Why? (Suffering) If there is a loving God…


Before you read on, one thing to say and one thing to ask.

The ask: watch the short video in the link above.

To say: As I share these thoughts with you today, I am so aware that this is probably a topic sensible people would stay away from.

I certainly don’t want to make light of people’s deep personal suffering, the suffering of devastated communities or the impact felt Globally of unexplainable tragedies.

But people keep asking. So, here are my best thoughts on the subject of suffering to date – and I haven’t stopped thinking about it yet. Be warned though, if there is an answer to this question, I haven’t found it, not entirely anyway.

Here goes:

I can think of at least three ways in which suffering invades our world:

Personal Suffering

Suffering in a community

Global suffering

Personal suffering: I read recently of a young man who after years of saving and dreaming, finally achieved his dream of serving the poor in Equador. At the airport, he realises he forgot to leave his mum a little note before he set off.  Conscious of the time, he scrambles around for a piece of paper and hastily writes his thanks on one side – the other side already had something printed on it.

Glenn Chambers posted his note and boarded his flight. Several hours into the trip, the plane crashes into the 14,000 feet high Colombian peak El Tablazo. 

No Survivors.

The next day, as his mother  is recieving the news no parent should ever hear,  a note is delivered form her son. She recognises the handwriting, but when she flips the little piece of crumpled paper over, the second side is taken. 

Just one word, printed in bold black letters – WHY?

Community Suffering

I recall as a kid visiting the mining town of Aberfan in Wales. The town had endured an unspeakable tragedy in 1966 when the mountain of coal from the coal mine located beside a primary school, experienced essentially a coal land slide burying the school and its inhabitants in thousands of tons of black rock. 116 kids and 28 adults died. Can a community ever recover?


Global suffering: This week I have watched, as you have, the unfolding story of the battle of the Somme as we remember the 100th year of this most brutal battle of World War One.

World wars, famine. Earthquakes, Tsunamis.


Before we go any further, lets see if you can endure passing by what many consider to be the typical Chrisitan responses to these questions and then just maybe we might just come across something we haven’t considered before.

Harsh Truth 1: Some suffering is brough upon ourselves. A result of our free will – If we steal we go to jail, if we get drunk and fall over (as I did many times) we hurt ourselves.
Harsh Truth 2: Some suffering is thrust upon us as a result of the actions of others. A result of their free will –  If a married person cheats, their partner, their kids suffer. Corporations or Governents make mistakes, unintentionally or sinisterly and people suffer.

In  the investigation into the Aberfan disaster the coal board who ran the pit were found to be at fault.

The unfair distribution of food in delveloping nations causes suffering.

I know you know all this.

Some estimates suggest as much as 95% of the suffering in the world can be explained in one of these ways – the ripple effect of our own poor choices or the forced upon us consequences from the actions of others.

That leaves 5% of the suffering in the world that we do not have an explanation for.

Is there a reason? Let me ask another question first.

Of all the knowledge there is in the universe, how much of it can you know? 

3%?    7%?     1%?    More?    Less?

Let’s say you are a genius so you reckon you know 3% of all the knowledge there is to be known in the Universe. (Dream on)

That leaves even for geniuses, 97% of all that can be known Unknown. Is it possible in the 97%  that we do not know, that there is something we don’t know about suffering?

It is not enough to say God does not initiate suffering but allows us free will, that only makes people more mad at God!

We can say however, that according to the Bible, the God we get mad at has experienced suffering too.

In fact we can go further and say the God you are mad at went thought excruciating suffering …for you!

Overwhelmed by suffering? He knows what it’s like: ” Mark 14:33/34 My soul is overwhelmed to the point of death.”

Did you hope for a late escape and didn’t get one? he knows what that’s like: ” Matthew 27:46 My God My God why have you forsaken me.”

Your Heavenly Father is acquainted with suffering! Your saviour Jesus is aquatinted with suffering!

If we still don’t have an answer for suffering, at least we know what the answer isn’t:

It isn’t because God doesn’t love us, He loved us by enduring the loss of his own son, his own agony.

It isn’t because he’s indifferent, Jesus willingly suffered in order that he could relate to our suffering. (And more)

Some say: “If there is a God why do we suffer?” It’s a heartfelt and sincere question. 

