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10 God, Pain, and Pandemics: Student Guide

By April 9, 2022April 11th, 2022No Comments

Let’s Kickoff

  • List some examples of tragedy and suffering in our world. What are the most obvious causes of these examples?
  • Describe a tragedy or some difficult times that someone you know has experienced. 

Let’s Learn- Part 1

I. Preliminary Thoughts about God, Pain, and Pandemics

A. We are surrounded by suffering.

  1. Much comes from NATURE (e.g., hurricanes, tornadoes, floods).
  2. Much comes from HUMAN actions.

B. It’s physical, it’s psychological, and it’s deeply personal.

C. The Bible’s message: “Good news of great joy.” (Luke 2:10)

  1. BUT, God did not promise to eliminate our suffering in this life.
  2. Job: Why do the righteous suffer?
  3. The Old Testament prophets
  4. John the Baptist
  5. Jesus
  6. The apostles of Jesus
  7. The apostle Paul (2 Cor. 11:23-27)

D. Biblical truths about God

  1. He is all powerful.
  2. He is all knowing.
  3. He is all good.

E. Popular perceptions of God

  1. If God is all powerful, he COULD eliminate suffering.
  2. If God is all knowing, he would KNOW HOW to eliminate suffering. 
  3. If God is all good, he would WANT to eliminate suffering.  
  4. Since we have suffering, God must (a) not exist or (b) not be all powerful, all knowing, or all good.

F. Big Idea: Only an all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-good God can offer a satisfactory answer to the problem of pain and suffering.

[PAUSE PART 1]

Let’s Interact 1

Use these items for group discussion. If you can’t cover them all, focus on the ones that seem most relevant or most valuable.

  1. What specific trials or sufferings have you experienced over the last 12 months? Were these mostly caused by nature or by human actions or a mix of both?
  2. When you reflect on the trials and suffering of faithful biblical characters, is this something encouraging or discouraging to you? 
  3. What questions would you like to ask God about the suffering in our world?
  4. If you were God, what would YOU do to solve the problem of suffering? How might your solutions create other problems?

 

II. Why would an all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-good God allow pain and pandemics?

A. God valued HUMAN FREEDOM in order for genuine love to be possible.

  1. Human freedom is necessary for genuine love.
  2. But human freedom also allows devastating consequences.

B. God created NATURAL LAWS so nature operates in an orderly way.

  1. Natural laws make science possible.
  2. Natural laws make “normal” life possible.
  3. Natural laws make moral responsibility possible.
  4. But much suffering comes from nature’s order.
  5. Nature is “FALLEN.” (Gen. 3:16-19; Rom. 8:18-22)

C. God can make GOOD come from our suffering.

  1. Paul: “… for those who love God all things work together for good …” (Rom. 8:28)
  2. Paul in prison: “I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.” (Phil. 1:12-14)
  3. Joseph to his brothers: “… you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.” (Gen. 50:20)

D. We can GROW spiritually from suffering.

  1. We can learn GREATER COMPASSION (e.g., the Good Samaritan in Luke 10).
  2. We can become MORE DEPENDENT ON GOD (Rom. 5:3-5; James 1:2-4; 2 Cor. 1:8-9; Matt. 8:23-27).
  3. Suffering can PROMPT US TO REPENT (Lk. 13:4-5).

III. Why doesn’t God do something?

A. God DID do something!

  1. God’s story in Scripture.
  2. God’s suffering in his Son (Mk. 14:35-36; Matt. 26:39; Lk. 22:42).

B. God IS DOING something!

  1. God’s indwelling Spirit comforts us. 
  2. God comforts others through us (Rom. 5:5b; 2 Cor. 1:3-5; 4:8-9).

C. God WILL DO something!

  1. Compare our present suffering vs. God’s permanent salvation. (Rom. 8:18; 2 Cor. 4:17-18).
  2. A new heaven and earth where God will remove all sin and suffering (Rev. 21:1-4).

IV. God, Suffering, and Satan 

A. We’ve covered several considerations for why an all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-good God would allow pain and suffering.

B. But there’s another consideration: SATAN

  1. Our universe is in a “cosmic conflict.” There is a spiritual war between God and the forces of Satan. And you are in the middle of it. (See Isa. 14:12-15; Lk. 10:17-18; 2 Pet. 2:4; Jude 6; Eph. 2:2; 6:12; Rev. 12:3-17.)
  2. Scripture describes Satan as the “god of this world” (2 Cor. 4:4) who is “the ruler of this world” (Jn. 14:30) and “ruler of the power of the air” (Eph. 2:2). “The whole world lies in the power of the evil one” (1 Jn. 5:19).

C. God is in the process of ultimately and eternally defeating Satan. 

  1. This world, with its suffering, is arguably the best way for God to accomplish that.
  2. Remember Jesus who prayed, “Father, if it be possible, let this cup [of suffering] pass from me” (Matt. 26:39). But it was not possible for God to accomplish his plan without the suffering of his only Son!

D. Because God is all powerful, all knowing, and all good, you can trust him to care for you NOW in your trials and your suffering; and you can trust him to make it all perfect again!

Let’s Interact 2

Use these items for group discussion. If you can’t cover them all, focus on the ones that seem most relevant or most valuable.

  1. Without the God of the Bible, how do you think others try to explain or respond to the problem of pain and suffering?
  2. When you go through times of suffering, do you feel closer to God or further from God? Why? Can you share a specific example?
  3. Do you think it’s  possible that one reason God allows suffering is so that more people will actually turn to Him and be saved? How might this work?
  4. How might God use the pandemic to bring about good eternal outcomes that outweigh the suffering of the pandemic?
  5. Long after you experience some major pain or a pandemic (say 10 years later), how do you think your perception of it will change? Explain. How might this illustrate how we view this life’s suffering from the perspective of eternity?

Let’s Do Something

Here are some ideas to apply this lesson this week. They include activities you can do yourself, with a parent, a friend, or a spiritual mentor. Do as many as you can before the next lesson.

  • Ask your parents about a time when they (or some other family member) had an extremely difficult time with some kind of suffering. How did they handle it? What did they learn from it? 
  • Think of a specific person at your school who has experienced a tragedy or is experiencing one now. Pray specifically for them this week. Find some way to communicate your concern and support for them (e.g., send a PM, post something encouraging to them or about them on social media, send a link to an encouraging song).
  • Tell a youth leader that you want to help someone in your church this week who’s having some tough times. Ask them to help you do that.

Let the Spirit Speak

It is very important to spend time in the Bible to let the Spirit speak. Use the following Scriptures and questions to guide your devotions. Try to complete each one before the next lesson.

  • Read Romans 5:2-5. Paul says that “we rejoice in our sufferings.” What would it look like to rejoice in some of your sufferings? Ask God to help you know how to rejoice in your troubles.
  • Meditate on Romans 8:18 and Hebrews 12:1-3.  When were you able to accomplish something difficult partly because you were looking forward to the reward for doing so? Try to draw some connections between your achievements and the passages in Romans 8 and Hebrews 12.
  • Read James 1:2-4. Take a few minutes to reflect on some struggles you’ve had. In what ways have these struggles helped make you stronger, more faithful, more compassionate, or more dependent upon God? 
  • Read 2 Corinthians 1:3-9. First, thank God for the times he has comforted you. What are they? Then, ask God to help you comfort someone this week—especially someone who is experiencing trials like you’ve had. 

Let’s Go Deeper