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An Answer of Hope for CNN Founder Ted Turner: Why Does God Allow Suffering?

( [email protected] ) Nov 19, 2013 05:04 PM EST
Turner, a man who has been known to mock religion - and especially Christianity - had once dreamed of becoming a missionary. His faith was shaken, however, when his little sister suffered immensely from brain damage for years and eventually died from lupus.
A sketch of Job.

CNN founder Ted Turner mentioned recently that his faith was shaken as a young man when his twelve-year-old sister died from lupus; undoubtedly, numerous others have questioned the goodness of Almighty God when faced with great suffering - yet He remains honorable, full of wisdom, and kind.

Turner, a man who has been known to mock religion - and especially Christianity - had once dreamed of becoming a missionary. His faith was shaken, however, when his little sister suffered immensely from brain damage for years and eventually died from lupus. "It just seemed so unfair, because she hadn't done anything wrong," Turner said - "I couldn't get any answers. Christianity couldn't give me any answers to that. So my faith got shaken somewhat." Tuner, along with many others, seems to have a common misconception about God - namely, that human suffering is necessarily a result of God's wrath.

The book of Job teaches us that though Job suffered immensely - through the death of his children, the deterioration of his health, and extreme financial loss - God was not punishing him for his sin; in fact, the author commends Job for being an upright man. In His sovereign mercy and grace, the Lord had allowed satan to remove Job's loved ones and comforts from him in order that Job might walk more deeply with Him. James 1:2-3 says, "Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness."

The Apostle Paul also suffered immensely, yet counted his affliction naught when compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ, his Savior. He says in 2 Corinthians 4:16-18,

"So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal" (English Standard Version).

Hebrews 12:5-11 reassures those in Christ that God's furnace of affliction is not punitive, but rather is a tool to help make us more like Christ in character and to lead us into deeper joy and intimacy with Him. Christians cling to the sovereignty of God and His promise of Romans 8:28-39 to be with us always and to work all things for our good. As Dallas Pastor Tony Evans says, "Your view of, or response to, the sovereignty of God will determine your ability to cope with the confusion of life. God is in control."

Retired preacher John Piper has much to say on the sovereignty of God and comfort in affliction. The pastor lost his mother to a bus accident in the Middle East, and was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2006.  In a video with Christian artists Shane & Shane, Piper pleads with Christians not to lose heart: "Not only is all your affliction momentary, not only is all your affliction light in comparison to eternity and the glory there, but all of it is totally meaningful. Every millisecond of your pain ... every millisecond of your misery in the path of obedience is producing a peculiar glory you will get because of that."

Whether cancer or criticism, slander or sickness, Piper exhorts, "It wasn't meaningless. It's doing something. It's not meaningless ... Don't look to what is seen. When your Mom dies, when your kid dies, when you've got cancer at 40 ... don't say, 'This is meaningless!' It's not. It's working for you an eternal weight of glory. Therefore - therefore, do not lose heart."

Shane Barnard wrote "Though You Slay Me" after losing his father to a heart attack - in the midst of his family's heartache, the Lord sustained them with incredible peace and joy.

Piper's encouragement for suffering Christians is to focus on these truths day by day. "Preach them to yourself every morning," he says - "Get alone with God and preach His word into your mind until your heart sings with confidence that you are new and cared for."

Though You Slay Me

I come, God, I come
I return to the Lord
The One Who's broken
The One Who's torn me apart
You struck down to bind me up
You say You do it all in love
That I might know You in Your suffering

Though You slay me
Yet I will praise You
Though You take from me
I will bless Your name
Though You ruin me
Still I will worship
Sing a song to the One Who's all I need

My heart and flesh may fail
The earth below give way
But with my eyes, with my eyes I'll see the Lord
Lifted high on that day
Behold, the Lamb that was slain
And I'll know every tear was worth it all

Though You slay me
Yet I will praise You
Though You take from me
I will bless Your name
Though You ruin me
Still I will worship
Sing a song to the One Who's all I need.