Our attitude toward suffering

By Dave Henning / February 9, 2022

“Down ‘in the valley’ of life, without the perspective that the gospel brings, our attitude toward suffering runs back and forth along that spectrum [from optimism to pessimism].  It’s either/or.  Either life is going good and therefore God is good or life is bad and therefore God is bad or he’s not there.”- Timothy Keller

“Don’t be afraid.  Am I in the place of God?  You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”- Genesis 50:19-20 (NIV)

Timothy Keller concludes Chapter 11 of Hope in Times of Fear as he talks about Joseph’s view of suffering.  Above all, suffering is not normal nor is it anomalous (deviating from what is standard, normal, or expected).  Due to his experiences in Egypt, Joseph acquired a divinely inspired perspective.  Joseph’s viewpoint held two things together that the simply human perspective fails to do.  Yes, we find life filled with pain.  But, on the other hand, God is good.

Later, Joseph asked his father Jacob to bless his sons, Ephraim and Manasseh.  Furthermore, Joseph fully expected Jacob to bless Manasseh with his right hand, considered the place of great honor.  However, Jacob crossed his arms to put his right hand on Ephraim, the younger son.  Therefore, in the premiere faith act of his life, Jacob finally recognized the ‘crossed arms’ approach of God.  Because the Lord turns the world’s understanding of greatness and status on its head.

Finally, this ventures far beyond the notion that God simply likes underdogs.  Rather, it speaks to something deep in God Himself as well as how He’ll redeem the world.  Thus, God accomplishes salvation in direct opposition to the logic of the world.  God bucks the world’s system, putting His hands on the ‘wrong son.’

Until the end of his life, Jacob felt the need to ‘help’ God in His purposes.  So, Jacob schemed and lied.  In addition, he sought leverage and power, all in an effort to gain his father’s blessing.  But now Jacob realized God blesses people through faithfulness in weakness.

Today’s question: What Bible verses help us in our attitude toward suffering?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Called to sow our tears”

About the author

Dave Henning

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