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Doctrine of Suffering

(weekly I write a five minute “doctrine talk” based on the doctrine in the passage of scripture we are studying in “People of the Promised Land 1 – Bible Study Fellowship”)

2 Samuel 13:10-22

 Then he said to Tamar, “Now bring the food into my bedroom and feed it to me here.” So Tamar took his favorite dish to him.  But as she was feeding him, he grabbed her and demanded, “Come to bed with me, my darling sister.” “No, my brother!” she cried. “Don’t be foolish! Don’t do this to me! Such wicked things aren’t done in Israel.  Where could I go in my shame? And you would be called one of the greatest fools in Israel. Please, just speak to the king about it, and he will let you marry me.”  But Amnon wouldn’t listen to her, and since he was stronger than she was, he raped her.  Then suddenly Amnon’s love turned to hate, and he hated her even more than he had loved her. “Get out of here!” he snarled at her. “No, no!” Tamar cried. “Sending me away now is worse than what you’ve already done to me.” But Amnon wouldn’t listen to her.  He shouted for his servant and demanded, “Throw this woman out, and lock the door behind her!”  So the servant put her out and locked the door behind her. She was wearing a long, beautiful robe,  as was the custom in those days for the king’s virgin daughters.  But now Tamar tore her robe and put ashes on her head. And then, with her face in her hands, she went away crying.  Her brother Absalom saw her and asked, “Is it true that Amnon has been with you? Well, my sister, keep quiet for now, since he’s your brother. Don’t you worry about it.” So Tamar lived as a desolate woman in her brother Absalom’s house.  When King David heard what had happened, he was very angry. And though Absalom never spoke to Amnon about this, he hated Amnon deeply because of what he had done to his sister.

David and Tamar understood the painful reality of suffering. 

David’s suffering as a consequence of sin and Tamar’s suffering as a victim of someone else’s sin.  Through these chapters we read this week in 2 Samuel 13-18, we see God is just.  God spared David’s life for the sin of adultery and murder but did say through the prophet Nathan that consequences would come.  David experienced great suffering at the deception, disloyalty and eventual death of his son Absalom.  Before that he experienced the death of his son Amnon as Absalom revenged him for rapping their sister.  The death of 3 sons (the unnamed child of Bathsheba, Amnon and Absalom) in about 5 years all in response to David’s own sin. 

Sin is the reason for all suffering but not all suffering results from specific sin as in the case of Tamar.  With Amnon’s uncontrolled lust for his sister, Jonadab assisted him to play ill so that David would allow Tamar to visit and prepare food for him.  Despite Tamar’s strong plea to “not force her and do this wicked thing”, Amnon not only physically violated her but caused her to be disgraced in all of Israel.  Absalom and David continued to intensify the sin and disgrace by hiding what happened and she lived as “a desolate woman.”

It’s difficult to watch others suffer either as consequence for their sin or as an innocent victim.  Suffering is a painful reality for people living with the consequences of the fall.  God can use any hardship to bring glory to Himself and good to His people.  I can remember many times people would say to me while I was struggling in my marriage and after James died saying “someday Tina, God will use your suffering to help many other woman going through similar circumstances.”  I remember thinking “I could care less about helping others, I just want this pain to stop!”  Maybe that is you today.  Perhaps you are in the midst of suffering and whether it is because it is related to your past sin or you have become a victim of someone else’s sin, God can use any hardship to bring glory to Himself and good to His people. 

There are a few truths of suffering that are helpful to remember and hopefully can give us all “purpose to the pain.”

  1. God promises to be with His children in their suffering.

He will never leave you nor forsake you.  Have you ever felt like you were alone in your suffering that no one understands?  Not true.  For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet he did not sin.  Hebrews 4:15

So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 2 Cor 4:18

Through suffering we are forced to focus on things of eternal value rather than what is here and now and temporary.

His promise is to work all things together for the good of those who love him and are called according to His purpose.  If you are His, He will be glorified through your suffering.  Light shines greatest in the darkness. 

In your suffering, can you and others see the light of Christ?  Don’t worry you don’t have to manufacture it, God just does it.  Your job is to focus on the light, even if it is a small glimmer. 

When I understand that suffering is a part of this fallen world, I can look beyond the pain and look for ways God is being glorified through my suffering.  When I do not understand suffering as a part of this fallen world, my pain leads to bitterness and resentment. 

I can remember going to the Lord and crying, please God I don’t want to be a bitter woman.

How will you allow suffering in your life to bring glory to God?  

… 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 through the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us.  Romans 5:3-5

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