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I hear people talk about God as our protector, but if there is still suffering, what is he protecting us from?

This question is a great follow-up to the one last week, because both really deal with the subject of God’s power. Last week, we saw that God’s power is not a raw, dictatorial, almightiness, but is the power of suffering, liberating, reconciling love. In other words, God’s power is always consistent with His own character and nature.
So what does that mean in regards to God’s providence and protection over our lives? A few particulars could be mentioned:

  1. The Biblical story makes no cheap promises that if we will just ‘trust in God’ we will be spared the hardship, pain, and suffering that are the ‘dark side’ of the free will choices of God’s creatures, whether they be visible or invisible. You can go down the list -Abraham, Moses, Ruth, David, Esther, Jeremiah, Jesus, Paul – none of God’s people were able to escape the hurts and pains of life.
  2. The power of God is not like that of a human kind which is only seen in sovereign majesty. God’s power is seen, time and time again throughout scripture, in weakness as well as in strength, in defeat and suffering as well as in victory, in the form of a lowly Servant as well as in the form of an exalted Lord. We see this in the tragic history of a little insignificant people called Israel, as well as a man dying on a cross as one of us. So if we know that God was powerful enough to accomplish his purposes in those circumstances, how is it we can think that God must only be powerfully at work when we are experiencing times of happiness and success? How can we limit God by thinking that God’s powerful will for our good can only be accomplished in the positve things that happen to me and not the painful things?
  3. God’s power and protection is demonstrated in the presence of people who love enough to risk their own comfort and security to sit at the bedside of the sick and dying, befriending the friendless, accepting the unacceptable, defending the cause of the victims of injustice-even at their own peril. This means we can recognize God’s power and protection when others come along side of us and minister in this way.
  4. The Biblical story bears witness to the fact that God is so powerful that evil must finally serve God’s good will for our sake. In other words, God’s power is so great that it can make good come out of evil. This can be seen in OT in the story of Joseph and his brothers. The brothers shameful act made it possible for Joseph to eventually become a ruler in Egypt and save his family. The same point is made even more clearly in the death and resurrection of Jesus. God did not will the sin and injustice of the leaders, the rejection of the disciples. Yet it was those very things that made possible the salvation of the whole world. Just when it looks like evil is going to ‘win the day’, it ends up serving the powerful, liberating love of God.
  5. Finally, to be in Christ and to walk by the Spirit, is to participate in God’s powerful, liberating, sacrificing love and to experience it protective care. This love alone can transform a broken planet and bring healing and renewal. Only this love can forgive the sin we’ve done as well as the sin done to us, so we are sheltered from bitterness and revenge. Only this love can shape us into a new kind of community and sustain us to continue Jesus’ mission to heal the hurting, feed the hungry, include the lonely, and help people find their way back to God, while shielding us from the spirit of this age – racism, nationalism, consumerism, materialism, etc. Over time, God’s love builds a barrier around us from the things that have the potential to divide and distroy our lives.

There is much, much more that can be said here (theologians have build entire careers on this subject ) but it’s safe to say that God’s providential protecting is a subject that precludes ‘easy’ answers. But I pray that these points will, at the very least, set your mind toward some uncharted waters, and lead you into an even deeper relationship with our loving God.

See you Sunday,

Pastor Mark

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