Friday, June 09, 2006

Why do good people suffer?

I'm not sure that anyone this side of heaven knows the answer to this eternal question, but here's what I said to the hundreds of Sharon's family and friends at her Memorial service today. Among the top ten contenders as the Biblical hero who suffered the most in life was the Apostle Paul. In his testimony to his friends in Corinth, during one of the most difficult seasons of his life, Paul wrote about four benefits of affliction.

The first was that those who have suffered the greatest are uniquely qualified to bring comfort to others. In my ministry I've been so thankful to the different people who've gone thru various afflictions, and can bring encouragement to others going thru similar circumstances. Only they can honestly say "I understand."

Secondly, those who have suffered the most seem to enjoy the comfort of God the most. I've been with people, like Sharon, who literally radiate in the glow of Jesus' presence. I'm almost envious of the closeness they seem to enjoy.

Then, there is something about pain and affliction that has a way of pushing the ugly self-centredness out of us, making space for God-centeredness. I guess #3 explains #2. Later Paul wrote, "When I'm weak, Then I'm strong." Only sufferers really get that!

Finally, affliction helps us understand the interdependance of the body of Christ, There are no "independant patients" in the acute care ward. They understand! We need each other. That's the way God intended for us to live our lives--interdependantly.

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