25 April by Adeline Lum CM-
On 20th April, Sr Pr Daniel Ho of DUMC preached about pain and suffering for Easter Sunday.
Pain and suffering is so pervasive in our lives and in this world that no one can run away from its presence.
In Malaysia, the disappearance of MH370 has caused much grief in many nations, one that struck a personal chord in DUMC whose two worshippers were on the plane.
In South Korea, 274 ship passengers who were predominantly high school students were still unaccounted for in the capsized ship. This was followed by the death of the vice principal of a high school, who himself was rescued from the ship, but later committed suicide two days after the incident.
Our nation also grieved for a dear Malaysian hero Karpal Singh who died in a car crash.
WHY PAIN & SUFFERING HAPPEN?
Pain and suffering continue to afflict all of us because all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).
Because of sin, this world has fallen. And in a fallen world, we often have to suffer. Hence, as long as we are in this world, we cannot escape because we have all sinned.
However, there are sufferings that are not attributable to humans; for example, the blind man whom the disciples asked Jesus about (John 9). The reality is: we may not have satisfactory answers to the many ‘whys’ for the pain and suffering we go through in life. This shows that we are finite beings, limited in our understanding.
WHAT CAUSE PAIN & SUFFERING?
Pr Daniel shared that there are 6 P’s that often caused one to fall into sin and eventually pain:
- Abuse of Power
- Misuse of Position
- Overtaken by Pride
- Obsession with the Purse (money)
- Uncontrolled Passion
- Taking short-cuts with Practices later in life
Citing an example for uncontrollable Passion, Pr Daniel shared how Roy Sullivan — a Guinness Book Record holder for surviving seven lightning strikes — ironically took his life due to a failed romance. Sullivan’s overwhelming Passion for romance has caused him to commit suicide, which is a sin.
King Solomon of the Bible also sinned from cutting corners with Practices. Although he began early in life with wise governance over his Kingdom, he thought he could get away from his personal life practices with his wisdom. But at the end, he made a disaster of himself, marrying 700 wives and 300 concubines who all led him astray.
In everything, Pr Daniel warned that we must guard our hearts, in the fear of the Lord. When we believe we could do no wrong, a fall will happen, akin to what Proverbs 16:18 says, ‘Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall’.
HOW DO WE RESPOND TO PAIN & SUFFERING?
Don’t blame God
The first common response is to blame other people or God, resulting in anger and bitterness, which cripple us. But the truth is we have a choice to either come out of pain and suffering as bitter or better.
Job chose to be better by choosing not to blame God. Although he was stripped off from his wealth, possessions, and children, Job remained blameless before God and did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing. In spite of his afflictions, he said:
Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
and naked I will depart
The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away;
may the name of the LORD be praised.
Be real with God
For the rest of the chapter, we can also see how Job was real to God for his pain and suffering. He did not run away from God but he seek God’s Face.
“God wants us to be more real, not to be on a mask. He wants to strip off all the layers that show we are in control and can master,” said Pr Daniel.
By dealing with our pain and suffering with God even though we do not understand, this process makes us into better people than bitter people.
Pr Daniel shared how a couple can choose to be bitter when they found out that their child is autistic at six years old. But when Pr Daniel talked to them now, they carried no hint of bitterness or anger, but only gratefulness to God for bringing their son into their lives. Because of their son, the father’s relationship with his family had grown even closer and deeper than before.
Allow pain and suffering to purify your character
Pr Daniel shared that nothing purifies our character more than going through pain and suffering. And if we respond correctly, trials and tribulations produces perseverance, character, and finally a hope that does not disappoint (Romans 5:3-5).
Suffering in itself, has not value but when surrendered to God, it makes us more gentle, kind, gracious, patient, compassionate, and loving. Nothing more can make us a better person than going through pain and suffering.
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (James 1:2-4)
OUR RESPONSE BRINGS GLORY TO GOD
In the book of John, the disciples asked Jesus if it was the blind man’s fault or the parents’ fault that he was born blind. But Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him” (John 9:3).
God’s works are most pronounced during our time of difficulty, pain, and suffering. If a person demonstrates love, joy, and peace, even in the midst of pain and suffering, would that not draw people to them?
I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. (Romans 8:18)
The glory of God is then shown in the midst of pain and suffering, determined by our response. Do we choose to let pain and suffering cripple us in bitterness or strengthen us in character? Now, that is a choice.
YOU ARE NOT ALONE. JESUS UNDERSTANDS.
Pr Daniel shared that suffering is not foreign and alien to Jesus, but very much part and parcel of what He experienced.
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet he did not sin. (Hebrews 4:15)
You may suffer from betrayal; Jesus suffered betrayal as well from his disciples who walked with him for three years. You may suffer from accusations; Jesus was accused as being demon-possessed as well. You may also suffer from abandonment; Jesus experienced abandonment as well at the cross.
Above all, Jesus who is God Himself chose to go to the cross with pain and sufferings, to die for our sins (John 10:18).
No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father. (John 10:18)
At the cross, God deals once and for all, for the sins of mankind and the death that result from sins. Easter is a Sunday of Victory!
Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks to be to God! He gives us victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
(1 Cor. 15:55-56)
Through Jesus’ pain, suffering, and death on the cross, He has offered salvation to all of us. Through his death, we can have eternal life with God in Heaven.
“He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” (1 Pet. 2:24)
For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! (Romans 5:10)
In short, although we may not understand why pain and suffering happen, know that God understands and cares about your pain and suffering. In everything, He will surely work everything for good, for all those who love Him and who are called according to His purpose (Rom 8:28). Choose to be better, not bitter.
Damansara Utama Methodist Church (DUMC) is a thriving church anchored in Jesus Christ, with over 4400 people in their English, Chinese, Bahasa, Tamil, Myanmar, Nepalese, and Children Church celebration.
For more information, please visit http://dumc.my/
Dream Centre, 2 Jalan 13/1, Seksyen 13, 46200 Petaling Jaya, Selangor, Malaysia
Visit their celebration service:
English Celebrations @ Auditorium
Saturdays: 5.00pm @ Hall 3
Sundays: 9.30am @ Hall 1
Bahasa Malaysia Celebration @ Hall 2
Tamil Celebration @ Hall 1
Tuesdays: 11.45pm @ Hall 3
Sundays: 3.30pm @ Room 103
Nepalese Celebration @ Room 102
Note: This article is written from the perspective and interpretation of the writer, to bring forth and accentuate the ideas shared by the pastor in a more understandable and readable way.
References for pictures