“The child that is born to you shall surely die.”
II Samuel12: 14
“When The Innocent Suffer”as PUt Away your
“Pain and suffering are not necessarily signs of God’s anger; they may be exactly the opposite.”
Have I lost someone in my life and asked God, “Why?”
How has personal suffering as well as the suffering of innocent victims of tragedy and pain affected my view of God?
“We can sometimes see more through a tear than through a telescope.”
“Uncompromisingly righteous and just are You, O Lord, when I complain against and contend with You. Yet let me plead and reason the case with You: why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why are all they at ease and thriving who deal very treacherously and deceitfully?”
Jeremiah 12: 1
If ever you thought you couldn’t talk bluntly to God about the heartaches and tragedies in your life, then maybe you need to read the words of the prophet Jeremiah over several times a day. I love the boldness of this man of God, called by some, the “weeping prophet,” for his lamentations over the suffering of the people of Israel. As Jeremiah watched the viciousness of nations, who with an ironhanded rule beat down upon God’s people who were suffering pain, hunger, and heartache, Jeremiah cried out to God with a question that has been asked throughout history. “Why do the evil prosper?” And I would add another question to this, “Why do the innocent suffer?”
These two questions, I’ve found in my own life, shake the very foundation of my personal faith and you may well have found the same thing to be true in your own life, also.
At the heart of the experience of David and Bathsheba’s relationship is the fact that because of David’s sin, an innocent child died. You can’t walk away from this story without confronting the fact that a precious child suffered. And for me, a person who was infertile and could never have a child of her own, I find the agony of this story striking my emotions in the most sensitive places.
Over the last few months, I’ve struggled with this part of David’s story because I told you when we began this journey through the Bible from Genesis to Revelation that we wouldn’t back away from the tough stories. And we haven’t! With God’s help, we confronted head-on the immense evil that led God’s own sons to rape and murder the Levite’s concubine. We have studied about Rahab the harlot who found herself on the outside looking in and Ruth the Moabite whose ancestors were forbidden even to enter the Israelite camp.
Now, we must look at the suffering which results from disobedience. As hard as it is to say this, at times, it is the innocent who end up suffering the most when disobedience and evil infiltrate our lives.
As I’ve studied about the consequences which were the result of David’s sin, I’d like to offer several thoughts for your consideration. These are by no means complete answers on the topic of suffering. They are just ideas I’ve contemplated as I’ve studied about suffering and struggled with the trials that have engulfed my own life.
First, in David’s case, it is easy to forget the fact that King David was the ruler. He was the person who dealt out the enforcement of law in Israel and Judah. If we go back to II Samuel 12: 5, we find that when Nathan told David the story of the rich man who stole the poor man’s one little ewe lamb, it was David who pronounced the sentence upon the rich man for his crime. David said the rich man should die. (That meant David passed a death sentence on himself.) And David said that the rich man should restore what he stole fourfold. It was also David who commanded that a sword be lifted up against another man’s house, Uriah’s. With this as background, Nathan informed David that what he had commanded and ordered would fall back upon himself and his household. Evil would arise from within David’s own household. His wives, that he collected, would be taken away and the sword would strike within his own home.
Now step back from this scene with me for a moment and think about David and Bathsheba’s precious baby. What if the child had lived? What kind of life do you think this child might have had? Would there have been incessant gossiping about his conception? Or would he, like David’s other sons, as we will see in the future, be murdered by his jealous and enraged stepbrother. Frankly, life for this child may have been horrendous had he lived. Our problem is that we may assume that because the child died, this means the child was condemned. The Bible doesn’t say this anywhere. And this leads me to a more compassionate conclusion in my own life when I don’t understand all of my heavenly Father’s ways. What may appear to me as unfair earthly suffering, when viewed through an eternal prism, may be God at work for my best good and yours for eternity. As John Vance Cheney so astutely noted, “The soul would have no rainbow had the eyes no tears.”
Let me further explain the thoughts I’m trying to convey by sharing with you a very personal experience that happened after my dad died suddenly. My dad was not perfect, he would be the first to tell you this. But from an admiring daughter’s viewpoint – he was pretty close! Through the years, what had been a very contentious relationship between the two of us, was forged into one of the strongest bonds I’ve ever shared with another person on earth. So you can only imagine that an early, sudden, and unexpected death, with absolutely no opportunity to even whisper, “Goodbye,” tore my heart to shreds. What really shocked me after Daddy died was my fury at God. I said some extremely hostile things to God. And sometimes I flat-out ignored Him. Why pray? Why ask for help? It didn’t seem to change things and God had certainly let me down, big-time!
