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Tsunamis, Mes Amis, They Speak!
It is not delicate, like a surgical operation; neither is sin, but rather an abuse of truth, peace and design, dignity and love.
A tsunami explosion is not limited to the especially wicked, since as Jesus showed in Luke 13, when discussing a wall which fell on some - a remarkable 'coincidence', it was NOT that they were sinners above others, but that IF you do not know the Lord, repenting and following your Maker in His sure covenant and salvation, then you too are apt for, liable to and in train for just such actions.
This is not scare tactics, any more than is your doctor's advice that if you do not wear a hat, your risk of cancer increases in the sun. It may seem scary, and cancer is not conducive to longevity or quiescence ... but the point is to do something about it.
It is also not to judge those who have already suffered, as if their peculiar sin brought it on. Like the sun on the just and the unjust, as in the Sermon on the Mount, so is suffering freely distributed. To be sure, there are exclusions for this or that purpose, and in kindness or plan, but there is no mathematical correlation between amount of suffering and amount of sin. God has many purposes, and it is simplistic to seek such a quantitative correlation, as we shall see. In the meantime, why IS there suffering ?
WHY ? It is not that it is a pleasure to the goodness of God to bring pain. It is rather than He has endured in Christ such pain as man cannot know; for the pain of being perfectly pure, omniscient and almighty, deigning to come to flesh at all, offering Himself in love, and then being crucified: this is just a beginning for Jesus the Christ. In addition, He had to bear, as sinless and knowing the horrible folly of sin, the guilt which is its product, though He called for no such thing in Himself. This is the work of mercy and the majestic task of His love and that of the Father who sent Him so to suffer. Guilt must be purged or applied; and He purges it where the purgation is not denied ... by the one to be purged!
Thus, it is not that man suffers, and God keeps free of such a thing. It is far from this.
It is the opposite indeed in one aspect. Man ASKS for pain and suffering by evil, and while both Christ and sinners suffered, He did not ask for it in terms of retribution, but only in terms of serving, saving sacrifice. By this, He was made sin for us who so receive Him (II Corinthians 5:17-21), and so are healed of its sovereignty (Isaiah 53:1-6). As to those who do NOT SO RECEIVE HIM, who reject Him and His words, what difference in the end of it all does it make, whether these are working on the pride of autonomy and self-reliance that any good God MUST recognise their merits, or any other self-made and wilful folly of presumption, or are indulging in the sensualities of flesh or the corruption of amassing wealth by devious enterprises!
Sin has differences, but at last it has one common feature: it will not abide the word and will of the self-revealing God, who has not abandoned His world to such pangs, but delivered the Gospel for access, and receives rejections for non-remission.
Is this ground for protest ? I think not. Is it ground for thought, reflection, comprehension ? Yes it is; and is it also ground for repentance ? Assuredly, for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 6:23). Unless you repent, said Christ, you will ALL LIKEWISE PERISH. The means may be this or that in the short run, but in the long run, as with tyres, the perishing has but one result. It is of course very painful when you are not tyres, or that sort of thing.
What is the point then of pain ? It has many points, like a diamond. It can rebuke the foolish, warn you of error (as when you scrub your teeth too hard, and pain advises you to be more gentle or you will lacerate your mouth), indicate need (as when pain in the abdomen is preferable to dying of peritonitis before you take remedial action), lead to prayer (which may redirect some of your actions in which you were either too careless or in need of alteration, as when a car is moving towards a light pole, while the driver is too taken up with the passion of some music to which he is listening on the car radio).
It can be moral pain, leading to aspiration for holiness, spiritual pain leading to desire for much character change into Christ's blessed mould, or it can be mental pain, because you have not thought out some item, element or issue, and need not to repose in carelessness, but to be zealous, conscientious and to use the God-given gift of thought more ardently, acutely or resolutely.
