King's Business - 1948-08

A thoughtful and challenging message by the head of the Graduate School of Wheaton College.

By Merrill C . Tenney, Ph.D.

for he had experienced almost every kind of suffering known to man, whether physical or psychological. The confinement of imprisonment, the frustration of a work undermined by his enemies, the privation of separation from friends, the pains of hunger and of cold, the overbearing consciousness of increasing old age, and the dismal prospect of execution at the headsman’s block were all a part of his consciousness at the time when he wrote these words. Nevertheless he took all of these things uncomplainingly as accompaniments of regular Christian experience without seeking to refer them either to the unhappy accident of a blind cosmos, or to the malicious meanness of an unfeeling deity. Suffering Is Inevitable In the Christian’s understanding suffering is inevitable be­ cause all followers of Christ are still in the world. Jesus never taught His disciples that they would be exempted from the testings and trials of life simply because they had be­ lieved on Him. On the contrary, He said, “ In the world ye shall have tribulation.” The Christian has no right to ex­ pect that he will lodge in an ivory tower far from the dis­ agreeable wickedness and crushing sorrows that envelop other men. As long as he is a human being with a mission to per­ form he must share the lot of others like himself; and as he enters into their suffering he has the best opportunity to bear witness to the reality of salvation. Jesus Himself did not remain aloof from the woes of men; He drank the cup of their miseries to the full. • Suffering is also inevitable for the Christian because he is engaged in a struggle. In the same epistle in which Paul characterized suffering as normal, he spoke of being “ a good soldier of Jesus Christ” (2 Tim. 2:3). When a soldier enlists in an army, he takes for granted, that he is engaging in a struggle. Whether he is placed on patrol duty, at a desk to handle routine matter, or in the front line trenches, he must accept as a matter of course the inconveniences, the separa­ tion from home and friends, the authority of his superiors, the dangers of the conflict, and perhaps sudden or painful death. There is a cause to be defended and a victory won, regardless of the price involved. In the conflct which is be­ ing waged between good and evil, between Christ and sin, the soldier scarcely can expect to emerge without some dents in his armor and without some scars on his person. Suffering Is Explainable If it be admitted that suffering is inevitable, can it be ex­ plained, or must there be a permanent concession to fatalism? Paul’s statement begins with the words, “ For which cause.” Suffering was for him reasonable; at least, it could be ac­ counted for by a legitimate cause. For the Christian, suffering is a direct result of his being a Christian. The gospel always produces hostility between its adherents and the world, for it makes an essential difference between them. There is a •principle which runs through all nature that differentiation creates tension. If a large body of water is impounded be­ hind a dam at a higher level than the stream below, it will exercise constant pressure until the two bodies of water reach the same level, either by the lowering of the one or by the ris­ ing of the other. The same principle obtains in animal life. If a black chicken be put in a pen of white fowls, the latter will pursue it, pick at it, drive it from the flock, and perhaps kill it. In human life, the non-conformist in dress, or in inter­ ests, or in convictions meets anything from polite and humor­ ous teasing to bitter persecution. The more fundamental the divergence and the more serious the issue, the sterner the conflict is likely to be. Whenever a man becomes a new crea­ ture in Christ, sensitive to sin as never before and acutely TH E K I N G ' S B U S I N E S S

^ 1 ^ HE problem of suffering is as old and as universal as mankind. Wherever men feel the pains of illness, the slights and injuries of jealousy or hatred, the sting of injustice, or the shock of death, they are forced to reflect on the meaning of suffering, and to try to find some reason for it. Various answers to this problem have been propounded. The evolutionist believes that suffering is the inevitable result of an upward struggle. The life of the universe, striving for full manifestation through uncounted generations of succeed­ ing forms of life and levels of consciousness, must endure pain and temporary frustration in order to achieve the goal of ulti­ mate self-realization. Suffering, therefore, should be accepted as a necessity by man, since it marks one of the stages in this ascending ladder of development. By arduous effort he will perfect himself in the same way that the dragonfly, straining to escape from the prison of the chrysalis, finally finds his wings and flutters off into the sunlight. Others have taken a more pessimistic view of the universe. Schopenhauer, a noted philosopher and mystic of the nine­ teenth century, taught that the world in which men live is the worst of all possible worlds. All of life is essentially predatory, and is simply an unending series of murders, rob­ beries, intrigues, and lies. These evils are not merely the acci­ dental misfortunes of life; they are life, and life is inevitable and irremediable suffering. The only solution to the problem that life possesses is to quit it; existence must be renounced once and for all if any person is to find peace. Suffering presents a special problem for the Christian. Believing as he does in the sovereign rule of a transcendent God who is all good and all just, it is hard sometimes for him to reconcile the present status of the world with his concept of God. If God is good and just, how can He permit injustice and unhappiness to continue in the world which He has made? Or, on the other hand, if He is all powerful, why does He not intervene to eliminate these evils? A Christian cannot subscribe to the blind force which is the god of evolution, nor to the malevolent and capricious deity assumed by Schopen­ hauer. The Christian solution for this problem is suggested by the words of Paul in Second Timothy 1:12:A.S.V. “ For which cause I suffer also these things.” He had been reviewing the cardinal aspects of the Christian life: salvation, calling, appointment to some definite task, and stability in maintain­ ing one’s career. Among these experiences which are regard­ ed as normal in every Christian life he placed suffering. In no way did he consider it as exceptional, but he took it as a matter of course. Paul did not make this assumption because of ignorance, an... §= 1 PRAYED for light; the sun went down in clouds, The moon was darkened by a misty doubt, The stars of heaven were dimmed by earthly fears, n And all my little candle flames burned out; But while 1 sat in shadow, wrapped in night, The face of Christ made all the darkness bright. 1 PRAYED for peace, and dreamed of restful ease, ü n 1 A slumber drugged from pain, a hushed repose; n Above my head the skies were black with storm, And fiercer grew the onslaught of my foes; §n But while the battle raged, and wild winds blew, 1 1 heard His voice, and perfect peace 1 knew. iniiiiiiiiiiiiuiiiiiiiniiiiiiiiiniiiiiiiintiiiHiiiiiiiiiiiiinniiitiiiiiiniiiiiiifiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiniiiHiiiuinp Page Eight

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