Archive for the ‘Suffering’ Tag

Devotion for the Thirty-Second and Thirty-Third Day of Lent, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   2 comments


Above:  Saint Paul Writing His Epistles, by Valentin de Boulogne

Image in the Public Domain

Compassion and Suffering

THURSDAY, APRIL 2, 2020, and FRIDAY, APRIL 3, 2020


The Collect:

Everlasting God, in your endless love for the human race

you sent our Lord Jesus Christ to take on our nature and

to suffer death on the cross.  In your mercy enable us to share

in his obedience to your will and in the glorious victory of

his resurrection, who lives and reigns with you and the

Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 29


The Assigned Readings:

1 Samuel 16:11-13 (32nd Day)

Job 13:13-19 (33rd Day)

Psalm 31:9-16 (Both Days)

Philippians 1:1-11 (32nd Day)

Philippians 1:21-30 (33rd Day)


But my trust is in you, O Lord.

I have said, “You are my God.

My times are in your hand;

deliver me from those who persecute me.

Make your face to shine upon your servant,

and save me for your mercy’s sake.”

–Psalm 31:14-16, Common Worship (2000)


Sometimes people suffer because they have done something wrong; they reap what they sown.  Other times people suffer because they have done something for God.  When the light shines in the darkness, elements of the latter cannot or will not abide the former.  And sometimes neither of the above reasons applies.

The Book of Job establishes that the titular character was righteous, that God permitted his manifold and terrible sufferings, and that Job had bad excuses for friends.  Our excerpt from Job 13, in the voice of the titular character, rebuts Zophar, who had told him to confess his sins.

Be quiet! Kindly let me do the talking,

happen to me what may.

–Job 13:13, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

seems like a mild translation to me.  Job and Zophar did commit the same error—presuming to know how God does or should act.  But at least Job was not as annoying as his alleged friend.

God has worked in ways we do not always expect.  A young shepherd became a king.  A persecutor of nascent Christianity became one of its most important evangelists.  The most important figure of an age was a Palestinian Jewish carpenter and stonecutter, not any of the Roman Emperors.  And God continues to be full of surprises.

May we not presume to know more than we do.  More important than being right and proven so is acting compassionately.  I would rather be compassionate and objectively incorrect on some point of doctrine than mean-spirited or unkind in my dealings with people and objectively correct on points of doctrine.  Perhaps the character of Zophar thought that he was helping, but he was wrong.  Good intentions are insufficient.  What are the effects?

That is a difficult and high standard to pass.  May we succeed, by grace.









Devotion for the Thirty-Fourth and Thirty-Fifth Days of Easter (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   11 comments

Above:  Jesus Carrying the Cross, by El Greco

Leviticus and Luke, Part VIII:  Sin and Suffering

MAY 20 and 21, 2022


Blessed Lord, who caused all holy scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236


The Assigned Readings:

Leviticus 26:1-20 (34th Day of Easter)

Leviticus 26:21-33, 39-44 (35th Day of Easter)

Psalm 96 (Morning–34th Day of Easter)

Psalm 92 (Morning–35th Day of Easter)

Psalms 50 and 138 (Evening–34th Day of Easter)

Psalms 23 and 114 (Evening–35th Day of Easter)

Luke 13:18-35 (34th Day of Easter)

Luke 14:1-24 (35th Day of Easter)


The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod lectionary of 2006 (from the Lutheran Service Book) skipped over Leviticus 25, which includes the year of the Jubilee.  People should have observed it more often than they did.  If one had lost an inheritance of land, he was supposed to get it back.  Slaves were to become free people.  the land was supposed to lie fallow, for its benefit and that of the people.  The underlying principle was that everything belonged to God.

The theology of sin and suffering in Leviticus 26 is overly simplistic.  Sin leads to suffering; righteousness leads to blessings.  The Book of Job argues against this theology as a universal rule.  And Jesus, in Luke 13 and 14, was en route to Jerusalem to die–not for his own sins (as he had none) but for and because of the sins of others.  Herod Antipas (Luke 13:31-33) wanted Jesus dead.  His father, Herod the Great, had also wanted Jesus dead.  Seeking the death of another is certainly sinful.

Blessed are you when people hate you, drive you out, abuse you, denounce your name as criminal, on account of the Son of Man.  Rejoice when that day comes and dance for joy, look!–your reward will be great in heaven.  This was the way their ancestors treated the prophets.

–Luke 6:22-23, The New Jerusalem Bible

Not all will go well for us when we walk with God.  Yet it is good to walk with God, regardless of the price one must pay.  What can one offer in exchange for one’s soul?

I close with words by William Alexander Percy (1885-1942):

The peace of God,

it is no peace,

but strife closed in the sod.

Yet let us pray for just one thing–

the marvelous peace of God.









Third Sunday in Lent, Year C   18 comments

Above:  Logo of the Church of Scotland

Human Agents of God

MARCH 20, 2022


Exodus 3:1-15 (New Revised Standard Version):

Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian; he led his flock beyond the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed. Then Moses said,

I must turn aside and look at this great sight, and see why the bush is not burned up.