Pain can seem horrific, and can be so; but it is only unbearable when there is no redress. Recently, the author had a melanoma on the ear, and because one's ears are very close to one's head, it was not seen until it was some 6 by 7 mm. in size, a real threat to the system. There was no pain in the operation. The melanoma itself was potentially deadly, fatal, by giving no warning. Sight did not see it, hidden near the head; pain did not warn of it, since it was merely maturing. Ear did not hear of it, since it was merely its repository.
Pain did come quite some time after the operation which took about one hour of cutting, sewing and so on. By then action had been taken; but if it had lingered, that growth ...
What then ? When, in the great and splendid mercies of the all-seeing God, the thing was discovered in time, it was excised and sent to the laboratory to confirm that it was malignant melanoma. The very next day after the advice reached me, found me shot to a Professor specialising in melanoma, who was keen on the next operation, to remove the 'margin' of 1 cm all around the former growth, and this was hastened to come three or four days later. Mercifully there was no residual melanoma found in this margin. Caution required its being cut however.
The second and larger operation was great fun since it was merely a case of local anaesthetic, and no pain was felt. One could hear the movement of the surgeon, now lifting skin from its base, to allow it to recover the excised area, now stitching, with the ear held back to allow ease of movement. The sounds were rather like those of the ocean roaring, with the ear in that position. It was an interesting exercise to imagine which phase of the operation was occurring at any given moment.
It was fun ? But why ? Not merely because of its intrinsic interest, but because I WAS BEING DELIVERED. It is fun to be delivered, to find the Father in heaven acting on earth with zeal and address to cover one's little trouble or problem. It is fun to see the marvel of His wisdom and the expertness of His care, because love has a lovely side, a sense of being constitutively involved with the One who is great. When it was over, there was no pain until about 7 hours later, and then it was substantial, but by no means unbearable. It kept up that level for some 12 hours, and then stopped, rather abruptly. One does not like in such a case to take a pain reliever, since it seems wiser to watch what is happening, to monitor it in case anything goes wrong, as might be attested by an increase or variation in the pain. It kept almost completely constant however, almost as if set on a dial.
Then it stopped, and did not return, except for an occasional twinge. The pain was good in this too, that it signalled the NEED to be careful of ears, of the body in its exposure to sun, and to WATCH things that might be omitted, since the very SMALL site of 6 millimetres could be deadly. How blessed was that pain! It reminded one that little things matter, that EVERY PART of one's spiritual, mental and moral life, one's personal inter-relationship in the body corporate of Christ is IMPORTANT, and must be watched.
I praise the Lord for this experience of His buoyant instruction and robust care, useful reminders and glorious deliverance. It had an immediately valuable effect. At once the point of being enabled to live longer arose. What was it that the God of all goodness desired of me in this time, now added on ? It was not that such a question did not arise always, since one has often and not without relish, faced such question, since being converted; but now it had an added mordancy and urgency. It was good, stimulating and delightful to be so challenged, and it included the concept that one should continue to write, if perhaps not at the present rate which has led to 20 new volumes in the past year. Such orientative provisions are also delightful. The simple fact is that the Lord is good, but must be known. Pain in this case augmented the awareness of His care, concern and guidance. It is good to draw near to God.
Then again, pain, which may seem a grating thing, can remind one of one's lowly estate. It is not that one does not matter; but it is only because of the love of God that one does. One is vulnerable, and where omissions have led to the pain, one needs to learn wisdom, so that the fulness of life may be enjoyed to the glory of God who made it. It is an excellent antidote to careless pride or notions, however unconscious in the physiognomy of one's life, of autonomy. It reminds one that it is indeed true that one should not say, I WILL GO HERE OR THERE! but, Lord willing I will do so.
Yet you may ask, What of the pain which has no such remedy ? Yes, Corrie ten Boom, that remarkable lady of unction and grace whose time in German prison camps was followed by decades of Gospel preaching, with intense concentration on forgiveness of EACH OTHER, she had some years when she could scarcely move, after one of the most remarkable world tours in evangelistic and blessed fellowship with many. In those years, however, she contrived to bring blessings to others, if not as before, yet indeed. Her loving looks from her eyes as people came to visit her, came from a prayerful heart and were a help to many. This was so even when she could not speak. There is, in weakness sometimes, a sense of such patience and such a peaceful set of a loving spirit that it speaks without words! God uses many means in the love of His people, to bring them, to touch them and to awaken.
