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No being, no pain and vice versa

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Sermon for the second Sunday after Trinity


Job is quite right, you know.


If he had never been born, he would never have suffered the loss of his possessions, his family and his health. If he had died at birth, he would never have been in pain; he would never have known sorrow; he would never have known loss.


We can’t escape this fact at all, and it leads us to the biggest problem that we face as Christians and, indeed, one of the biggest questions that humanity faces, full stop!


Why should a good God create a world in which there is so much suffering? Surely, it is better not to exist than to exist in agony?


It’s something we have to grapple with, some of us more than most.


What can we say to Job?


[PAUSE]


There is no logical reason why a good God cannot permit suffering in the world. We can formulate answers that involve free-will, the actions of the Devil and God combatting Evil with a greater good, but human beings aren’t just thinkers. Given the actions of some human beings, sometimes we doubt that human beings are thinkers at all! However, we don’t react to Evil only with our minds and thus argue it out of existence. We feel the evil. We feel pain. We feel agony. And it’s horrible! So we want the evil, pain and agony to stop.


Perhaps, then, God is at fault for creating us to feel pain. Perhaps he’s at fault for allowing us to suffer like this.


[PAUSE]


If we could not feel pain, then we would know that nothing is wrong. We would not know that anything could be wrong. We would be unconcerned with the existence of others because their lives would not affect us. We would become utterly alone in ourselves, all cold and unfeeling.


We would be unable to know what happiness is because there would be no sadness. We would be indifferent to it.


We would be unable to know what beauty is because we would not understand ugliness.


Without pain, there would be no art, no poetry, no expression of what it is to be human. There would be no colour, nothing to take pleasure in, nothing to enjoy or to strive for or to succeed in.


And we would be unable to know God because we would not know love, happiness, and beauty.


Life would somehow be pointless.


It seems that if we could feel no pain, then life would be more obviously pointless than it is.


But it still feels horrible. We want to avoid suffering and pain! When we are in pain, pain is all there is to know and it overrides everything.


[PAUSE]


We have to understand that suffering is often too much for some people and we must be compassionate in these cases. Sometimes it is all we can do to keep going.  Job himself suffers, curses his birth, but neither curses God nor seeks to end it all by his own hand and, if you think about it, that’s remarkable!


Perhaps we can understand Job if we listen to St Paul.


“Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us. For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”


Job’s story is full of his attempt to work out what is going on between him and God and it isn’t easy in the slightest. His friends simply do not help him. Yet, Job still clings to his belief that God is good.


And that’s all we can do. Just cling on and help others to cling on.


This is why the Church is important. It should not be a law-court of judges seeking to denounce the sinner but rather a collection of sinners clinging by faith in God. We are a fellowship – a fellowship that recognises what sin is, but seeks not to condemn but offer that unconditional generosity to the sinner. The Church is a collection of human beings broken by evil and finding the cure in the Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ.


We cannot have an answer for the pain and suffering of the children of God. Let us rather seek to know God and, in times of suffering, offer that pain up on behalf of all those going through the same thing who don’t know His love.

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