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Thursday, December 22, 2022

Does God Really Care?

Over the course of time just about all of us are confronted with the reality of suffering and abuse not just on newscasts but in our own personal world where we live day by day and experience life up close.  Why are small precious children abused?  Why do many of them from all outward appearances not have a chance from the get-go due to the circumstances they were born into?  Why do old people often get in such horrible conditions as you find them in substantial numbers in nursing homes?  Why are people born with physical or mental disabilities?  Why do we have earthquakes that kill thousands including infants and toddlers, why cyclones, why starvation?  And the list could go on and on and on. 

Does God care?  It is easy to give up on God as one contemplates what he has seen and heard.  It is easy to lose faith.  What is the answer?  This is a subject that is important to study because there has probably never been a person who at some point in time in his or her life that has not thought about these things.  It is important that people not lose faith.  When one loses faith in God what is left?   So, it is an important study. 

I would like to say contemplating all of this that it helps immensely to rephrase the question and ask does Christ care.  I grant you that Christ is God.  Jesus says, John 10:30, "I and My Father are one." (NKJV)  In John 14:9 he says, "He who has seen me has seen the Father." (NKJV) 

Other passages teach the same thing.  "God was manifested in the flesh." (1 Tim. 3:16 NKJV)  "Shepherd (feed in the old KJV--DS) the church of God which he purchased with his own blood." (Acts 20:28 NKJV)  "'Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call his name Immanuel,' which is translated, 'God with us.'" (Matt. 1:23 NKJV) 

I think we relate to Jesus who lived among us, suffered himself, and died from persecution, easier than to God in heaven although they are one.  Jesus suffered ridicule, hatred, continual persecution from his enemies in so far as they were able to do it, was continually judged to be evil, and finally was betrayed, beaten, and murdered without justice.  What a life to live.  Put yourself in his place.  During his lifetime every move he made, every word he spoke, was cast in the worst light possible by his enemies.  As far as they were concerned he could do no good.  How would you like to have people dogging you like that everyday of your adult life?  Would it wear you down?  Jesus himself suffered.  He had the same trials we face amplified and multiplied. 

His agony in the garden was such that the Bible says, "And being in agony, He prayed more earnestly.  Then His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground." (Luke 22:44 NKJV)  Vine's, An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, says of the word agony, denotes "severe emotional strain and anguish."  That is most certainly a definition of suffering.  Isaiah says, in Isaiah 53:3, in reference to Jesus, that he was "a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief." (NKJV) 

We too must suffer.  I would like to read a paraphrase that I believe to be accurate in terms of expressing the meaning of Rom. 8:17 from the New Living Translation.  "And since we are his children, we are his heirs.  In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God's glory.  But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering."  I hope you got the last sentence, "if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering." 

Jesus knew suffering.  We too must come to know it if we are to "be glorified with Him" as the NAS puts it. 

In Hebrews 5:8 the Bible says, speaking of Jesus, "although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered." (NAS)  Albert Barnes has an excellent comment on this in his discussion of this verse.  He says, "Some of the most valuable lessons of obedience are learned in the furnace of affliction; and many of the most submissive children of the Almighty have been made so as the result of protracted woes." 

He further says, "One of the objects of affliction is to lead us 'to obey God.'  In prosperity we forget it. We become self-confident and rebellious. 'Then' God lays his hand upon us; breaks up our plans; crushes our hopes; takes away our health, and teaches us that we 'must' be submissive to his will."  Jesus is our example.  Suffering should draw us nearer to God. 

Suffering did not begin in the twenty-first century nor has God not experienced it himself.  In Genesis 6:6 we read that due to the evil of mankind God "was grieved in his heart." (NKJV)  In the Old Testament prophets we read time and again of God's sorrow and pleading after Israel to turn from sin and evil and return to him.  In fact, why could not God justly turn the question around on us and ask does man care?  We ask does he care about us.  He could justly ask if we care about him. 

But our subject, for now, is does God care?  Let's take a look back at the Old Testament.  When God created man he placed him in the Garden of Eden.  We might well call it a Garden of Paradise for in it man could live forever in the most wonderful circumstances and most beautiful surroundings anyone could imagine.  God meant for man only the best.  He cared.  He did not place man in a slum of sorts.  He did not place man in dire poverty.  He did not give man a body that would suffer illness and pain (that came with the fall) but one capable of eternal life by eating of the tree of life which was not denied him until he sinned (compare Gen. 2:9, Gen. 3:16-17,  and Gen. 3:22-24).  God cared about his creation.  We were his and he took great joy in man that he had created, created in his own image. 

The Bible says he “blessed them.” (Gen. 1:28 NKJV)  They were to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth (Gen. 1:28), an earth that had they been faithful to God would have been entirely a Garden of Eden worldwide.  While in the Garden, prior to their sin, God would speak directly with them, he too walked in the Garden.  Pain, suffering, and sorrow were unknown and could not be comprehended.  This was and remains God’s intent for man, that man be blessed with all the blessings God can give.  

