December 31, 2012
The age-old Question that everyone asks
“Why?” Just three letters and a question mark. But it’s the age-old question that everyone asks at one time or another and some people ask quite often. We are baffled by life’s seeming inequities and scream out our protest, or we quietly move our lips and ask, “Why?”
Oh, how it hurts to see our loved ones leave this world. How it tears at our hearts to see them suffering. Even though we might pray for them to be released from pain, we are never quite prepared enough for that final parting. Death is so final.
Or is it?
We ponder what appears to be senseless suffering – that emotional, psychological, physical, or spiritual affliction that comes in many forms. We wonder about death, especially the death of the very young. We feel they have not lived long enough. We speak of the “waste” of so much human potential. The “whys” escape from our lips – even from the lips of those who should have all the answers. We do not like to see suffering, much less encounter it ourselves.
We shove thoughts of death from our thinking. When we do have to confront death, we find ourselves at a loss for words to express our deepest feelings.
Confronting the Eternal Question: Why?
Is there an answer to the eternal question, “Why?” Clergymen and men and women in ministries such as ours are often confronted with that question. Sometimes we have answers. More often we have no pat answers. And pat answers are usually what the one asking the question wants.
The longer I live, the more I observe the human scene, and the more I study the Word of God, the more I am convinced that these difficult experiences we all encounter in some form or another are unique opportunities God has given us to help us grow in faith. There are no pat answers. That may seem too simplistic for some, but it’s true.
Because of your own experiences with pain, are you not much more sensitive to the pain of others?
Because of your own encounter with tragedy, are you not much more understanding of the trauma others are enduring?
Because of your walk through the valley of the shadow of death, can you not enter into the grief of others with more compassion (see 2 Corinthians 1:4)?
Whatever your personal experience with human suffering has been, have you not found it to be a faith-stretching exercise? You had to use your faith because there was nothing else you could do. There was no one who could fill the void left by the death of a loved one. There were no medical procedures that could alter the situation for that one (or yourself) who heard the dread word “cancer” or some other irreversible condition. At those times you found yourself reaching out and crying, “Oh, God, I need Your help!” And can you honestly say it did not come?
That help is there, always near at hand and always made adequate. Sometimes it appears slow at easing the heartaches, but even then, it is there. If you question that, ponder these truths:
The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms (Deuteronomy 33:27).
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble (Psalm 46:1).
When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee, and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee (Isaiah 43:2) .
. . . I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee (Hebrews 13:5).
Pain, suffering, and death do not cancel out the truths of God’s Word.
Rabbi Harold S. Cushner caught the attention of the reading public with his book, When Bad Things Happen to Good People. When bad things happen to otherwise seemingly “good people,” the first thought that comes to mind is, “If there is a God, then what kind of a God is He to allow this to happen? Isn’t God big enough to do something about the ‘bad things’?”
My wife and I have known sorrow and weeping. We stood clinging to each other outside the door of the Intensive Care Ward as the time for her father’s death drew near. We, too, are so very human, and we long to hold onto those who have meant so much to us. We’ve been through the same kinds of things you have. So what I am saying to you in these pages is not without personal feeling and experience.
Yet, I know that God is a good God. Bad things do happen – not because He is an uncaring and an unfeeling “Vast Imbecility,” as Thomas Hardy suggested in his pessimistic poem, “Nature’s Questioning.” We have found Him to be a compassionate Heavenly Father. He is a God who loves and cares and feels for us when we are hurting or sorrowing.
Jesus Also Asked “Why?”
Jesus himself uttered an anguished, “Why?” Both gospel writers Matthew and Mark record His question, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? (see Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34).
With these words He was expressing His loneliness. It was an emotion with which we can all identify. All of us, at some time and possibly at many times, feel lonely and wonder about the “why” of things.
Jesus was hanging on a cross when He cried out His “Why?” Is there any death more cruel and violent than crucifixion? In one sense, I believe Jesus was expressing grief because He was so very human as the God-man. He was showing us that grief is a very natural reaction to death. Remember, Jesus also wept at Lazarus’ grave (see John 11:35). This shows us that we need to express our feelings, ask our questions, and get our thoughts out into the open. Doing so is healthier than putting on a pious pretense and holding back one’s tears and grief.
