Luther in his lectures to the Romans makes an interesting argument about suffering. He says that suffering is the way in which God tests us, but that this testing is for our sake and not for God's. I am assuming the reason is because God will already know how the test will turn out, but the test itself changes us for the better. Here is an interesting quotation:
"Thus (with suffering soon after salvation) man learns to love and worship God unconditionally, ie, to worship him not for the sake of grace and its gifts but solely for his own sake." (160, Rom 5:4)
I find this an interesting and convicting idea. Why do we love God? Do we love him for the sake of his gifts? If cancer is discovered in our bodies tomorrow, will we still love God or will we reject him because he has no longer been good to us. I Luther has a point here that suffering does help purify our love for God, for it is in suffering where we see what it is about God that we love. Do we love God and his being and his character, or do we love God's benefits to us.
Luther also has another thread that is interesting. He says that suffering somehow keeps the flesh from controlling us. He sees a danger in that if we have too much pleasure, too easy of access to what we want, then the world will become appealing to us and lure us away from God. Again I think there is insight here. In our current context of America with easy access to food, shelter, and pleasure (entertainment) the lure of the world is strong. This is partly why I agree with the move that Christians need to give most of their possessions away (at least above a certain level of responsibility to family and self). If suffering is not imposed upon us by God, I would argue that it is a good idea to allow the things that would tempt us to still flow away from us to the world in a form of a blessing to those in need. That solves multiple problems. It removes our temptation, meets the needs of the world, and all of this is done in the name of God.
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