That blessing will now, due to man’s sin, be obtained in heaven rather than on earth, a so-to-speak heavenly Garden of Eden figuratively if you will.  John, speaking by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, says of that time and that life to come that “God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying.  There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” (Rev. 21:4 NKJV)  Suffering will be done away once for all. 

God has always cared for his people and one can add to that all of mankind from the very beginning, not just the Jews.  It was sin that brought pain and suffering into the world. 

Yes, there was much suffering in the Old Testament.  Why?  A lot of it was God punishing sin.  God is so good, so pure, so holy, and so righteous that he cannot tolerate sin.  The Psalmist says, “God is angry with the wicked every day.” (Psalms 7:11 NKJV)  In reference to Jesus the Psalmist further states, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever; A scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your kingdom.  You love righteousness and hate wickedness.” (Psalms 45:6-7 NKJV) 

We often see Jesus as just a New Testament personality but Paul in 1 Cor. 10:4 in talking about the children of Israel coming out of Egypt says that they all “drank the same spiritual drink.  For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ.” (NKJV)  Jesus existed and was just as much God back then as he is in the New Testament so when we look back and see God doing this or that in the Old Testament we are talking about Jesus just as much as we are about God the Father and the Holy Spirit. 

God’s nature is such that he cannot abide sin.  He simply cannot tolerate it.  On a human level there are also things you and I cannot tolerate.  I cannot tolerate snakes; I cannot tolerate being up high.  If I find myself in the proximity of either a snake or height something has to give immediately.  There will be no abiding either. 

Thus when God punishes sin and it brings suffering it is just a natural consequence of who God is the same as it is with you or me when our nature prevents us from putting up with that which goes against our nature. 

Is God then an uncaring God who brings about suffering because of man’s sin and does not care about man?  No!  Why not?  There are two reasons.  (1) When we are warned about a consequence that will follow an act and yet we go ahead and do the thing whose fault is it when the negative consequence results?  Say we are warned not to ignore a stop sign in our driving and we choose to disregard the warning.  Whose fault is it when we are hit by another car?  Who brought on the suffering? 

(2)  In the second place, God begs and pleads with us through his word to repent and turn from disaster and avoid the suffering.  Peter says the Lord is “longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9 NKJV)  He has given us a time to repent, “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” (2 Cor. 6:2 NKJV)  He pleads with us.  Hear the apostle Paul, “Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us:  we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God.” (2 Cor. 5:20 NKJV) 

Read the Old Testament prophets to see God’s great love for his people even after they have turned from him.  He says, “How can I give you up, Israel?  How can I abandon you?  Could I ever destroy you as I did Admah, or treat you as I did Zeboiim?  My heart will not let me do it!  My love for you is too strong.” (Hosea 11:8 TEV) 

Again we read in Joel 2:13, “Come back to the Lord your God.  He is kind and full of mercy; he is patient and keeps his promise; he is always ready to forgive and not punish.” (TEV)  Here is the same verse from the ESV, “Return to the Lord, your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster.”  

Jeremiah, in the book of Lamentations, is expressing sorrow over what has become of Jerusalem and his nation the result of sin but then says, “He may bring us sorrow, but his love for us is sure and strong.  He takes no pleasure in causing us grief or pain.” (Lamentations 3:32-33 TEV)  The ESV translates verse 33 with these words, “for he does not willingly afflict or grieve the children of men.”  In verses 21 and 22 of the same chapter Jeremiah says, “But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope:  The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end.” (ESV)  And, by the way, who wrote the book of Lamentations expressing sorrow as one who does care?  In reality was it not the Holy Spirit, God himself? 

God has always cared but he has sometimes brought on suffering and sorrow for people’s well-being in order to bring about repentance and grant life eternal.  A good example is found in Amos 4 beginning in verse 6 and going through verse 10.  Here is a little flavor of the teaching of those verses, without quoting them all, taken from Today's English Version. 

“I was the one who brought famine to your cities, yet you did not come back to me.” (verse 6)  "The locusts ate up all your gardens and vineyards, your fig trees and olive trees.  Still you did not come back to me." (verse 9)  "I sent a plague on you like the one I sent on Egypt … Still you did not come back to me." (verse 10). 

Clearly, the purpose of this suffering God brought upon his people was for their eternal benefit.  When bad things happen to us if we are willing to learn from them we can grow spiritually stronger and have a better outlook and attitude on life and on our fellowman. 

The most compassionate man, as an example, is often the man who has himself suffered.  The man with the tenderest heart is often a man who has himself experienced sorrow, pain, and personal suffering.  The most uncaring are those who have no idea even what these things are. 

The Hebrew writer tells us quoting from the Old Testament, "My son, do not despise the chastening of the LORD, Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; For whom the LORD loves He chastens, And scourges every son whom He receives." (Heb. 12:5-6 NKJV) 

Then in verse 10 of Hebrews 12 he says of this chastening that God does it "for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness." (NKJV)  God does not chasten a person for that person's righteousness but for his sins.  Albert Barnes the commentator says "the idea is, not that God will afflict his people in general, but that if they wander away he will correct them for their faults."  Since we all sin we all need correction from time to time.  Part of our suffering is to make us more what we ought to be rather than what we have been. 

