Archives For suffering

Ravi Zacharias:

The tragedy that shook Newtown, Connecticut, and indeed the entire nation, defies analysis. What must have gone on in the mind of this young man for him to walk into a school of little children and wreak such devastating carnage numbs the soul. At the same time this was happening, I was under the surgeon’s blade for minor surgery. When I left the recovery room and returned home, among the first pieces of news on my phone was the news of this mass killing. Something within me hoped that I was still not clear-headed, but I knew deep inside that I was reading an unfolding story of horror and tragedy.  What does one say? What is even appropriate without violating somebody’s sacred space and their right to scream in protest?

I am a father and a grandfather. I simply cannot fathom the unbearable weight within a parent’s or grandparent’s heart at such a personal loss. It has often been said that the loss of a child is the heaviest loss to bear. I have no doubt that those parents and grandparents must wonder if this is real or simply a terrifying nightmare. . . .

Read the rest here.

Thoughts on Grieving From a Mother

Chris —  September 25, 2012 — 1 Comment

Several years ago, then unthinkable happened for the Terry and Juanita Stauffer family. Their teenage daughter, Emily, was murdered (watch the news story here). Unthinkable.

On the day I am writing this post, I have prayed on my knees for the Stauffer family. Would you pray for them as well? Their grief will not completely heal until they see their daughter again (Revelation 21-22).

Recently, Juanita Stauffer wrote a post in which she offered wisdom on grief. I would encourage you to click through and read her thoughts. Maybe also pray for their family and write and encouraging comment. She begins:

A while ago, my husband and I met with another couple who also lost a daughter around the same time as Emily died. I’ve been thinking about grief  more and the grieving process. The Lord has so graciously brought us through the last almost 4 years.

I’ve been thinking about what it was like to go through the process and what was helpful to my soul. I guess the question is – what would I recommend to someone who is grieving, no matter what stage they are at?

Before I list some thoughts, I should also say that everyone grieves differently and you may find that some of these items don’t apply to your situation. However, I also think it’s important to read different opinions and prayerfully consider what God may be telling you.

Here are some thoughts.

1. Spend time in God’s word every day.

I had been in the habit of reading and praying in the mornings before Emily’s death. After her death, it was so important for me to continue this. Usually it was the only time that I was completely alone. I could read and pray and cry. It forced me to see what God said in His Word and gave me time to express how I was feeling to Him. I also read several books through this process. Sometimes I’d only get through a few pages before I couldn’t read any more but other books I read helped me to face up to what I really believed. See #5 for more details.

2. Listen to music that can express what my mouth cannot.

Music was such an important part of our grieving process. I remember standing in church while the congregation sang Blessed Be Your Name and other songs like it and saying to my husband that I was singing on the inside but I couldn’t sing on the outside. We listened to Come Weary Saints and The Valley of Vision many times. Our girls had those two albums playing every night when they went to bed, particularly in the first 2 months when we were dealing with such fear about who the perpetrator was. Even now, our girls turn to those albums when they need extra comfort. Hymns were also important because of the truths they express both about our life in Christ and about our future hope. Have you ever noticed how often the 4th verse of a hymn points our attention to heaven?

3. Exercise

For me, exercise was very important. . .

Read the rest here.

Tim Keller:

When I was diagnosed with cancer, the question “Why me?” was a natural one. Later, when I survived but others with the same kind of cancer died, I also had to ask, “Why me?”

Suffering and death seem random, senseless. The recent Aurora shootings—in which some people were spared and others lost—is the latest, vivid example of this, but there are plenty of others every day: from casualties in the Syria uprising to victims of accidents on American roads. Tsunamis, tornadoes, household accidents—the list is long. As a minister, I’ve spent countless hours with suffering people crying: “Why did God let this happen?” In general I hear four answers to this question—but each is wrong, or at least inadequate.

