Notes on Lee Strobel's Message

Why Is There Suffering in the World ?

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Lee Strobel

Lee Strobel was an atheist when he first walked into Willow Creek in 1980. Today, he teaches about the Jesus who changed his life. His books include Inside the Mind of Unchurched Harry and Mary, What Jesus Would Say, and God's Outrageous Claims. With a journalism degree (University of Missouri) and a Master of Studies in Law degree (Yale Law School), he was formerly the legal affairs editor of the Chicago Tribune. Lee and his wife Leslie have a son and daughter in college.


A poll conducted by Willow Creek Church, the largest church in America: If u could ask God any question and u knew you would get an answer, what would it be:

#1 question - Why is there suffering in the world?


We can only know so much this side of eternity (about everything, including suffering)

1 Cor 13:12 - Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

5 points of light when wrestling with the Why question re: suffering:

1. God did not create evil and suffering and death ·

Why didn't he create a world without suffering or evil ? Well, he did !!! ·

Genesis said - when God created the world - - It was "good"………….free of suffering and evil!! · He gave men free will. · If love is the greatest value we have then the only way we can truly express it is to have free will.

Real love must involve real choice……… · We abused the choice by walking away and rejecting God.

This abuse of choice resulted in 2 kinds of evil - moral evil and natural evil

· Moral evil -

the pain and suffering that comes when we choose to be selfish or arrogant or uncaring or abusive or hateful and hurtful toward others · Some have estimated that 95% of the world's suffering results from our own sins or the sin of others · They showed a picture of a person in a time of famine and starving and yet the world produces enough to provide each person with 3000 calories per day · It's our own self centerdness that causes others to starve · Pogo cartoon - "We have seen the enemy and he is us" ·

Natural evil -

floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes that cause suffering · It's a result of allowing evil in the world. Pain and death became part of the human experience · Because of sin that nature was corrupted. ·

Gen 3:18 - It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. · Nature has been subjected to frustration because of sin.

It is groaning as in the pains of childbirth, longing for redemption to come

Rom 8:18-22 - I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. · ·

Summary -

God did not create evil and suffering and death . God did create the "potential" for evil to come into the world but it was the only way to create the potential for genuine goodness and genuine love. · Couldn't God have forseen this happening?

Isn't it true that parents have the same concern for their children? Isn't there the potential that our own children could suffer disappointment, tragedies, hurts…….but u still had kids ! Why? Because u knew there was also potential for great joy and love and meaning. As did God !

He knew we'd rebel, but He knew there would be those who freely chose to follow Him, freely choose to take up his offer of eternal salvation. And it would be worth it to God - - even though he would have to give up his own son in great pain and suffering to achieve the redemption…….

2. Even though suffering is never good, God can and does use it to accomplish good

He does this in 4 ways:

1. He uses pain to draw people towards God ·

Peter Kreeft - The meaning and purpose of suffering in history is that it leads to repentance. · Only after suffering do nations, do Israel, do people turn back to God ! · When life is great and carefree is the time when we forget about God. Often, when we suffer is when we turn to Him. ·

"I have known more of God since I came to this bed, than through all of my life." Ralph Erskine (Racked in pain in his bed) ·

"God can use pain and suffering to attract us to the greatest joy in life - which is an intimate relationship with God that will continue into heaven where we'll spend eternity with him. And the truth is, it's worth any price if it means coming to know God in that way."Lee Strobel ·

"I would rather be in this wheelchair knowing God than on my feet without Him." Joni ·

If u don't believe this statement than perhaps its because u don't yet know God in that way………

2. God can use trials to sharpen the character of his children and to help them to become more like Jesus Christ. ·

Romans 5:3 - Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. ·

Hebrews 5:8 - Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered · ·

"God can make use of what he hates to accomplish what He loves." Unknown ·

He can use suffering to :

