In this episode, I get the privilege to speak with Bruce Fredrickson, who was my childhood Pastor. Bruce is a retired US Army Chaplain, has served also in the Marine Corps, was an Assemblies of God Pastor, and is currently working as a Chaplain in a Cancer Unit. We tackle the age-old, top google-searched question of “Why does God”… allow pain and suffering? This question gets personal as Bruce has been diagnosed with cancer within the last year and a half. We will hear him speak about how God is faithful amidst life’s circumstances. We will be reoriented to a Biblical worldview that provides the groundwork for how we should approach this question as Christians. This conversation came at the most opportune time for me to listen and to take part in; and I’m praying the same over you, as well!
Quotes and Bible Verses From Our Conversation:
The Bible reminds us that the rain falls on the just and the unjust. God is still in this. And I trust.
This is how most people will frame this question: ‘Because there is evil and suffering in the world, how can there be a good God? How Can there be a sovereign God?’
God is the creator.
By the word of the Lord the heavens were made,
their starry host by the breath of his mouth.
He gathers the waters of the sea into jars;
he puts the deep into storehouses.
Let all the earth fear the Lord;
let all the people of the world revere him.
For he spoke, and it came to be;
he commanded, and it stood firm.
If we could see the whole quilt of life; we would ask the questions: Who made you? Why were we created? To know others, to love others, and to serve others
If we put this topic of suffering into a greater context of life in Christian ministry in knowing others, loving others, it wouldn’t become a vocal point. It is part of our human experience.
(Referring to his diagnosis of Neuroendocrine carcinoid):It has made me a better listener, more compassionate- all of those attributes have been heightened.
I think we won’t ever know the exact reason or answer this side of Heaven- we don’t know why God has allowed suffering or sin to enter the world, but we know that God has allowed free will. -Rachel
God will not rob us of our free will; that’s where we can choose between right and wrong. That’s an area of our life where God has given us the ability to choose.
The problem is that many people choose to do evil over doing good.
The brokenness of our world is undeniable- we see it all around.
From the fall, we know that the whole created order is since out of kilter.
The idea or truth that we have free will, we live in a broken world and the third reason that God allows suffering is that suffering can draw us to God.
It is so true that He uses suffering. Phillippians 1:21: for to me to live is Christ and to die is gain. And so, that is how God using suffering to draw us, His people, closer to Him. Because we know that in those sufferings, in those trials, and in those sufferings.
I had nothing else, I had nowhere else to turn. I just had God in that moment.
There is a quietude that can come when we accept something in our life, when we stop fighting it and we surrender ourselves to God- whatever the issue is, whatever the problem is- and we say, “God, I don’t understand everything, but I’m going to trust you.”
I don’t have to like it, but I have to accept it.
Suffering definitely does jolt us to that desperate point of needing Jesus.
It is really a way that God can speak quite loudly.
Because we listen more when we go through suffering. -Rachel
God doesn’t cause suffering so that we will listen, but He definitely uses suffering to speak to us. – Rachel
We have to take the time to give our complete undivided attention. Sometimes that silent empathy is so appropriate.
There are moments when we need to not say anything, but to just be there. –Ministry of presence. That can be a very sacred space in moments like that.
Expressive compassion: sometimes when I’m speaking people and they are telling their story, one of the ways we can validate that with people is when they tell something like that that is dramatic is to say something like, “Well, no wonder that you were scared?”
I ask, “Is there anything else” I give them silence. And then, after the silence, I will say, “Are you sure?”
That is an example of being in moments of ministry with people and to take the time so that they know we are not in a hurry. We aren’t checking our phone, checking our messages.
Again, we don’t have the answer. So in moments like that, we can just be there for them. And they will know that we are there.
We don’t fix the spiritual need that is there; we nurture it. God, alone, can fix it.
Matthew 11:28- “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”
Revelation 21:4- “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
The future hope that we have is that there will be no more suffering.
John 16:33- “I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! For I have overcome the world.”
Pastor Bruce’s answers to our last three questions:
He lives practically for the Lord day in and day out by:
More about being and not about doing.
I simply just pause.
Time to reflect.
Look for moments throughout my day to have a heart of gratitude.
I’m trying to live my life in an environment of gratitude and thankfulness only because of God’s grace.
I’m comfortable in my being in Christ and focusing less on doing.
Resources that cultivate his heart for God:
Phillip Yancy: Where is God when it Hurts
Douglas John Hall: God in Human Suffering
God has lavished His Unaltered Grace again and again in Bruce's life through:
Family. I’m so blessed to have a tremendous family. My wife- incredible. My son and daughter- living for the Lord. And I still am blessed to have my parents here.
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