But I say, ” If there is no God why do we not suffer even more!”

Finally (almost) what about what Mark, the man form our clip who endured the loss of his own 18 month old baby girl. What did he say again?

Something about Heaven, something about in Eternity it may all make sense?

Eternity has no end, did you know that? Eternity has an equivalent in mathematics (I think that’s right) called Infinity…

A number that has no end. When you leave this earth you enter a new phase of Life that has no end. 

God suffered so you can spend eternity outside of pain and suffering. Jesus died so one day, your suffering can end. 

Please keep reading…

Back to eternity and infinity…

Clever people tell me that because infinity (numerical equivalent of eternity) has no end, if you divide any number by it the answer is always zero (0). Stay with me almost there…
Example: One divided by infinity is zero, a million divided by infinity is still zero,  you get the idea?

What am I saying?

In light of eternity and as real as your pain is:

Once in Eternity it will all amount to zero!

If you live to be 100 in light of eternal life you have lived Zero.

If you only live to 18 months in this world compared to life in eternity you lived as long as a one hundred year old – Zero!

Did you have a bad decade? A bad month? A bad day? In light of eternity which can be free of suffering it will amount to – (change of word) Nothing!

God sees your temporary suffering and invites you into a suffering free forever when: ” He will wipe away every tear = suffering Will be no more because the reason for suffering is no more.

The main life is the next one and the next one is the last one!

I haven’t even mentioned how the devil (He’s real) causes suffering yet! 

But if you trust in God now even in the midst of suffering he becomes an irrelevance anyway.

Whatever you are going through, whenever you are going through it, remember his invitation:

” John 3:16  For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whoever believes in HIm will not perish but have eternal life.”

You were born into a world of suffering, separated from God by sin, don’t leave this world  the same way.
Finally, finally, while some people are the cause of suffering, many others are used to bring healing.  In the same way we wouldn’t celebrate alone, don’t  suffer alone either; and If I may say this, when you need us, we are here.

Just my thoughts, and remember, I haven’t finished thinking about this yet. You are welcome to your own.


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25 years…

25 years…
In a few months time it will be 25 years since I made my first response to the claims of the Gospel.
More than half my life time ago.
Literally one minute I’m laughing on the inside at those who take such things so seriously – and the next I am utterly convinced God is real and we can have a relationship with him through Jesus – myself! 
A conviction that has never gone away, in fact, now I would say I don’t just believe, I know.
If there is one downside to this true story, it’s that the first five years of finding my feet in this new found faith, I probably made more mess, hurt more people, made poorer choices, got in more unenviable circumstances and endured more stress and mental hell than the rest of my eventful life to that point put together.
But still I couldn’t get away from it. I was saved!
I thought I was a mature man (what late teen / early twenties idiot doesn’t think so?) – I had no idea what I didn’t know.
Now I had a conscience, the things I did, and the way I was bothered me.

A “happy go lucky” carefree and fun focussed Young lad had become greviously self centred, gave no thought for others and I hadn’t even noticed – until my conscience was under new management.
Trying to change was miserable work and continuing the way I was even more so, what a trap!
Eventually after five years I gave up trying to live a double life and chose life with God involved, and God in charge… No longer a foot in each camp.
For 20 years I’ve read the Bible probably everyday, prayed everyday been in church every week…

…watched as the right next step just emerged ” as if by coincidence.”
For 20 years the booze, that had become my best pal, and worst enemy both at the same time (from late teens to mid twenties) and me haven’t said a word to each other or shared a moment together.  We split up.  I haven’t missed it.
I could fill a book with answered prayers and amazing unexplainable moments – and another with questions still unanswered and events I don’t understand.
God has led, directed, spoken and been silent, felt so close and sometimes distant, there have been ups and downs.

But I am saved.
Then & Now…
I couldn’t hold down a job – Now He’s had me in continual employment for 20+ years.

I couldn’t make a relationship work – Lois and I just passed 17 years of (mainly) married happiness.

I was a highly strung nervous wreck – sometimes I worry now – am I too content!