When we are weak, then we are strong; and pain is one form of weakness. HOW, you may ask, however are we weak when we are strong ? (II Corinthians 12:7-10). It can occur in this way. When you realise your vulnerability, your susceptibility to this or that fault, and your need of acute divine grace to let you grow in the likeness of Christ, that blessed One, then it is a safer thing to be so: for with the constant aspiration for His nearness and leading, formative power on one's life, there is a READINESS to RECEIVE.
Anyone who has taught may well know what this means! It signifies a vastly increased learning capacity. The bright eyed hope and the ready spirited seeking on the part of a student can transform a dull situation of drab discourse into a vivid and vital time of growth, knowledge and even interchange, leading to new lights and reflections of the glory of God, stimulating to all, delightful in some cases because of the mutual discoveries of His world and ways, His creation and His composition of things.
Let us see these verses from Paul's inspired writings.
"And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations,
a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me,
lest I be exalted above measure.
"Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me.
And He said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.'
"Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities,
that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
"Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions,
in distresses, for Christís sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong."
Yes, as you see here, pain can be an antidote to pride, not mere foolish pride and vanity, but that sort of workman's pride which can move so readily from joy in accomplishment, to undue awareness of whose accomplishment it is! Paul was endued and endowed with the most remarkable gifts, both intellectually and spiritually. He could heal, and did so in astonishing ways, could be bitten by a viper and shake it off, could regulate things in churches with wisdom, compassion and firmness (the last as in II Corinthians 13:2-7), with a mellow mix, not the product of arrogance but of ardent desire for good.
The Lord saw fit to give him a balance wheel, a check. It seems to have been some sort of eye trouble in view of Galatians 4:15,
"Where now is that blessedness of yours? Indeed, I can testify to you that, if it had been possible, you would have torn out your eyes and given them to me.
So now have I become your enemy by telling you the truth?"
You see there various sorts of pain.
Paul is obviously one in need in the eye level,
and that can be painful. Secondly, he is pained because the Galatians
are longing to mix works with grace in the way of salvation, as a basis,
but these, they are mere additives, like hair oil. They help, but they do not endue you with life!
(cf. Titus 3:4-7), and indeed where you are mixed up on this,
both pride of accomplishment (must be good and fine if it makes all the difference
between heaven and hell, in the resultant, on that heresy!)
and pride of life have ample scope to enter your life.
Thirdly, he is pained because they are falling from that blessed condition,
some of them at least, so that they need the equivalent of an anti-cancer operation FAST.
Christian life cannot proceed on such bases, for if ANY other Gospel be preached (Galatians 1), not only is it useless, not a Gospel at all, but the PREACHER IS ACCURSED.
THAT is what the apostle declares.
Thus was he multiply pained in writing to the Galatians.
However, the pain was not the end of the matter, but a processive element; for if they repented, at least many of them, and awakened, then there is the joy of a good result. Thus when the surgeon was working out precisely what part of the flesh about my ear and nearby head to uplift for stretching and resewing, thus avoiding the need to take skin from some other part of my body, there was tension and application, for it had to be JUST RIGHT. When she found it, she exclaimed with pleasure.
AFTER it was all over, and I met her again, a radiant smile was on her face, because the good thing had been wonderfully successful. Pain can be processive, as one takes pains; but it can be an element in creation of good, and shows one that it COSTS in a sinful world, to accomplish good, and so remind one that it cost Christ infinitely to redeem FROM sin; and this helps realism, sobriety and gratitude.
What of the pain, however, which despite its best
does not lead to success and deliverance ?
