You are my hiding place; You will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance.”
As I began writing this short message, it was already the third day since AirAsia QZ8501 disappeared while on a flight from Surabaya to Singapore with 162 passengers on board. We now know that the plane has crashed into the sea and there were no survivors. It is the third tragedy involving a Malaysian aircraft in 2014.
This is a heartbreaking tragedy, another of the seemingly relentless disasters and natural calamities that have claimed countless lives. Such sudden losses of family members, relatives and friends bring immense sorrow and grief. The lost ones had been adorable children, doting parents, and wonderful friends and colleagues.
What I would like to say is that we should not take for granted the good
times we have.
Yet we cannot help asking: “Why would God allow suffering?”, “Why can’t our omnipotent God eliminate suffering?”, “Why doesn’t God protect the good and not let them suffer?” and “Why is there suffering?”
These are often questions that we ask when unexpected calamities occur. But when times are good and life goes on as per normal, we are more concerned about enjoying life to the full.
I would like to recommend reading a booklet, ‘Why Would A Good God Allow Suffering?’, first published in 1988 and now in its eighth print.
The author, Kurt DeHaan, explained in his book that suffering serves to alert and guide us, mould us and unite us. When I read the booklet again, I was struck by the following message: we cannot deny the positive effect of pain no matter how much we dislike the feeling of pain. It alerts us to the parts of our body that need our attention. The sensation of pain, however, is only a symptom, an alarm. It informs you that a certain part of your body is in crisis. The real problem lies in what is causing the pain.
Indeed suffering in the world serves as a warning for us. We often become arrogant and apathetic even though our achievements may be meagre, and we tend to grow complacent when we are used to peaceful sunny days, only to be rudely awakened from the slumber when misfortune strikes. It is only when we are hit that we realise how frail and fragile life is. This is the moment of reckoning when we may become more willing to learn and be guided.
No one, not even our Lord Jesus Christ, can avoid suffering. Sin has already entered this world and we are witnessing the inexorable descent of this world towards its corrupt and depraved end. Hence, many happenings today can no longer be explained according to God’s original purpose of creation. In other words, we will not find answers in this life to questions such as “Why do the innocent have to suffer?”
Whether or not we are experiencing suffering, however, as Christians we can pray to the Lord as shown to us in Psalm 32:7: “You are my hiding place; You will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance.” Jesus Christ has also taught us to pray: “Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.”
In the brand new year ahead, we may not know what to expect but we believe in our God who has been guiding and leading us all the way. He is still our all-loving God who keeps His covenant. We are convinced that our Great Shepherd Jesus Christ is with us always even if we may find ourselves facing death.
Wishing one and all a New Year full of new blessings and new hope!
Picture by l i g h t p o e t/Bigstock.com
The Rev Dr Chong Chin Chung was re-elected President of the Chinese Annual Conference (CAC) in 2012 for the quadrennium. He has been a Methodist pastor for 30 years and has been a guest lecturer at Trinity Theological College since 1996.