“Have compassion on your servants. Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days” (Psalm 90:13-14)
Death happens. It happens as a result of the normal aging process, when disease invades the body, and it happens when tragedy strikes. In whichever manner death occurs, it causes a lot of pain and suffering for loved ones left behind. However, it’s hard to imagine any death bringing about questions of faith in God like a tragedy that takes a life seemingly way too soon. In those types of situations, how can we believe Romans 8:28? “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good…” How is it possible that suffering can be a path to glory? Though it happens, we must never view death or suffering as natural. In God’s world, they’re not. But they are realities and as Christians, suffering is often a greater one. When we suffer in any circumstance, but especially under tragic ones, how is it possible to still find satisfaction in God? In an article entitled, Preparing People to Suffer: What Expectations Do Our Sermons Create? John Piper addressed from a pastor’s perspective that very question, helping us not only in the case of suffering due to tragic circumstances, but suffering due to any circumstance at all.
“Have compassion on your servants. Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days” In this section of Psalm 90, Moses appealed to God to pour out His grace so that people would find satisfaction in Him above everything, enabling them to rejoice all their days. Piper suggests that in times of personal suffering, the wise pastor cries the very cry of this passage and then preaches its truth to those he shepherds. This doesn’t mean that the hurt doesn’t hurt. It doesn’t mean that tragedy will not bring about questions. But what it does mean is that by the grace of God and by the Spirit of God we can accept the truths taught in Scripture, truths like Romans 8:28. It means we can be sure that God sees where we can’t, that His purposes are perfect, and that He is always working for our ultimate good.
Pastor’s have an awesome responsibility to preach the whole truth of God, including the reality of suffering. It may not be easy to preach and it may not be what people most want to hear, but it must be done. According to Piper, by teaching the reality of suffering and God’s sovereign goodness in and through it, when tragedy strikes, it leaves you needing only to embrace those in the midst of their pain. I’m thankful for my pastor for his faithfulness in not dodging this difficult truth. I’m sure many in our congregation have been blessed because he didn’t. But this is not only a pastor’s responsibility; it is all of ours who minister in any manner. So be grateful for your pastor for preaching it and anyone else who teaches it. Because when they do, it not only better prepares you to deal with suffering in your own life, but also minister to others in theirs. And in times like today, we need it.
Father, thank you for your Word and the faithful pastor’s dedicated to its exposition. It’s a struggle to grasp the difficult truth of suffering, but God, we know that you are good; you are good both in and through our suffering. The reality of suffering is a hard truth, but you have given us your Spirit that we may accept and praise you in the midst of these times. Help us to know that our satisfaction can only be found in you. Comfort all who suffer and embolden those who minister to them that you may be glorified. Amen!