There was a case of a young doctor whose cancer became systemic and led to his death after some years. This was perhaps the saddest case one has ever seen in the field of medicine, in view of the prodigious efforts vainly made for his healing. NOT ALL are to be healed immediately in all cases, as you see so clearly in the instance of Epaphroditus in II Timothy 4:25, and the outcome cannot simply be predicted as in mathematics. Obviously that was serious and prolonged sickness, since there were phases and there was information of his sickness reaching the church at Philippi, far off; and this caused concern.
Indeed, in Philippians 2:25-27, we find that he was sick "almost to death" and had been "distressed" at the news of his sickness reaching Philippi; but God, says Paul, had mercy on him and on the apostle to whom he ministered, so it appears sure it was a long bout of sickness, and not at all the sort of thing Christ did when Peter's wife's mother was quickly healed of fever and served them then!
Job shows that sickness can be prolonged; for it is simply this, that God may be using the sickness for instruction either to the one sick, to his or her companions or both! Such was the case with Job (cf. SMR pp. 95ff., and TRIALS, TESTS and TRIUMPHS in TEMPTATION with JOB for FOCUS).
What however of the case where sickness in fact leads to death ? In that of Corrie ten Boom, she did die at the end of some years in bed, being visited by many while she could not even speak to them, though many seemed to feel very blessed at the time with here. Here you need to recall the DECADES of active service gloriously and triumphantly provided, after her release from the prison camp, apparently through a clerical error, which almost certainly saved her life! This preceded her terminal illness. The Lord gives and the Lord takes away, as Job observed, when he lost his children and wealth. He was to lose his wife's respect too, it seems, as she suggested he should curse God and die!
He did not take this course ... but the suffering was prolonged, sustained, had phases and was acute as he was tortured by false accusation coming 'with the best intentions' from his judgmental friends. It is true that in the end they were rebuked, he had to pray for them, but he also had to endure much for long. They sat for 7 days, just at the beginning, in amazement at his fallen condition (spiritually), and then tried to remedy it (spiritually and morally) on the basis of certain presuppositions which they falsely made.
Job in this had tremors and errors, but came forth in faith that was truly beautiful in the midst of a suffering schedule which was moral, spiritual and physical, demeaning and divesting him of his aura of importance and purity. Patient endurance gets great acclaim through his life, and his errors which were incidental but not unimportant, these the more show the acuteness of his suffering. Such was also the case with the young doctor mentioned above, whose resilience, patience, hopefulness and determination were a poem of beauty, and a testament of courage. Living long is not so wonderful on this earth, when it means evils and errors; and going early is not always a loss, for it may be like bugles which shout their praise (cf. Isaiah 57:1ff.).
Let us however revert to the sufferings of Job, deliberately divinely intended and resolved, and for a specific purpose.
For WHAT did they come! It was, as we see in Job Ch. 1, to show to one and to all (and to the devil who, being a spirit, can infect MANY persons) that God can be LOVED FOR HIS OWN SAKE, and not for reward! This is one of the most important of all lessons. LOVE does not look for reward because of its very nature. It is intrinsic, and you delight in the one loved because of what is elemental, and not derivative, and seek the good of that one.
This is the case of suffering for a good purpose, which if disclosed to the one suffering, would normally be expected in the case at least of the Christian, to provide his or her assent. We seek the good and we suffer for it; so what is new! If we suffer, we do not always KNOW the good. Thus in providing these 92 volumes on the Web, this author does not precisely KNOW how many are saved, are reinforced, are strengthened, are blessed, but by faith one does it, being so led in the love of Christ. If one KNEW all these things, there would be no opportunity for FAITH in them, and since without faith you cannot even please God, there is value in such situations.
In this life, FAITH is the sine qua non, the indispensable, and suffering can thus be a key to its action. If it is not always so, it is yet within the scope of the actualities involved.
Yet again, someone might ask, What of the case where neither in time nor in eternity is there a good result, where after much suffering, someone dies with full knowledge of the Gospel, yet in hatred of God, for example ? What is the good of that ? a person might ask.
