Published in 2010 in Challenge Weekly
The Pike River Mine tragedy has stunned us all. What a tragic loss of life. May God bless the families who have lost their loved ones! The event raises so many questions doesn't it? It raises the question of why suffering, death and such horror. What can we say?
The first thing to say is that we live in a fallen world where death and suffering remain woven into the fabric of everyday life. Romans 5:12 tells us that suffering and death entered at the Fall and Romans 8:19-23 tells us that, tragically, creation remains in bondage to death and decay. This means that despite our best efforts to prolong life and avoid suffering, we will continue to experience it. This means that, sadly, such things will continue to happen. Yes, God does miracles and believers should pray, hope and believe for them. Yet, the truth is that decay and death remain the last enemy to be defeated and so such things will continue to blight our existences. This is why all people including Christians continue to experience suffering in all its forms, whether disease, broken relationships or death.
The second thing to say is that while suffering is real and unavoidable, there is hope. Romans 8:18-39 is arguably the passage in New Testament which best gathers hope up. Paul here states that the world is groaning under this bondage to suffering. He says that even God's children and heirs are swept up in this, groaning for redemption. However, he also gives a series of reasons to hope. Remember too that these don't come from a theorist sitting in his ivory tower with a big salary, but from a man who knew suffering immensely (2 Cor 11:23-29) who was writing to a pre-industrial world '4th world' context with a life expectancy of 40, in which death and suffering was the norm.
These are the reasons Paul gives for hope: 1) The day is coming when creation and God's people will be set free from all death and suffering, the return of Christ. Hallelujah!; 2) The Spirit is with us always to comfort and strengthen us, even praying to Father God for us, so we know we can make it through; 3) Even though it doesn't look like it, human history is being woven together for good for those who have been called and love God; 4) Everything is under God's control from before creation, foreknown and predestined; 5) Even though suffering is real, in an ultimate sense, nothing can stand against us because God is for us; we are more than conquerors!; 6) We know this because Jesus died for us! More, Jesus is also interceding for us joining the Spirit in petitioning Father God on our behalf! Praise God; 7) Nothing in all creation, however heinous, can separate us from the love of God and Christ.
So, whoever is to blame, whatever the cause, how little we understand; God is for us, this is our hope! Go deeper!