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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Providence of God in the Midst of Suffering

Today we are going to talk about suffering and the providence of God. What does the Bible say about God’s providence?

So many people worry, especially in economically hard times, that their financial life is falling apart and some unfortunately despair and take drastic measures to relieve themselves of these burdens.

Yet our Heavenly Father knows exactly what we are going through and has foreseen it from the beginning of time. Not only does God know that bad times will come to us, but he allows them to come. This has made some people question if God is truly all good. Let me assure you that God is the greatest good and that all goodness comes from God.

Let us shed some light God’s goodness by looking at the worst sin ever committed – The crucifixion of Jesus our Savior. Jesus, who is without sin before God and man, lead a life of good works and innocence, oh yes and is the very creator and sustainer of the universe – was tortured and put to death on our behalf so that we – who crucified him with our sins – might go to heaven. We call that terrible, tortuous day – Good Friday. Why? Because out of the worst sin in the world came our salvation.

Now if God can take the worst thing ever and transform it into something amazing, don’t you think he can do the same for you on your worst day?

Listen to what St. Paul says:

Romans 8:28 We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.

He says – for those who love God, that is us – God makes all things work for good.

Like Joseph in the Old Testament

Now Joseph in the Old Testament was hated by his brothers, threatened to be killed by them, was sold into slavery, and then falsely accused of attacking the wife of his boss, and put in prison. Now is anyone is having a rough time, it is Joseph.

Yet all of this suffering leads ultimately to his exaltation to the right hand of Pharaoh, and not only to the salvation of his family, but all of Egypt and beyond.

Now we can imagine the range of emotions that he would have had throughout this ordeal, but had he known where this would lead – meaning his exaltation, wouldn’t it be possible to find even joy in all of his sufferings.

Shouldn’t we who have faith in God’s goodness have this attitude?

Listen to what he says to his brothers when he finally confronts them. The scene is in Egypt and his brothers are before him and don’t recognize his, thinking he has died. Joseph finally reveals himself and his brothers cower in fear thinking he is going to exact his revenge on them, yet he says this:

Genesis 45:4 So Joseph said to his brothers, "Come near to me, I pray you." And they came near. And he said, "I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt.  And now do not be distressed, or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life.  For the famine has been in the land these two years; and there are yet five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors.  So it was not you who sent me here, but God; and he has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt.

Joseph is close enough to God, that he sees God’s plan. Joseph says, “It was not you that sent me here, but God.”

So by his example, we see that we have cause to rejoice in our sufferings, because God who loves us and desires heaven for us, wills all things in our lives to lead us closer to Him even our sufferings.

Jesus also talks about God the Father’s providence.

In the sermon on the mount Jesus says this:

Matthew 6:25 "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat (or drink), or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they? Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span? Why are you anxious about clothes? Learn from the way the wild flowers grow. They do not work or spin. But I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was clothed like one of them. If God so clothes the grass of the field, which grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith? So do not worry and say, 'What are we to eat?' or 'What are we to drink?' or 'What are we to wear?' All these things the pagans seek. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom (of God) and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides. Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil.

Jesus says – Everyone in the world worries about these things, and God knows about it. But trust God, and seek first holiness and the gospel message and God will provide for you not only for today, but for eternity.

Finally though, we must use prudence in all things. I am reminded of the joke about the man who prays to God to be saved from a flood; a boat comes by and those on board exhort the man to get in the boat. The man says – no, no, God will save me. Later he is in the second story window when another boat comes and offers to rescue him and he responds – no, no – the Lord will save me. Into the evening he is on his roof while the waves of the water lap higher and a helicopter comes by and drops a ladder and those on board yell for him t0 climb up. He yells up – no, no, God will save me – well the man drowns, goes to heaven and meets God. He says – God why didn’t you save me? God says – I sent you two boats and a helicopter.

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