So we can explain much suffering that occurs.  We know of man's sin and man's cruelty and injustice to his fellow man.  We know we need chastening and will receive it for our good.  But, no man alive can explain all the suffering that occurs in the world.  If God had not told us by inspiration who could possibly known why Job a righteous man in no need of chastening suffered as he did?  Job himself did not understand it and was questioning God. 

In Job chapters 38-41 God speaks to Job without directly answering the question as to why.  In summarizing, he says who is man to question God's wisdom and power.  God has his reasons often behind the scenes where we will never see them in this life.  Who is to say but what it was God's intent to make Job an enduring example of perseverance for all generations to come?  That is certainly what he became.  James says, James 5:10-11, that Job is just such an example. 

Why did Joseph suffer so?  Betrayed by family, sold into slavery, put unjustly into prison, he had lost the love of family, and hope appeared to be non-existent.  His faith carried him through but his suffering could have caused him to give up on God.  He did not.  Neither should we.  

But, why did Joseph suffer?  He tells his brothers years later that while they had meant evil against him God meant it for good "to preserve many people alive."  (Gen. 50:20 NASU)  There was a great famine that came and through Joseph's leadership and the wisdom God gave him food was stored up so that thousands of people were saved from starvation including Joseph's own family.  God knows what he is doing even when man suffers.  He is able to bring good even from evil, even from suffering.  

In this life we will never have the answers we desire as to why there is all the suffering there is in the world.  Earthquakes that kill tens of thousands, cyclones that do the same, babies dying, things we will never understand while in this life.  But God knows what and why and who and I would add one other thought.  Death is not always the tragedy it may seem.  Who knows how glorious heaven will be?  Infants and children who die in their youth will be eternally in heaven--happy, safe, and free.  Do we believe heaven is a better place than here?  If so, then they are happy who depart this earth while children.  

As for Job and his suffering, James says this, "You have heard of the perseverance of Job and seen the end intended by the Lord--that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful." (James 5:11 NKJV)  The Bible says, Job 42:12, that "the LORD blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning." (NKJV)  God does care.  Peter instructs us to cast all of our care or anxiety upon him, "because He cares for you." (1 Peter 5:7 NAS) 

In closing, I ran across a song on YouTube the other day that hit home and opened my eyes to a Bible verse in a way I had never known it before.  The song was entitled "His Eye Is On The Sparrow."  

You remember the verses, Luke 12:6-7 (NKJV), "Are not five sparrows sold for two copper coins?  And not one of them is forgotten before God.  But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.  Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows."  

If God does not forget even the sparrow, if he cares, then God cares for me.  As the song goes, "His eye is on the spar­row, and I know He watch­es me."  What a wonderful comforting thought.  God does care.  Do not let the suffering and sorrow that comes your way discourage you.  Remember Jesus too suffered and he knows.  God's eye is on the sparrow and he watches over you. 

I would like you to know how this song came to be by the person who wrote the words - a Mrs. Martin.

"Early in the spring of 1905, my hus­band and I were so­journ­ing in El­mi­ra, New York. We con­tract­ed a deep friend­ship for a cou­ple by the name of Mr. and Mrs. Doo­lit­tle—true saints of God. Mrs. Doo­lit­tle had been bed­rid­den for nigh twen­ty years. Her hus­band was an in­cur­a­ble crip­ple who had to pro­pel him­self to and from his bus­i­ness in a wheel chair. De­spite their af­flict­ions, they lived hap­py Christ­ian lives, bring­ing in­spir­a­tion and com­fort to all who knew them. One day while we were vi­sit­ing with the Doo­lit­tles, my hus­band com­ment­ed on their bright hope­ful­ness and asked them for the se­cret of it. Mrs. Doo­lit­tle’s re­ply was sim­ple: “His eye is on the spar­row, and I know He watch­es me.” The beau­ty of this sim­ple ex­press­ion of bound­less faith gripped the hearts and fired the imag­in­a­tion of Dr. Mar­tin and me. The hymn “His Eye Is on the Spar­row” was the out­come of that ex­per­i­ence.” *

Civilla Martin

Bedridden for 20 years and a husband confined to a wheel chair and yet she believes God cares for her and has faith.  We complain and say God does not care and yet our suffering is generally far less severe than was hers.

"And the ransomed of the LORD shall return,  And come to Zion with singing, With everlasting joy on their heads,  They shall obtain joy and gladness,  And sorrow and sighing shall flee away."  (Isa. 35:10 NKJV) 

God does care and has great and wondrous plans for you and me.  

* Source of quote:

While this is being posted in Dec. 2022 it is an old article written years ago and so the source link given above may or may not be available nowadays.

[To download this article or print it out click here.] 









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