah 26.16-18)

Prayer, even angry and distressed prayer, brings people into contact with God.

The Book of Job is an excellent primer on prayer for the suffering. Job, like Isaiah in this passage, expressed all of his feelings to God. He accused God and called for an umpire to sort their problems out.

When I talk with people who have experienced a great loss, I encourage them to tell God everything. Prayer doesn’t have to sound like a Sunday School prayer.

Prayer can be raw, angry, and emotional. God will not judge such prayer. I believe he approves of that kind of prayer because it shows the faith of the one who prays.

Not the End of the Story

The story in Isaiah does not end in suffering and loss.

Isaiah proclaims:

Your dead shall live, their corpses shall rise.
O dwellers in the dust, awake and sing for joy!
For your dew is a radiant dew,
and the earth will give birth to those long dead.
(Isaiah 26.19)

This verse happens to be one of the clearest expressions of the resurrection in the Old Testament.

All of us will suffer and die. Yet, in the dust of our pain, God’s word is “your dead shall live.”

Paul corrected the mistaken thoughts of some in Corinth who believed that there was no resurrection with these words.

“If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied” (1 Corinthians 15.19).

If all we have is this life, we are to be pitied, but that is not the final answer. Paul concluded his discourse on resurrection with these words.

“But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

“Therefore, my beloved, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord, because you know that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15.57-58).

On sunny days and days of deep darkness, we can fully trust God, because our labor is not in vain.

When the mountain of suffering and pain doesn’t move during our lifetime, we will strike the gold of God’s blessed reward in heaven.

About This Blog

Rudy Ross is an excellent student of Isaiah. Rudy and I have a video you can see on the Bob Spradling YouTube Chanel.

Rudy will bring a different dimension to Isaiah than what is in my blog. I hope you will check out and enjoy my interviews with him.

I am indebted to a book by Dr. John Oswalt on Isaiah for his insights into this powerful book.

If you have a prayer request, please email me at bsprad49@gmail.com or private message me on Facebook. The Maywood Baptist prayer team will pray for you.

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