What is the good of the will which refuses ? this is the anterior question. The good of that is near: it is based on the fact that without will, without liberty, LOVE CANNOT BE. If you are made to do what you do, it is not you as a person, but your person in a constrained situation which is acting, so that the personal is to that extent in abeyance. Force and love are incompatibles, and that is one of the most horrendous features of that wicked and devastating thing, rape!
Thus since liberty has love as an outcome, that may or may not occur, then love needs it, and since God is love, and the capacity to love is the very height of humanity, granted there be a knowledge of the truth, then such will is with good reason. Hence wilfulness, the misuse of will, is a necessary option. If it were excluded, there would be no liberty, hence no love.
Why then should there be suffering in one who wilfully rejects God - not as the ONLY recipient type, but for this type taken apart, in particular ? Why should there not ? If it is good to have a reasonable world in which there is cause and effect, so that nature and truth and consequence and reality might the better be realised, then the impact of evil cannot be excluded. If you ask for it, you may get it. Indeed, the mercy of God may deliver you time and again; but there is the question of what God deems fitting. Even a teacher does not endlessly continue to pander to the foolish child, and if he did, it would merely make him worse. There is a place for allowing the DUE RESULT of one's sins to occur.
If it does, there may well be pain, since the body and mind, spirit and soul are not made for sinful living, but for spiritual life.
If you use your car as a lawnmower, it will adorn neither the car nor the lawn. It is a painful error!
Why then allow, even in this most corrupt case, suffering to continue ? Is it not enough that it happen, and could it not as with the guillotine, be all over and dispensed with ?
Yes, it could, but as we all should know, it is when the due results of error accrue and accumulate that its nature can the more resolutely and imperviously be presented. Even as it is, man seems all but hell-bent on ignoring the creation in many of his institutions, misteaching the young, and reaching now for this and now for that useless nostrum, be it communism or New Age, which hands no good, but only delusion (cf. SMR pp. 867ff., TMR Ch. 8, Beauty for Ashes Ch. 3, Delusive Drift or Divine Dynamic Ch. 3).
If there were no continuing consequences, the race instead of being embattled with pride and folly, might be sunk almost at once. It is the considerable force and continuity of things which, divine mercy apart (as is the request implicit in rejecting the Gospel of the only Saviour, Jesus Christ), helps many to awaken to a reality which not only is in many ways intrinsically painful, because of its folly (as in Proverbs 1), but has been divested of that condition as chronic, by the Cross of Christ (cf. Galatians 3).
Pain and suffering continue as sin does; and while their distribution does NOT indicate the intensity of sin in this or that place, as Christ indicated and we saw above from His lips, its continuation DOES show the continuity of sin as such in our race, where one affects and sometimes infects another.
In fact, God is on record that such things as these massive oceanic disturbances were to come as ONE REMINDER that Christ is TO COME also (SMR Ch. 8, Luke 21:25-26); and this time, having been a sacrifice, He comes to reign as in Psalm 2, Isaiah 11, Psalm 72, II Thessalonians 1, Revelation 19.
Some seem to think that meekness equals weakness, but it is not so. This too is something the world is reminded of, when it sees massive inundations such as have just occurred in India, Sumatra, Thailand, deaths resulting even as far off as Africa.
It is well to ponder this, since in Revelation as in Daniel 12 and Matthew 24, Luke 21, it is clear that there is to be FAR MORE limited but drastic reduction in order to bring to man the folly of unrepentance about REALITY. You cannot be God, who is without beginning; it is necessary to become either one of His children by faith in the vicarious sacrifice and bodily resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ, who came to rescue you, or else to assert yourself and live by your own derivative wits. It is time to consider well.
There is nothing NECESSARY in order; and man loves to ignore this reality and try to find reasons outside rationality for a world where order, whether in the brilliant DNA of the body, its healing properties (such as constantly delight this author, including the recent episode in which one could watch it in amazement), or in the disposition of organic molecules with their delightfully ingenious systems. However the reason for order is not its absence, but the presence of what induces it; and when it is there, it is not a matter of saying that its existence is the reason for it. In ANYTHING, you need the reason, and the reason for such order is the BEING ABLE TO IMPOSE AND IMPEL IT.
