• 25 September 2023

Chapter 1 – The Intruder

The Bible tells us that death and his two sidekicks, fear and suffering, are intruders. We are like a couple living in a beautiful house who, one night, hear the noise of breaking glass and suddenly realise that someone has broken in. We cannot get the intruder out and, sooner or later, he’s going to kill us.

Sometimes the intruder breaks in because we live in a bad neighbourhood – the world is full of violent criminals like disease and natural disaster – but also, if we are honest, the intruder comes because of the moral evil within each of us. One sin leads to another and its destination is clear, ‘the wages of sin is death’ (Rom. 6:23).

You may have watched the popular TV show Breaking Bad, in which a respectable teacher becomes a drug dealer and unleashes a trail of suffering and death on everyone he comes into contact with. It’s popular because it reveals something that we all know to be true.

So how did we end up being hired by this devilish employer? Or with this murderous intruder in our home? The Bible tells us that in the beginning the house – that is, the world – was good. How did moral evil enter the world? Genesis 3 teaches us that humanity suffered a catastrophic fall. Evil, in the form of a serpent, tempted Adam and Eve. They fell into sin and unleashed a wave of fear, suffering and death on themselves and their descendants.

This is the consequence of the Fall. The very first emotion the newly fallen couple experience is fear (Gen. 3:10). Adam and Eve suffered in specific ways (Gen. 3:16–19) but anyone who has been through childbirth or knows the hardship of work has experienced something of their suffering. And what’s the end? Death. Back to the dust from where we came.

The damage is done. If you like, Adam and Eve were patient zero in a Wuhan wet market. Once the virus broke out it could not be stopped.

But wait! There is amazing hope: for as death came by one man, so life will come by another. And, strangely enough, that hope involves the same evil trio. From the woman a deliverer will come who will kill that old serpent, the devil. He will obliterate the snake by stamping on his head but He will also have to suffer Himself. That rescuer, of course, is Christ, and the rest of the Bible is the story of how that happens. That story leads to a hill outside Jerusalem 2000 years ago, an old rugged cross and, near its foot, a new hewn tomb.

What comfort can we take from this? That God doesn’t give us what we deserve. That God, before the creation of the universe, purposed a Saviour to save us from fear, suffering and death.

Since I was diagnosed with cancer I have spent a lot of time discussing with my non-Christian friends the question, ‘How can a loving God allow suffering?’

The Christian answer to this question – and the answer to the unholy trio who afflict us so badly – is not a theological proposition. Rather, the answer which we must share is a person. He is the fear, suffering and death crushing Son of God. A man of sorrows who was acquainted with grief. He turns these three imposters on themselves. Even death, their terrible king, is utterly defeated and, as we will see at the end of this book, will one day be destroyed, ‘“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’ (Rev. 21:4).

Excerpt from Hope in the face of suffering – 20 devotions for tough times by Jeremy Marshall

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