Then things got worse! Yes, you read this correctly. Just one week before my dad died, my parents had finally found a house to purchase in Reno, Nevada, where my dad had been transferred for his job. Escrow closed on the house one week before he died. In fact, the Memorial Weekend before my dad’s death, Jim and I drove to Reno, at my parent’s request, to see their new place, never imagining what heartache lay ahead.
One week later, with daddy dead, no job, and no income my mom didn’t want to stay in Reno alone. So she came back to California and moved in with Jim and me.
Knowing that the Reno job wouldn’t last forever, my parents had kept their house in California by Jim and me and rented it out with a two-year lease. So my mother stayed with us for nearly two years. But here’s where things got really complicated. We immediately put my parent’s home in Reno on the market, never imagining that at the low price it was listed for, it wouldn’t sell. But it didn’t. Fortunately, my parents had taken out a two-year insurance policy that paid the house payment for twenty-four months, because with no income my mom couldn’t make the payment and it would have fallen to Jim and me to add this expense to our monthly budget which would have been very difficult.
Well, for twenty-two months not one person looked at the house and this was twenty-five years ago. It wasn’t during the current economic crash. I was furious that God didn’t seem to be listening to my prayers about this mess. Then just six weeks before the insurance policy ran out on the payment, a lady came and bought the house, or so we thought. Just two weeks before Jim and I had this extra payment to make, the lady said she was having second thoughts and wanted to see the house again. The realtor called my mom telling her he was certain the buyer was going to back out of the deal. I was in a dither. I thought for sure Jim and I were going to be sucked down the drain financially.
The appointed day and time came for the buyer to revisit the house and about an hour later my mother received a call from her realtor.
Here is what he told her. “Ellen,” he said, “The strangest thing happened today. It is just so weird. I took this lady to your house. You know she is the only person in the last two years who has come to see this house. Well, as we stood in the living room, the front door was unlocked and a man walked in dressed in a suit. He asked if the house was for sale. I told him I was there with a buyer. He smiled and said, ‘What a lovely home. If this lady doesn’t take the house, I’ll be back.’ And then he turned and was gone. I went straight outside and he wasn’t anywhere to be seen. There were no cars in the neighborhood except mine and the lady in your house. No one was there. Ellen, it was odd. And when I went back to the lady who had planned on buying your house she said to me, ‘No need to see it again. If this house is in such demand, I want it now.’”
One week, before Jim and I were faced with a financial catastrophe, something happened. Something others called “odd!”
For me, that event was a turning point that called me to a deeper level of confidence and trust in a Father who reaches into our lives at our most painful moments and says, “I’ve suffered, too. I feel your pain. I am with you no matter what happens!” As one person noted, “The face of Jesus must be very near our own when the thorns from His crown of suffering are pressing our brow and hurting us.”
After our car accident, Jim and I have had a lot of people ask us, “Why do you think God let this happen to you?” I have a different view now, one that is conveyed by C. S. Lewis who himself understood the pain of innocents who suffer. He penned these instructive words: “The real problem is not why some pious, humble, believing people suffer, but why some do not.”
If we return to Jeremiah for a moment, God didn’t fight him or condemn him for questioning why the evil prosper and the good suffer; instead God told Jeremiah to keep watching and waiting for even when he couldn’t see God at work, He was and is! In the words of C. H. Spurgeon, “Stars may be seen from the bottom of a deep well when they cannot be discerned from the top of a mountain.”
“The grand design of God in all the afflictions that befall His (children) is to bring them nearer and closer to himself.”
To One In Sorrow
“Let me come in where you are weeping friend,
And let me take you hand.
I, who have known a sorrow such as yours,
Let me come in –- I would be very still
Beside you in your grief;
I would not bid you cease your weeping, friend,
Tears bring relief.
Let me come in – I would only breathe a prayer,
And hold your hand,
For I have known a sorrow such as yours,
Dorothy Valcấrcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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For more from Dorothy, please visit transformationgarden.com.