There is no photo that describes suffering today better than this one of a recent air strike in Syria. The suffering others endure is beyond our imagination. Families are destroyed, children killed and lives changed forever.
Sadly, we are used to seeing images like this on television and cable and have become a bit hardened to the pain and cruelty that mankind has inflicted on others around them. 'Sin' is not a harsh enough word for all we see happening. It's wicked, evil and demonic.
But it isn't new. Last night my wife and I were watching a documentary on the slave trade in past centuries. Sadly, the slave trade continues even today around the world, but as we watched the program describe the enslavement of millions and the business of slavery it grieved us both. Lives were destroyed for money. It was all about money and commerce. It's sad but we will do almost anything for money, even sell one another for a few pieces of gold.
The sorrow, suffering and sin we inflict on one another makes us look more like animals than men and women made in the image of God. And yet it continues, one man killing another, selling another, stealing from this one, hurting that one all for selfish gain, all because of sin.
But to help us feel better about all of this we blame God. Funny, isn't it, we always find a way to blame someone else. We did it even as children, "it's Mary's fault! I didn't do it." When mom asked, "who spilled the milk?" We point at a sibling as the culprit even though it was our fault.
And so, today, we point our fingers at God. It goes something like this- If God is good and all powerful then why do evil, wicked things happen on earth?
It's because we are NOT good!
It's because evil men all around us live for themselves, lust after things and use, hurt, kill others to get them. Here we stand, all of us pointing our fingers at God with the evidence of our sin all around us.
Suffering, sorrow and sin are, for the most part, what we cause to happen in the lives of others. We do it because we worship the wrong god, the god of this world. He loves suffering, he thrives on sorrow and death. It makes him smile when one man hurts or steals from another. In fact, he encourages it!
James writes, "what's the source of quarrels and strife among you? it's your lusts! You want and so you kill to get..." (my paraphrase).
In the middle of all of this a man showed up on planet earth and said, in the midst of the suffering all around him, "the enemy comes to steal, kill and destroy, but I have come to give you life."
And, he continues, "love one another, as I have loved you...."
He lived all of this out while suffering himself the worst kind of death in that day, a painful excruciating death, and did it because of love, because God cares about our sorrow, sin and suffering.
God suffered for us, with us and he understands, but it doesn't make it ok for us to continue this cycle of suffering and pain. As children of God we must speak up for the suffering, the sorrowing, the wounded and say, "No more! No more baby killing, no more slavery, no more war, no more....."
But even as I write that I know the hearts of men. It won't stop. It won't stop until each man gets a new heart. The old heart we are born with is desperately wicked, we don't mind making others suffer if it helps us. In fact, the power to cause pain makes us feel important. We need new hearts, we need to be new men who hunger and thirst for righteousness and love for those around us.
And that will only come when we each come to God for that new heart that looks like his. Until then, sorrow, sin and suffering will continue unabated as we worship the god of this world.
One day.....one day soon the King will arrive to take back his kingdom and all of this will stop, suffering will end, sorrow will cease, tears will stop. We can't imagine such a time, a time when no one will ever suffer again, a time when sorrows will be forgotten. We have never known such a time! We live in the land of suffering and sorrow! One day....it will end!
But today, in this day, don't harden your hearts to the pain by saying it's too much to fix, it's too far away, what can I do? You can pray, you can give, you can care, you can help, you can be Christ in your world to give others a taste of the day when suffering and sorrow will be no more.....you can show them the love of God in the land of suffering and sorrow.