Even while Jesus was experiencing grief through agony, however, He was showing His concern and love. It was directed toward His mother and her immediate needs. As He hung there dying, He asked John, one of His disciples, to care for her. In a much broader sense, Jesus’ cry of “Why?” was one brief word in a statement that was overshadowed by His love for all mankind.
I heard the story of an angry young man who cried out at a memorial service, “Where was God when this happened?” It seemed there had been a tragic mid-air plane collision and some of his friends had been killed. The minister in charge of that service repeated the young man’s question and then answered it. “God was in the same place He was when cruel men took His only Son and crucified Him on a cross.”
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life (John 3:16).
There is no place on the face of this earth where we can get away from the realities of suffering and death. We live in a fallen universe. It is the old, old story which took place in the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve chose to disobey God and listened instead to the voice of the tempter. Because of that, the effects of the Fall of man are felt in every area of life. It is the conflict of the ages. We may not like it. Some may protest that God is an unfair God, and they may even shake their fists at heaven. But that will never alter the fact that because of our original parents’ disobedience, the whole world forevermore will suffer. The apostle Paul explains it like this:
Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned: (For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law.
Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come. But not as the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many . . .)
For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous . . . But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound: That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 5:12-15,19,20,21).
So while there is conflict here on planet earth – and there always has been – with persecution, affliction, and death ever present, God has provided a “gift of grace” in Christ. We can go through these hard times, these “battles,” and the many devastating things that come our way. Through it all we can trust God, and we can help each other to trust Him more and more. We can be overcomers. Revelation 12:11 shows us how that can be accomplished:
And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death (Revelation 12:11).
We will never know the answers to all the whys that are asked and that have been asked through the ages. But one thing we do know – we, too, can overcome. We are reminded daily that we have not been promised immunity from suffering and death. However, God has promised that we can abound (exist, survive) and be overflowing with hope, joy, and peace. How? By faith believing and trusting that what God says in His Word is true.
And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore 1 take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong (2 Corinthians 12:9,10).
God has promised to provide strength for us in our times of weakness – His strength through the “blood of the Lamb.” His Son.
FROM THE HEART OF DR. REXELLA VAN IMPE
Let Me Cry!
I’ve been doing some crying, lately.
A while back I noticed that a young waitress who often serves Jack and me when we go out to eat seemed unusually quiet and withdrawn and there was a strain on her countenance. When I went to wash my hands in the ladies room, I had a chance to pull her aside and ask if something was wrong. Tears spilled down her cheeks as she told me her husband had just asked her for a divorce.
Imagine the pain of having your husband or wife look you in the eye and say, “I don’t love you anymore-I want out of this marriage.” I can’t even begin to comprehend the shock, sorrow, and grief one would feel in such a situation.
I didn’t know what to say to this poor girl -but I put my arms around her and comforted her the only way I knew how…with my tears.
Also in recent months, I have felt an increased burden for my unsaved friends and loved ones. Bible prophecy makes it so clear that time on this old earth is running out fast and that surely Jesus is coming soon…perhaps today! So I have been praying…and weeping …for my unsaved loved ones. It is the only way I know to minister to them!
What is a tear?
The great preacher, T. DeWitt Talmage, once wrote, “Help me explain a tear. A chemist will tell you that it is made up of salt and lime and other component parts; but he misses the chief ingredients-the acid of a soured life, the viperine sting of a bitter memory, the fragments of a broken heart. I will tell you what a tear is: it is agony in solution.”
These are powerful, moving words. And perhaps all of us have either witnessed or personally experienced the truth Talmage sought to convey.
But I suggest to you that there is more to tears than sadness, sorrow, regret, and pain. Tears can be a release from stress and anxiety, a vent for frustration, a safety valve for overpowering emotions. Tears can be the most sincere expression of compassion and love. And just as raindrops wash the smoke, smog, and impurities from the atmosphere, so tears can wash away the stains of bitterness and disappointment from our souls.
A time to weep
As Solomon, perhaps the wisest man who ever lived, once declared, To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven…A time to weep, and a time to laugh (Ecclesiastes 3:1,4).
We live in a time when everyone wants to laugh all the time, but no one is willing to weep. And if someone does cry, it makes people really uncomfortable. Children are hushed and told not to cry. Men are taught that tears don’t go with a macho image…that only sissies cry. And women who weep at some sadness or loss are interrupted and advised to wipe their eyes and get control of themselves.