Thus even when foggy thought leads man in his rebellion - and let's face it, rebellion is not an infant tantrum but a mature disease of the heart, making myocardial infarction a mere nothing by comparison - then the occasional release of that order, as in cancer or tsunamis, relative to the particular and highly precise needs of man, can be therapeutic.
In what can it be therapeutic ? In this, that man is made to become aware of what with ardent dismissiveness he ignores, of the fact that order in the intensively organised cosmos is a gift of grace, and its scarifying is an indication of what is being assumed amiss. Try then, you who think the islands and the warm climates bliss, try this for your paradise. Is it not God that you need, and if you are thinking of finding some enclave without Him, then think again.
The same sort of thing can occur when the rich suddenly become bankrupt, and sometimes only then BEGIN to think.
It is not that thought is the summum bonum, but that it may be required in the unrepentant to seize their souls and bring them out of proud disdain for reality, into the arena of reality itself, before it is too late, and they become a sort of spiritual scum. This phrase is used advisedly also; and it is in the hope it may help some to realise their prospects, who reject the mercy of God, in the only place where it is reasonably attested, the Bible and in its Christ. Which Christ ? it is the Lord's Christ (Luke 2:26), who died as predicted for salvation from sin in the area of 30 A.D. (cf. Highway of Holiness Ch. 4).
He did not come for nothing; He did not die because the case was slight, but absolute, intolerable and a thing love would travel far to overcome, even showing in His own life in the flesh, its power to overcome death itself, yes physically and really, as real as cancer.
What is Christ's reference to Gehenna, if not to the rubbish dump ? and what happens in this but a slow devitalisation, or de-specification, and what is the attitude to the dump ? It is one of EVERLASTING CONTEMPT (Daniel 12). What however is the attitude to redeemed soul ? It is one of EVERLASTING LIFE. Life is with God only; and without it, it is a matter of speciation of death, everlasting destruction.
Better to hear of it than face it! Is this not so ? Is this not what love does, in seeking deliverance for those in peril on the high seas of life, as were the crew of the yacht in the recent Sydney to Hobart race, which needed to be rescued! If they had disdained the rescue, and then drowned, it would have resembled the case of those who, despite natural 'disasters' like that of the recent tsunami, are more concerned to complain to God than to learn a necessary lesson in a world which is lessening its interest in huge degree, turning more and more either to synthetic substitutes for the Christian faith, in combination religions, or in frankly unspiritual globalisms of this kind and that, as if size cured error (cf. News 121, 122, Outrageous Outages ... Chs. 3, 5, Red Heart ... Ch. 6, Divine Drama ... Ch. 10, News 82).
If you err on a vast scale, like some engineer who builds a new topography for an entire region, is your error the less because its size is so vast ? On the contrary, in that case the error is far worse, since you dared to make it on such a scale, or to use talents you do not have, to construct amiss!
As this world tries every ludicrous nostrum for its survival, it forgets that this is not the need; it is REVIVAL and for that, it is better to have some devastation than entire destruction. Christ made it clear that entire destruction is precisely what would have come to the whole human race, UNLESS He should intervene as the end of this appalling Age of rebellion comes! (Matthew 24:21-22). He thus intervenes, and saves some.
Are you one ?
That is the question; and there are billions of such questions, since there are billions of people on this earth. It is a question which demands an answer, as does cancer on one's ear. If you act, well; if not, then what is it that you seek ?
There are more treatments, over the past years, of the matter of seas and oceans in commotion, and destructive array, in terms of the relevant prophecies. For these see the following:
The Pitter-Patter of Prophetic Feet Ch. † 6,
Repent or Perish Ch. † 6,
Barbs, Arrows and Balms, 10 cf. SMR pp. 674ff.;
What is the Chaff to the Wheat Ch. 5 .