· Purge sins from our lives

· To strengthen our commitment to Him

· To force us to depend on grace

· To bind us together with other believers

· To foster sensitivity

· To discipline our minds

· To spend our time wisely

· To stretch our hope

· To cause us to know Christ better

· To make us long for truth

· To lead us to repentance of sin

· To teach us to give thanks in times of sorrow

· To increase our faith

· To strengthen our character

3. God disciplines his children for their own good so that we might learn the right path to take in life

Heb 12:10-11 - Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. · ·

Discipline is not punishment. Punishment is retribution for misdeeds of the past. Discipline is the loving way we correct someones behaviour so that their future will be better for them. ·

God has the big picture and we have a finite view of the world. ·

"Every sorrow we taste will one day prove to be the best possible thing that could have happened to us. We will thank God endlessly in heaven for the trials that he sent us here." Joni

4. By fulfilling the promise he made in Romans 8:28 ·

Rom 8:28 - And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. ·

Gen 50:20 - You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. · If you are committed to God, He promises that he can take whatever pain u are experiencing and He can draw something good from that. · Those who follow Christ could tell us stories of the truth behind this ! ·

Story of Emily……….

3. The day is coming when suffering will be ceased and evil will be judged ·

If God has the power to eradicate evil and suffering why doesn't he do it? He will !!!

Because he hasn't done it yet doesn't mean he will not yet do it · Whats holding Him up? Some of us are……….He's holding back the curtain of the close of history so that some of you will might be touched by his love, that some of u may put your trust in Him, that u may come to a relationship with Him and spend eternity in heaven with Him. ·

2 Peter 3:9 - The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. ·

This is evidence of a loving God ! He loves us enough that he's holding back history anticipating that u will come to Him and know the joy of spending eternity in His presence.

4. Any suffering we experience in this life will pale in comparison to what God has in store for His followers

· 2 Cor 4:17 - For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.

· 5 times had his back shredded by a whip

. 39 lashes

· 3 times beaten to a bloody pulp with a rod

Rom 8:18 - I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. ·

1 Cor 2:9 - However, as it is written: "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him" · Our lives may be difficult on earth but when they're put into context of ETERNITY they fade into nothingness

5. We decide whether pain in this life is going to harden us or soften us ·

John 16:33 - I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." ·

We've all seen where the same suffering causes someone to be bitter and reject God to become hard, angry, sullen and the same suffering causes another to turn to God, to become more gentle, loving and tender. ·

"I believe that all suffering is at least potential good; an opportunity for good. It's up to our free will to actualize that potential. Not all of us benefit from suffering and learn from it because that's up to us; it's up to our free will. And not only can we make the decision about how we are going to react to the suffering but God says I will help you in the process." Unknown

· The cross gives us ultimate meaning to our suffering because it means we don't have to suffer alone. Jesus suffers along with us. He offers to walk us through the pain ·

John 16:33 - I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." ·

Psalm 34:18 - The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. ·

Check out this amazing story:Tale of 2 cities - the ending - the story

"What is the Christian answer to the mystery of suffering?

It's not an explanation it is a reinforcing presence, it is Christ to stand beside u through the darkness, it is Christ's companionship to make the dark experience sacred."

Jesus Christ is within you. Therefore your sufferings are His sufferings. Your sorrow is His sorrow." James Stewart ·

"Yea, though I walk through the valley of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me." ·

The question of suffering in this world is not a why question at all !

Even if I told u the answer if I could, it wouldn't help because you'd still be going thru the suffering.

You'd still need Jesus Christ.

It's a How question. How is it that we can get through the pain of life, that Jesus said is inevitable. ·

Think about the suffering your going thru and ask yourself - can u see any way God can take that pain of your life and make something good out of it.

God can and will cause the good to emerge from it.

If u cant see it - that's ok - because God does !

And he loves u enough to fulfill the promise that if u run into his arms He will not only hold u thru the crisis but he will also cause something good to emerge from the tears that you shed.

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