When the LORD saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush,

Moses, Moses!

And he said,

Here I am.

Then he said,

Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.

He said further,

I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.

And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.

Then the LORD said,

I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters. Indeed, I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them from the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the country of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. The cry of the Israelites has now come to me; I have also seen how the Egyptians oppress them. So come, I will send you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.

But Moses said to God,

Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?

He said,

I will be with you; and this shall be the sign for you that it is I who sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God on this mountain.

But Moses said to God,

If I come to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?

God said to Moses,

I AM Who I AM.

He said further,

Thus you shall say to the Israelites, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’

God also said to Moses,

Thus you shall say to the Israelites, ‘The LORD, the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you’:

This is my name forever,

and this is my title for all generations.

Psalm 63:1-8 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  O God, you are my God; eagerly I seek you;

my soul thirsts for you, my flesh faints for you,

as in a barren and dry land where there is no water.

2  Therefore I have gazed upon you in your holy place,

that I might behold your power and your glory.

3  For your loving-kindness is better than life itself;

my lips shall give you praise.

4  So will I bless you as long as I live

and lift up my hands in your Name.

5  My soul is content, as with marrow and fatness,

and my mouth praises you with joyful lips.

6  When I remember you upon my bed,

and meditate on you in the night watches.

7  For you have been my helper,

and under the shadow of your wings I will rejoice.

8  My soul clings to you;

your right hand holds me fast. 

1 Corinthians 10:1-13 (New Revised Standard Version):

I do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was Christ. Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them, and they were struck down in the wilderness.

Now these things occurred as examples for us, so that we might not desire evil as they did. Do not become idolaters as some of them did; as it is written,

The people sat down to eat and drink, and they rose up to play.

“We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day. We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did, and were destroyed by serpents. And do not complain as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer. These things happened to them to serve as an example, and they were written down to instruct us, on whom the ends of the ages have come. So if you think you are standing, watch out that you do not fall. No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it.

Luke 13:1-9 (Revised English Bible):

At that time some people came and told him [Jesus] about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices.  He answered them:

Do you suppose that, because these Galileans suffered this fate, they must have been greater sinners than anyone else in Galilee?  No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all of you come to the same end.  Of the eighteen people who were killed when the tower fell on them at Siloam–do you imagine they must have been more guilty than all the other people living in Jerusalem?  No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all come to an end like theirs.

He told them this parable:

A man had a fig tree growing in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it, but found none.  So he said to the vine-dresser, “For the last three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree without finding any.  Cut it down.  Why should it go on taking goodness from the soil?”  But he replied, “Leave it, sir, for this one year, while I did round it and manure it.  And it it bears next season, well and good; if not, you shall have it down.”

The Collect:

Almighty God, you know that we have no power in ourselves to help ourselves: Keep us both outwardly in our bodies and inwardly in our souls, that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. 


Some Related Posts:

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

Prayer of Confession:

Prayer of Dedication:


The Ocean Hath No Danger:

I Do Not Ask, O Lord:

Litany from a Novena to St. Jude the Apostle:

A Prayer for Those Who Inflict Torture:

A Prayer for Those Who Are Tortured:

Prayers for Those Who Suffer:

A Prayer for Those Who Are Desperate:

A Franciscan Blessing:


Suffering is a great theological problem.  Consider the following passages and thoughts with me, O reader:

Exodus 3:7-10 states that God cared about the suffering of the Hebrews in Egypt and had a plan to end it.

Yet God, in Job (read especially Chapters 1, 2 and 38-41) seemed not to have cared about Job’s suffering.

Paul, in 1 Corinthians 10:13, wrote that God does not test anyone beyond human capacity to withstand it, by grace.  But what about Job?

Jesus, in Luke 13:1-5, rejected the suggestion that suffering necessarily flowed from sin.  Thus he confirmed a major tenet from the Book of Job.

The Bible is an anthology containing contradictory points of view on various questions, such as suffering.  Great theologians and lesser minds have struggled with it.  The struggle continues.  One example of a method of attempting to come grips with the problem of suffering is to write graphic hagiographies of martyrs.  Consider 4 Maccabees, O reader.  I refer to several chapters, such as the sixth one.  Yet one not need reach back to first century CE texts; one can read more recent examples on websites devoted to saints.

I cannot resolve the problem of suffering here and now.  Yet I can–and do–offer a concrete suggestion related to suffering.

Come, therefore, I will send you to Pharaoh, and you shall free My people, the Israelites, from Egypt.

–Exodus 3:10, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

Are you, O reader, called currently to end or ease some suffering of others?  Am I?  There is a time to wait for God and there is a time to act so that God can work through us.  We might feel unqualified.  We are unqualified.  Yet none of that constitutes an obstacle for God.  As an old statement tells us, God does not call the qualified; God qualifies the called.  Regardless of how much we know or how capable we are, we need God’s help to round out our qualifications.  May we remember that and approach God with all due humility and our sacred tasks with all due confidence.