No! No! No! Let me cry. It’s all right to cry. I need to cry. In fact, one of my goals is to minister to those who are weeping. I want to do all I can, to say what I can…and when there are no deeds or words that can help, to weep with them.
Perhaps my resolution is best expressed in the words of the late Bob Pierce in his moving book, Let My Heart Be Broken With the Things That Break the Heart of God.
When Jesus wept, His tears were for others. Both Matthew and Luke describe how He wept over the city of Jerusalem for those who would not hear and accept the Truth! We, too, should weep for others.
Weep over souls
Should we be less concerned over lost souls than our Saviour? Why are we not crying and praying for the lost to be saved before it is eternally too late?
I’ve seen people moved to tears by the plight of fictional characters in a paperback book. A melodramatic film may jokingly be described as a “two-hanky” movie, and it’s perfectly all right. But the same people who get involved and empathize with artificial stories can see real live people around them dying and slipping into eternity without God and never feel a twinge or shed a tear.
I wonder-if the unsaved friends and loved ones I’m praying for don’t seem to be any closer to the Lord than when I first started, could it be because I haven’t shed any tears for them? The Bible says, They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him (Psalm 126:5, 6).
Weep over sin
Sometimes I can hardly watch the news on television or read the daily paper without crying. My heart breaks at what is going on in our nation and the world today. There is such evil and perversion, such wickedness and violence. How long will God allow men’s hearts to be filled with such deliberate, willful sin before calling them to judgment?
I believe we are to weep over sin, whether our own, our family’s, or our nation’s.
The Apostle Paul wrote, For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation (2 Corinthians 7:10).
I am reminded of how Peter, after denying the Lord during the awful hours before the Crucifixion, went out, and wept bitterly (Matthew 26:75). Those tears of repentance led to his being forgiven and restored.
Weep over sorrow
Just as there is a time to weep over souls and a time to weep over sin, there is also a time to weep over sorrow. Do you remember when Mary and Martha showed the Lord the tomb where their brother Lazarus was buried? The Bible says, Jesus wept (John 11:35).
There is a time for sorrow… and when it comes, tears are appropriate. Paul instructed, Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep (Romans 12:15).
Notice that the verse did not say to laugh with those who are laughing and to tell those who are crying to stop and cheer up. No, it says to cry with those who are crying! That means to share their sorrow-to get down under the burden with them. And when you share their tears-when all you can do is cry with them-you’ll find it is a tremendously effective way to minister your compassion and love.
I once interviewed a pastor who had suffered the traumatic loss of his little son. This man told me that in the midst of his grieving, the people of his church did not understand or know how to weep with him. They would come to him and say, “Pastor, why are you crying? Don’t you have any faith?”
After a while this minister wrote a book about what he had learned during his sorrowful experience. He called it, Jonathan, You Left Too Soon. But the main lesson I learned from his experience was that in the day of sorrow, it’s okay to weep. In fact, for most people, it’s a really good way to cope with loss and grief and begin to heal the broken heart and crushed emotions. Tears can be tremendously therapeutic.
I know I have been made acutely aware of the value of tears. And I pray that God will make me willing to weep with those who weep, whether they cry tears of pain, heartache, sorrow…or joy! I encourage you to consider whether God can also use you in a ministry of tears.
Remember, though, that our tears will not -cannot-last long. The psalmist sang, Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning (Psalm 30:5).
I’m here to tell you that a great morning is coming soon, when we will all be in the presence of the Lord. Oh, what a glorious promise and steadfast hope! For on that glad day, God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away (Revelation 21:4).
No wonder Jesus said, Blessed are ye that weep now: for ye shall laugh (Luke 6:21).
CHANGED LIVES-one at a time
Dear Dr. Jack and Rosella,
God bless you and only ETERNITY will be able to unveil the magnitude of your work and warning bells you have been ringing to those sleeping in the battle ground, keep on ringing the warning Bells because many are rising from deep slumber daily and only in Eternity you will see what God did through you, I have been watching your program for 10 years now and I was amongst the sleeping who God raised from deep slumber and am running this RACE with my Eyes on the Bright Blue SKY waiting and looking for the Return of My King JESUS. I reside in Dublin Ireland with my husband and three children.
Dear DR. Jack Van Impe
I want to say, thank you for your message of hope entitled “The Birth of the Eternal God”. I love the way you laid it out so simply and didn’t pull any punches. I love the way the LORD has enlightened you to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Thank you and may the LORD bless thee and keep thee,
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