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Suffering and a Good God.


Choose joy  #7 - This is long - it had to be. Had to get this one right.


"Can you be in the midst of suffering and still choose joy?"

That is the question the was put to me.

I firmly believe the answer is 'yes'.

But, because true joy has its roots in the heart of God,

we have to come to a personal understanding about Him...

not what someone else has told us,

but what we have come to know and experience of him ourselves.


Come with me.


Dateline: Flagstaff, Arizona.

It was midday and I positioned myself near a window to observe the snow piled outside on the old street corner. Laptop open, I was writing - referencing Scripture - thinking about God's presence and humility when a youngish man near me took off his headphones and said, 'hey, what are you writing?' 


Guessing him to be about 30 years old, (taking in his long hair, beard, and mountain climbing gear beside him), I turned and said, 'Do you really want to know?' 'Yeah, I really want to know.' 'Okay, I'm writing Bible study.' 'Really?' he asked. 'Yeah really ... thinking about humility and what it looks like from God's perspective...' 


'Like Moses . . . he is my favorite,' he said. That's. when. he. had. me.  [Did he know that the Bible says 'Moses was more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth?]1

 

We chatted openly as two strangers can kind of safely do - just talking real talk. Frankly, for me, these conversations are the stuff life is made of. But what really struck me was his response when I asked him, 'What do you think about God? Like, what do you do with him?' 'God is the Ten Commandments,' he said. 'What? Oh no, God is so much more than commandments! Jesus came so that we were not strictly tied to keeping rules to get to God...' and on our conversation went.

 

Lines from that conversation with David played through my mind the rest of the day and beyond. 

 

How would you answer if I asked you, 'Who is God to you?'  A.W. Tozer's posit is spot on: 

"What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us ."

Why would he make such an extreme pronouncement? Truth. Tozer goes on to say, "Man's spiritual history will positively demonstrate that no religion has ever been greater than its idea of God."2

 

You see, our relationship with God is inextricably linked with our view of him--who he is and what he is like. Think of it - you and I will not have a close, loving relationship with anyone we do not trust. A strict parent may command our obedience or compliance, but no one can demand our love. Fact is, we will not love unless we trust that the object of our love is good.


Let's look at just a few attributes God possesses which reveal his character: 

 

Love is such an important part of God's character that the apostle John wrote, "God is love." Why, the very reason God created human beings was for relationship with himself!

 

The attribute that sets God apart from all created beings is his holiness. It refers to his majesty and his perfect moral purity. There is absolutely no sin or evil thought in God at all. 

God is perfect wisdom.

God is all-powerful - omnipotent.  

God possesses perfect knowledge, meaning he is all knowing; he is omniscient.

 

Eternality?  God always has been and will forever be, because God dwells in eternity. Time is his creation. It is why God can see the end from the beginning, and why he is never surprised by anything. If he were not eternal, God's promise of eternal life for those who follow Jesus would have little value. 

 

God is always present [omnipresent]. Since God is infinite, he knows no boundaries. 


'The attribute by which he rules his entire creation? The application of God's omniscience and omnipotence is his sovereignty.

And because he is faithful, everything God has promised will come to pass.

God never changes. It is why the Bible says, "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever." [an expression of God's immutability]

Because of the goodness of God, he is kind, cordial, benevolent, full of good will toward men, and merciful

 

In addition, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are all called God--worshipped as God, existing eternally, and are involved in doing things only God could do. Although God reveals himself in three persons, the trinity, God is One and cannot be divided; all are involved completely whenever One of the Three is active.3 

 

While this describes God quite well, it feels somewhat clinical to me, whereas 

God is warm, merciful, relational and                                                                 

   magnanimous in his love for me as an individual. I know that               

          there is no greater thing in my life than God's love for me,                   

                and my ability to have a relationship with him                     

                       because of Jesus' life and death on the cross; 

                            the fact that the Holy Spirit of God resides in me

                              means I am never separated from him, never alone.

 

Who is God to me? The greatest source of love, truth, meaning and relationship in my life.  I truly believe God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him--including me--including you--shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.4 

 

Before waxing philosophical on 'if God...why suffering?' we must determine for ourselves what we believe about God. This very real personal relationship I have with God affords me a deep, abiding joy, and none of the suffering I have experienced has caused me to doubt Who He is.


More to come,

Christine

 

 

1 - Numbers 12.3

2 - A. W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy

3 - Attributes of God, Got Questions

4 - John 3.16-17




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