The first answer is, “This makes no sense—I guess this proves there is no God.” But the problem of senseless suffering does not go away if you abandon belief in God. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in his Letter from Birmingham Jail, said that if there was no higher divine Law, there would be no way to tell if any particular human law was unjust or not. If there is no God, then why have a sense of outrage and horror when suffering and tragedy occur? The strong eat the weak—that’s life—so why not? When Friedrich Nietzsche heard that a natural disaster had destroyed Java in 1883, he wrote a friend: “Two hundred thousand wiped out at a stroke—how magnificent!” Nietzsche was relentless in his logic. Because if there is no God, all value judgments are arbitrary. All definitions of justice are just the results of your culture or temperament. As different as they were in other ways, King and Nietzsche agreed on this point. If there is no God or higher divine Law, then violence is perfectly natural. So abandoning belief in God doesn’t help with the problem of suffering at all, and as we will see, it removes many resources for facing it.

The second answer is . . .

Read the rest here.

Watch at least three minutes of this.

When I was a seminary student, Ed Dobson was the pastor of Calvary Church in Grand Rapids. He was one of the most well known pastors not only in Grand Rapids, but amongst evangelicals around the world. At that time, he struck me as a man of wisdom and depth. But what is amazing to see is how the depth of his wisdom has grown through his battle with ALS.

HT: Trevin Wax

Life Without Parents

Chris —  February 1, 2012 — 7 Comments

Pastor Tom Anderst reflects on the loss of both of his parents:

My mom died Wednesday, January 4, 2012. She had been ill for quite some time. We were surprised when it happened because she seemed to be doing better. Yet, in the end it was a blessing. She had suffered much over 2011. I have experienced grief in my Mom’s passing. Even though we were prepared, there was still the shock of not having that person to talk with anymore.
Yet the more surprising thing to me was that suddenly, I had no parents. My dad died in 2005. Yet I still had Mom to talk to and her life experience to draw from. But from January 4th on I’ve entered new territory. .
I know millions have traveled this road before. Many of you are walking it right now. But someone taught me many years ago that I don’t have to pretend that I have all the answers because I don’t. Nobody does. So I’ve learned to ask others about their life experience and what they’ve learned in living life without parents.
Here’s some comments received so far:
• That “orphan” feeling takes a long time to get used to.
• I did not ever think I would miss my mom as much as I do as time goes on.
• It’s very weird not having parents.

Read the rest here.

Our text for Sunday (Romans 8:17), reminded us that we are co-heirs with Christ, “provided we suffer with Him in order that we may also be glorified with Him.

No one enjoys the thought of suffering, but in a post from a couple of years ago, I reminded Christians that our sort of suffering is a fundamentally different kind.

Let me make an analogy between the physical and the spiritual.

Would you not agree that there is a fundamental difference between pain in the cancer ward and agony in the delivery room? One is suffering that brings life; the other is that of death.

As a pastor, I have watched many people struggle with cancer. It is such an awful disease. I think of one friend who went through so much – – lost her hair during chemotherapy — – had her body ravaged by the disease – and then she slowly died. Her hospital room was a place of pain.

The delivery room is also full of pain. If I ever complain about discomfort, my wife who has delivered four babies is happy to remind me that I am not acquainted with real pain. Never the less, the agony of labor is of a different kind than cancer suffering. Labor is pain based on a beautiful hope.

Everyone in this life will suffer. And, if Christ does not come back in our life time, we will all die. But, for a believer, the sufferings of life are those of the delivery room. Romans 8 says that our sufferings are “birth pains” that will one day give way to the sons of God being revealed.

If you are believer with cancer, then you have all the hope of eternity. Remember, our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.

Soon and very soon, Jesus will come back and we will be eternally with Him.

Today in 1542 Luther’s 14 year old daughter Magdalena lay gravely ill with the plague.  “Luther knelt beside her bed and begged God to release her from the pain.  When she died and the carpenters were nailing down the lid of her coffin, Luther screamed out, ‘Hammer away!  On doomsday she’ll rise again.’”  (George, Theology of the Reformers, 105).”

Luther composed the epitaph for Magdalena to console his wife.

I, Lena, Luther’s beloved child

Sleep gently here with all the saints

And lie at peace and rest

Now I am God’s own guest.

I was a child of death, it is true,

My mother bore me out of mortal seed,

Now I live and am rich in God.

For this I thank Christ’s death and blood.

Source: Heiko Oberman’s, Luther: Man Between God and the Devil, page 312.

