Monday, August 1, 2011

How Much Suffering is Too Much?

For a little over a week now I have been dealing with a new symptom: burning around my elbows and arms. The muscles in my arms are very tight and trying to carry my daughter or use my arms for very long increases my pain.  I am not exactly sure what caused this new pain, but almost 2 weeks ago I hit my elbow on my computer and it sent a shocking "nerve kind of pain" through my left arm into my fingers. I had to use ice to get it to calm down, but it was better the next day. Then a few days later the pain was back and much more intense. Over the weekend it spread to the other arm.  I think it is part of my central sensitization that causes my nervous system to have a heightened sensitivity to pain. I dealt with burning in my knees and knee pain for close to two months, but gradually it died down some. I am praying this elbow pain eventually gets more tolerable as well. But what if it doesn't? What if I can't sit, I have burning in my legs and feet and can't hardly stand, and my arms hurt so bad I lose function in them? Haven't I suffered enough?

I was talking to a friend last week about how I think sometimes I believe that because I have suffered "so much" surely I won't have to suffer anymore. I mean I have seen a lot more physical suffering than a lot of people will see in their life so surely God won't give me too much more, right?

Unfortunately I have not seen the amount of suffering I actually deserve. God would not be unjust or unfair to permit me to be stricken blind tomorrow or to get cancer in 10 years or to leave me a widow at a young age. In my sinful nature I often think that I have suffered enough, but scripture never says a person only deserves a certain amount of suffering in this life. Ask Job in the Bible.  After losing his animals, servants and children within a matter of minutes, he was struck with sores from head to toe. He sat in the ashes and scratched himself with a piece of broken pottery! Surely losing his children alone was enough suffering for one man to endure, right?

No, it's not enough according to the Bible. The price of our sin is DEATH (Romans 6:23), a.k.a hell for those who do not know Christ as their savior, and nothing short of that is just.  It's only by God's grace that God takes Jesus' death on the cross as our substitute to pay the just penalty so those who trust in Christ for their salvation do not have to taste hell. And no amount of suffering on this Earth can ever compare to the suffering that will be experienced for eternity in Hell.

Pastor John Piper has written a great article talking about God's justice in our amount of suffering. Why Does the Truth of Hell Rise to Watershed Significance?

My favorite quote from the article:

"If all of us deserve hell, that is the main “problem of evil,” not cancer and tsunamis. Compared to hell, the horrors (unspeakable horrors) of this world are short and moderate. If that sounds like an overstatement to you, it’s not because God hasn’t seen your suffering, but, perhaps, because you haven’t seen God’s hell." John Piper

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