Listen: Chris Witts presents Morning Devotions.
I’m fairly sure no-one likes to suffer. I certainly don’t. I could think of nothing worse than being in pain day and night. And there are, of course, people who do have this kind of pain.
Christian apologist and author Lee Strobel, in doing research for his book The Case for Faith, once asked the Barna Group researchers and pollsters to conduct a survey to determine the one question most people would want to ask God if given the opportunity.
By far, the number one question that people wanted to ask God is, Why does God allow pain and suffering in this world?‘ Now, that’s a huge question. It really is a tough theological question which I’ll leave to my theologian friends.
Love Involves a Choice
But I was very interested in reading something Malcolm Muggeridge said some years ago. He was one of Britain’s most famous journalists, a best-selling author, and producer of some of the best television programs of the 20th century. People in the UK instantly knew his name. In later life he embraced Christianity saying life is sacred—a gift from God. In 1969 he wrote the best-seller Jesus Rediscovered and he died an old man in 1990. His was a remarkable life. But there was one observation he made about life I’m especially interested in today.
In trying to describe how his life changed and his outlook developed in love for God, he said the greatest advances came, not in the happy times, but through suffering. I think he meant that when we learn to persevere and hold in spite of suffering, we become more like Jesus Christ.
Real love must involve a choice.
God is not the author of pain or evil or death—where did they come from? Well, God decided to give human beings free will, which is necessary if we are to be able to express love to God and to each other. If you pull the string on a Barbie doll and it says, I love you, that doesn’t mean anything because it’s been programmed to say it. Real love must involve a choice. Unfortunately, we humans have abused our free will by rejecting God and walking away from him.
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Many people in our city are suffering now. And honestly, I cannot tell you why beyond the fact that we live in a broken world, with broken people, who have broken bodies, and who do broken things. Belief in Jesus does not take away every tragedy—if our life is at all like Christ, we will face pain and hardship, both irritating and devastating. Whether you are a committed Christian or not, I’m sure you know what I’m talking about.
During the Second World War, German paratroopers invaded the island of Crete. When they landed at Maleme, the islanders met them, bearing nothing other than kitchen knives and hay scythes. The consequences of resistance were devastating. The residents of entire villages were lined up and shot.
Overlooking the airstrip today is an institute for peace and understanding founded by a Greek man named Alexander Papaderous. Papaderous was just six years old when the war started. His home village was destroyed and he was imprisoned in a concentration camp. When the war ended, he became convinced his people needed to let go of the hatred the war had unleashed. To help the process, he founded his institute at this place that embodied the horrors and hatreds unleashed by the war.
One day, while taking questions at the end of a lecture, Alexander was asked, What’s the meaning of life? There was nervous laughter in the room. It was such a weighty question. He opened his wallet, took out a small, round mirror and held it up for everyone to see. During the war he was just a small boy when he came across a motorcycle wreck. The motorcycle had belonged to German soldiers. Alexander saw pieces of broken mirrors from the motorcycle lying on the ground. He tried to put them together but couldn’t, so he took the largest piece and scratched it against a stone until its edges were smooth and it was round. He used it as a toy, fascinated by the way he could use it to shine light into holes and crevices. He kept that mirror with him as he grew up, and over time it came to symbolise something very important. It became a metaphor for what he might do with his life.
I can reflect light into the dark places of this world
American author Robert Fulghum says in his book It Was On Fire When I Laid Down On It:
I am a fragment of a mirror whose whole design and shape I do not know. Nevertheless, with what I have I can reflect light into the dark places of this world—into the black places in the hearts of men—and change some things in some people. Perhaps others may see and do likewise. This is what I am about. This is the meaning of my life.
The Broken Mirrors story has been sourced from Reflecting Light Into Dark Places.