As we anticipate the 10th anniversary of 9/11, I point you to a thought Brian Chapell shared in a sermon he preached following 9/11.* Chapell points us to the tears of Christ as a lens through which we can view tragedy:

The purpose of the risen Lord still will triumph in the time of his design. He yet fulfills the words of the prophet of old:

The revelation of God’s purposes awaits an appointed time;

it pants toward the goal,

and it will not fail.

Though it tarries, wait for it,

because it will surely come and will not be late. Habbakuk 2:3 (Chapell’s translation).

What proof do we have of such amazing statements? What basis do we have for such faith? Lazarus’s rescue from the grace and Jesus’ resurrection from the dead are the proofs in microcosm and grand scale that give us assurance in tragedy–near and far, small and great, personal and national – - that our God understands, cares, and rules. How do we know? Jesus wept. Each tear in this tragedy is a lens to understand the power of God directed by love so strong that death cannot restrain its rule, time cannot blur its design, and tragedy cannot derail its triumph. This is how we know that God is love in the midst of tragedy: Jesus wept.

From, “National Tragedy,” in The Hardest Sermons You’ll Ever Have to Preach, edited by Bryan Chapell.

9/11, Good, Evil, and God

Chris —  September 5, 2011 — Leave a comment

Glenn Lucke is posting a letter that he wrote in response to 9/11.

An Introduction

In the days immediately after 9/11, a friend in her mid-thirties wrote me an email wrestling with the question of how could God allow such evil. Elizabeth had worked for many years in the financial district of New York City and had relocated only a few years before the attacks. Thus, the senseless loss of life of friends and acquaintances was fresh, raw and scarcely comprehensible to her. Her first child, Susannah, had been born a year before, which provided an additional lens for reflecting upon the 9/11 attacks. This letter was written September 19, 2001, and different parts will be posted leading up to the 10-year Anniversary of 9/11.

Dear Elizabeth,

At long last I’m able to devote a lengthy period to sitting down and writing a response. I’ve thought of this issue daily, many times a day, even before you emailed last week. I’ve realized that in spite of my intellectual apprehension that I’m not “the Defender of God,” I have emotionally felt that I had to be just that for you. That has daunted me. But with fresh realization that we’re having an on-going dialogue about a very important question, that your faith is not in my hands, I feel slightly less daunted. And so I begin.

How does one account for the presence of evil in the world? How can an omniscient, omnipotent and omnibenevolent God allow suffering? . . .

Read more here. Notice that this is an ongoing series that you can follow.

A Cousin, Cancer and Decisions

Chris —  September 4, 2011 — 4 Comments

“Today we are so thankful that we opted to go ahead with the 3rd surgery, because the results of the pathology report show that indeed there is more cancer.” My cousin Amy.

Would you pray for her?


The below post is from my cousin’s daughter (so would that make her my first cousin once removed?), Amy, who is a young mother. In it she shares decisions that she faces in her battle against breast cancer.

Reading through this post, I am so struck by God’s grace at work in her life. But I am also taken back 40 years or so. I recall when Amy’s mother (my cousin) was in a terrible accident riding her horse. I vividly remember my dad’s concern that she might not live. Now all these years later, with that wilderness far behind us, we see that God did have a wonderful plan which included having such a courageous daughter.

Amy writes:

Today we are so thankful that we opted to go ahead with the 3rd surgery, because the results of the pathology report show that indeed there is more cancer.  This was definitely not the news we were expecting or hoping to hear when the surgeon called with the results this afternoon.  (I am now the 1st case where my surgeon has gotten a positive result for cancer after the 3rd surgery.  I guess I am pretty special! ;) )  It appears the Breast MRI that showed the tumor had shrunk by 70% was very misleading.  The MRI showed a tumor 10-16mm in size, while the one removed in my 1st surgery was 6cm or larger.  Plus the section removed this past Tuesday contained another 3 x 3mm section that was cancerous and to the margins, meaning it could be larger.

We are praising God for revealing this to us, so we did not move on with my treatments without getting rid of all the cancer!  But now it would appear that mastectomy is the only option.  So now we must decide on a few things and get the ball rolling for another surgery:  Do I want/need a double mastectomy?  Do I want reconstruction (which requires a plastic surgeon as well)?  And if so, what type of reconstruction?  I’m to call my surgeon back on Tuesday morning with our decisions.

As I reflect on all that is transpiring, I can’t help but wonder . . .

Read the rest here.