Knee and Tsunami

Sherry and I celebrated our 43rd anniversary in very subdued way. We’d planned a trip to Bend to hang out for a time for just us, but that all fell through. Sherry was just in her second day home from the hospital following her second knee replacement. We thought we’d have at least six weeks notice, but there was a cancellation so we took it. That meant a quick change of schedule and arranging for the surgery. We wondered if their surgical gowns would be green since it was St. Patrick’s Day. But all was ordinary. Surgery went well and the pain management was excellent so Sherry came home in good spirits, though the expectation of many weeks of painful recovery is never a good prospect. She has her first physical therapy appointment today and we are looking forward to getting her bruising assessed. There’s a lot more this time and it concerns us.

I had cataract surgery a couple of weeks before Sherry’s surgery. They poked a hole in my cornea, blasted the old cloudy lens with ultrasound, sucked it out, put in a new carefully built plastic lens, smoothed everything out and were done in 8 minutes. Amazing. Now I see very clearly, so much so that I can see the ‘”brown tone” in my other eye which also has a cataract, the doctor says.

Only a few years ago neither of these could have happened and in much of the world they still can’t happen. I just don’t know what to make of that. The advances in health care are astounding but very expensive so it goes with riches. the problems with justice plague my mind, but I have no idea what do about it.

The Japanese earthquake and tsunami also hit close to home. My friend Shigeru and Atsuko Suzuki live there as does the family of one of Donn and Susan’s foreign exchange students. I’ve read John Piper saying the decisive cause is the hand of God (article here) and incline to David Bentley Hart saying this is the work of the enemy whom Jesus came to destroy (article here). In his book, Suffering and the Sovereignty of God, Piper says “the ultimate reason that suffering exists in the universe is so that Christ might display the greatness of the glory of the grace of God by suffering in himself to overcome our suffering. The suffering of the utterly innocent and infinitely holy Son of God in the place of utterly undeserving sinners to bring us to everlasting joy is the great display of the glory of God’s grace that ever was, or ever could be.” I fully agree that the eternal Son of God entered into our suffering, taking its worst to display the glory of His grace and bring us His joy. But I can’t see in Bible that being the reason for suffering. The statement in Bible is that He came to condemn the prince of this world (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11), to destroy the last enemy, death (1 Cor. 15:26; 54-56). I’m more with Hart, believing “For while Christ takes the suffering of his creatures up into his own, it is not because he or they had need of suffering, but because he would not abandon his creatures to the grave. And while we know that the victory over evil and death has been won, we know also that it is a victory yet to come, and that creation therefore, as Paul says, groans in expectation of the glory that will one day be revealed. Until then, the world remains a place of struggle between light and darkness, truth and falsehood, life and death; and, in such a world, our portion is charity.” On that point we all agree: Evil is evil and the Christian response is to help. 

One Response to “Knee and Tsunami”

  1. David says:

    Well I’m glad God has blessed you with enough to provide for such medical help. I think the tension between receiving good from God’s hand, which promotes thankfulness, and the recognition that others all over the country and world are unable to receive such unless God touches them (which is truly what He’s done for us also, but through the mechanism of riches, and knowledge, and His care guiding a man or woman doctor to whom He’s given those necessary skills and whom He upholds with the word of His power) is healthy. It’s the tension of the Gospel: receive unimaginable grace from God, and so become a debtor to all men to proclaim the faithful mercy and grace and judgment of God in word and deed.

    Regarding suffering and the tsunami, I think much of what we believe about this relates to our understanding of God’s relationship to Satan. Piper sees Satan as on a leash, like Luther and others who look to the Job account. But, most of them don’t relate the account in the Gospel where Jesus sees Satan fall from heaven, and interpretively, Satan’s authority broken, when the gospel is proclaimed by the 72 who also cast out demons and heal the sick. Then, after Jesus’ resurrection, Roman’s tells us that God showed Himself just and Justifier because the accusations against those who have faith in Jesus are no longer even hypothetically justified. Before it was seen that God kept His promise in this ultimate conciliatory act, Satan accused and accused those who had faith in God’s act in some future event, but we now have faith that is both backward to a historical event and forward to the future consummation. How all this relates to suffering and the tsunami is that if one sees Satan in the “leash” program, then God permits Satan’s destructive acts because they ultimately bring His own doom to the greater glory of God (as it was in the death and resurrection of Jesus), but if one sees Satan as God’s foe over whom He doesn’t exercise authority and control at all times (by the very fact that God’s power has to uphold Satan because God created him – “all things were created by Him and for Him”), then God has little involvement with such tragedies other than to clean up the mess.

    View 1 – Tsunami permitted to test the hearts of men and reveal greater glory, because God had a greater mind in purpose for the wickedness which Satan plots.

    View 2 – Tsunami perpetrated wickedly by the devil to crush men’s lives, but God is on the way to fix what was wrought.

    View 1 recognizes that God had the power to prevent the matter and the wisdom to know which would be better: prevention or allowance, and He chose allowance. View 2 doesn’t seem to permit God’s omnipotence or omniscience and wisdom. View 1 says that God is unlimitedly involved in all the affairs of this creation, and He isn’t JUST waiting for some future time to show up. Jesus reigns, even now. If God would send disasters to crush unbelievers in the midst of His people yesterday who broke faith with Him (such as Korah), why wouldn’t He do it now? It is a fair question contrary to what Hart said. Some might say, “well that’s supposing that the Japanese were breaking faith with God, is it not?” IT SURE IS! A response you get back might be, “well that’s judgmental, you don’t know their hearts.” You know what, you’re right, I don’t know their hearts, except that I do know that God isn’t unjust. I know that the righteous won’t see corruption. I know that God will protect the righteous and watch over their way. But, I know that no man seeks God, not even one. I know enough to see that God’s mercy is what keeps us alive, not our merit. In that case, I can humbly look at such events and say, “O my God, my God, how great You are and how unworthy we are to know Your mercy!” Please draw my people to Yourself. We are an unclean people who don’t deserve to live, but rather to have Your judgment fall on us also. Let us not be foolish in not taking this great calamity to heart. You are just in all your doings, and Your love endures forever. Surely this is more than ever, since the pleas after WWII to send our missionaries who can provide the only hope to the many lost sheep and encourage the flock that persists.

    View 1 shows us that we aren’t as righteous as we might think, and while sympathy goes a long way in public relations, it doesn’t save souls or build up the Body when it’s not based on truth. Only the truth will set men free. And the truth is that God is justified in all His works, and that includes creating an Enemy to crush, and permitting that enemy who God can crush at any moment, but does so when and where and how He determines, to exist and work woe in the lives of men on this earth as they disobey God’s commandments and do not abide in Christ. So did God send the calamity or did Satan? Surely sin receives its reward, and so is the “bad” part the judgment or the sin which brought it? Is God bad because He permits sinners to live or because He slays them with a sword? Again, God’s justice is good. It’s impossible to come before God in humility and stricken of heart if we don’t acknowledge this. Otherwise, how can we repent?

    The deeper reason for suffering in the life of Christ and His people is such reveals the strength of God’s love – both for us and through us: “Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him” (Hebrews 5:8-9 ESV). We, too, learn obedience, which is to love God (“If you love me, you will keep my commandments” – John 14:15), through suffering.

    As it is, this world, which does include suffering, is the best of all possible worlds to lead us into the best of all possible worlds. It would have to be labeled a deficiency in God’s will if it were not, and His will is good, acceptable, and perfect.

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