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 Vol. 6, No. 9 

December 2004

~ Page 17 ~

Innocent Suffering

By Richard Kelley

Image We are often inclined to ask, "Why do the innocent suffer?" In light of the recent overwhelming tragedy along the equatorial Indian Ocean, the question has again, like the Tsunami itself, "come to the surface."

Indeed, this is sometimes a difficult question to answer. Small children, elderly grandparents, innocent bystanders often suffer due to undue wrongs, helpless mistakes and unwillful ignorance. You may have heard this--not a direct biblical quote--but a common saying: "God will not lay anymore upon us than we are able to bear." This reflects a biblical statement: "There hath no temptation ["trial of man's fidelity, integrity," Thayer] taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able" (1 Corinthians 10:13). The principle is that God's answer for our troubles is greater than the troubles themselves. As Batsell Barrett Baxter once said of natural calamity:

Gravity can be cruel, when someone falls from a height and is crushed in the fall; but without gravity it would not be possible for the normal activities of life to go on. The occasional destructive aspects of nature are so few in comparison with its blessings that the verdict must be solidly in favor of God's system. (I Believe Because 275-76).

The greatest example of innocent suffering ever was that of Jesus, both during his life (Isaiah 53:3; Hebrews 5:8), and ultimately his death on the cross. That dreadful night Innocence was "betrayed into the hands of sinners" (Mark 14:41). On that occasion, pure, incarnate Love was subjected to the ultimate manifestation of man's wickedness: "He hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin" (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Consider this: at what point--if God desired to rescue a life or cease suffering in a particular case--would it be enough? Too often man wishes to make God in his image, and after his likeness. While it is human and normal that we want relief from suffering (Job 3:3), we usually associate our attitude toward suffering (that is, desiring to be relieved from it, or relieving others from it) with our "goodness." Therefore, if we naturally want to relieve suffering, and that stems from our goodness, but God does not do that in every instance, then we perceive that God is not "good."

Of course, this is not true as indicated at Calvary. If anybody deserved to be relieved, for even one moment, it was Jesus Christ. But in that hour, Jesus fully realized something we are apt to forget--"we are standing on the brink of another world" (William Law). Alas, how injurious it would be in the Day of Judgment if God had never provided for mankind the means by which we might refresh our senses to this inevitable truth!Image

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