Why is there Suffering?

suffering

What a question~ especially with the Paris Attacks on Friday. My husband and I were on a plane back from Florida and the RZIM conference that I mentioned in my post a few weeks ago. I love being on an airplane – not because of the joy of the ride, but it’s mainly because the person next to me is a captive audience the moment they buckle up their seat belt. I wait for that little click and it’s my cue to be on. So, I do what I normally do in any HR interview… I ask them questions about themselves. People love talking about themselves and frankly, I love to listen to them talk. You find out the most amazing things and then there are those things you would’ve rather not known. The same is true for any HR interview – it’s that little question at the end “So, is there anything else you would like to tell us about yourself?”

On an airplane, things are not that formal. I usually start off with “are you going somewhere or coming back home?” I can also gauge how open or closed that person is to talking when they pop their pesky little earbuds back into their ears. But that does not stop me. I am kind of persistent (ask my husband! Ha!). I ask other things like – do you have a dog waiting for you or family?

So, on this flight from Atlanta (connected from Florida) to OKC, I got the middle (which I love!) and Stephen got the aisle (which he loves). This young man got the window. He was in good spirits about it and thanked me for not being 6’5″ and 350 pounds. It was a good start. I asked him the usual stuff and found out that he was an Engineer for NASA… not joke. I was sitting next to a Rocket Scientist. We talked for almost an hour (it was an hour & a half flight) about Engineering (our son, Jacob is in his first semester at OC in Engineering) and how wonderful it was for him to do Thermonuclear Engineering for Space Craft.

About 50 minutes into this conversation, I prayed in my heart “Lord Jesus, I want to share about you, but how do I bring you into Thermodynamics at NASA?” I’m not sure how, but I asked him something along the lines of “you’ve told me about how awesome your job is, but what about your personal life. Where do you find your HOPE?” He paused for a second and said “in people.” The minute he said that, he made a face. I smiled and said “Wow! For a smart guy, that’s not the best, most secure place to put your hope.” He then said that he wasn’t sure if he bought into the “religion stuff.” I think I surprised him by telling him that Jesus didn’t like the religious people of his day either. In fact, he called them “Hypocrites.” Jesus doesn’t want rule-followers. He wants a relationship based on LOVE.

 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean.  In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness. ~Matthew 23:27-28

In fact, in the Matthew passage above, there were 7 woes to the Pharisees (see Matthew 23:13-39). He was surprised to hear me say that. In fact, he told me that no one had ever told him that before. The next thing out of his mouth was the question above “If God is so good, WHY IS THERE SUFFERING?” Having come straight from the RZIM four day conference, I felt prepared to answer that. One of the things a speaker (cannot remember who) said was that when RZIM teaches apologetics (defending the Christian Faith) was to look for the question that was underlying the main question. What the young man really was asking is “Why am I suffering?

Because God doesn’t waste anything, I was able to answer the question based on my scientific education (Bachelors of Science in Microbiology, Minor in Chemistry… don’t even ask me). I said “To answer that question, let’s take a look at what you do for NASA. You calculate and design systems that deal with the impact of heat within a vessel. Even in a perfect laboratory setting, you will have breakdown of matter and heat will escape, right? Well, how is this world any different? The Lord created all things and He deemed them as being “good.” When sin entered the garden, it brought degradation and a breakdown of the perfect system. This world is broken. That’s why your experiments should work out in theory, but when you put them into the physical world, they break down. Man is not a perfect entity. Man is broken. We have to be saved from something outside of us. We cannot be the HOPE. Only Christ can. He was the only one who was perfect and sinless.

In your experiments, you have a standard, right? You even told me that you do validation of data for other vendors who contract with NASA. Where did that standard come from? What if the vendors told you that they would use their own data to tell you if their work was okay, instead of using your standards. Would that work?” He said “No way, that wouldn’t even work!” “So, in the same way, we Christians look outside of the world to find the standards for everything – if we create our own basis for ethics and morality, what is real and what is truth, it will not be a consistent measure. Just as one vendor would tell you one thing, the other will make his data fit his own measure as well.”

I also thought it was a good time to ask the other question. So I asked him point blank “Are you suffering?” He immediately got tears in his eyes and looked away. He told me that his dad died suddenly while he was in his Master’s program. He said that he was not even done with grieving yet and that he chose to ignore it, but it wasn’t going away. He could not come to terms with it. I told him about Jesus, the suffering servant. The only one who could know what this young man was going through. I told him about the Loving Father God, who gave up his son and who knows this young man by name. In fact, I told him that God knows every hair on your head.

He said that he wanted to know more and that Christianity seemed like a set of rules and not as a relationship. At this point, Stephen popped in and asked him if he liked to read. He said that he would be on another 1.5 hour flight after this one. He handed him Ravi Zacharias’s book “Can Man Live without God?” He promised to read it. Before we landed, the three of us held hands and prayed for this sweet young man who was hurt and seeking truth. It was such a joy to be a part of what God is doing all around us. I also have to add a note here: God will use you in a way that is best fitted to you! He will give you the words to share through His Holy Spirit – do not worry. He is the author and perfecter of our faith.

fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. ~Hebrews 12:2

Next time you fly, why don’t you ask for a middle seat? You never know which one of His children God will place beside you.

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