I was guilt ridden about what my choices may have done to the kids – now they are two of my best pals…my daughter just invited me to the cinema and my boy just called me his role model!!

I couldn’t say boo to a goose!  (without a drink) – Now I public speak weekly and have a black belt in karaoke.

Folk liked me (generally) but couldn’t trust me – most have forgiven me.

I chain smoked like a chimney – now I eat because I’m happy (a bit too much, working on that)

A mistake would haunt me for years – now I can quickly hold my hands up and move on.

Fear chased me – now goodness and mercy follow me!

I could go on!
What I really wanted to say is that I am so grateful.
Grateful to God for intervening in a disaster movie of my own making.
Grateful to every person who shared their faith or prayed for me.

Grateful to every person who forgave me and allowed me another chance.

Grateful for every person who has been part of the journey to this point and those emerging for the next instalments.

Grateful for every little memory and every massive moment.

Jesus – I love you, thanks (and yes I know the best is yet to come!)
Folks – thanks.  Please give your life to him, it’s  not always plain sailing but you’ll never regret it.

Come with us?

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Small group leader: Home Visits

Hi Small Group Leaders,

Making a home visit memorable and helpful might not be as tricky, or take as long as you think!

Someone once said: ” A home going leaders makes a church going people.”

People might connect with your group before they’ve met you but its a BIG ask.

Maybe you will get the chance to catch them on Sundays but this is not a sure thing.

People are usually much more comfortable and at ease in their own homes – go to them!

A home visit can be as short as 20 minutes.
A routine visit in an average size group should happen every 12 weeks or so.
Let people know why you are coming – “I want to meet you and pray for you in your own home to bless you.”
Don’t confuse a home visit where things like family connection to the church, personal prayer life, devotional life etc will be discussed with a time to have a meal together – thats not the same thing. We visit people to encourage them to keep growing.

While relationship is essential we can chat about the kids the job the weather the neighbours in passing anytime.
In leadership our concern is the true care and discipleship of those souls God has entrusted to us.

At Destiny, our guide “Discipleship Matters” is a great tool to have in your heart for people (not in your hand like a questionnaire)
Are they: Growing Nearer, Growing Deeper, Growing Outward, Growing forward? where do they need your input most at this time?

People will never forget the times you gave yourself away by coming into their homes in Jesus name to spur them towards all he has for them.

They will be able to find any number of people be sociable with, be friendly with – They won’t find many willing to take a deeper interest in their spiritual wellbeing.

Go visiting this week!

Some other hints:
Let people know how long you plan to stay
Make two appointments for the same evening
Keep a note of how it went / what to pray for
Pray about it before you go – what do you think God has in mind for this visit?
Never leave without praying for the people and blessing the house.
Ask Yourself: is there anything I need to do in light of this visit?

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Two become One

Leaders often ask:
When is the right time to split a group?

A good question but better put: when should our group become two groups?

Practically if the room is over 3/4 full, new people won’t see attending as essential.
Attendance needs to matter!
Practically there is never a good time. Caring leaders, always keen to ensure everyone feels secure will tell you this:
“It’s not a good time for Bill and Mary to join another group, he is being made redundant.”
” John and Jean have thrived with us they shouldn’t move.”
” If Tom and Ann are asked to move they will stop attending all together.”

What’s missing? Vision!
People won’t move as its too uncomfortable for anything less than a cause.
Making one group two groups so others can belong is a cause – and a must.

Let me be totally honest with you, if any of these reasons above or others like them hit home with you, be very careful- are you building people into yourself or the vision?

So, take time. Envision the group over several weeks about the need and the opportunity, ask people in private then endorse their willingness in public, inspire people to follow suit, celebrate the Occasion strongly, keep a relationship between the groups and others as they emerge.

Someone moved on so you cold move in!


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Why do I know this?

Hi small group leaders,

I hope your doing really well!

We live in a world which appears to be moving faster than ever doesn’t it?

So much information enters our heads through meeting people, Facebook. Twitter, the Internet, the radio, T.V, magazines, texting, books and newspapers that very often, we don’t even know what we know!

We get so much info that we have learned to filter and ditch really fast, we don’t ( can’t) take
All of it in.

The downside is we can trash useful information unless we have a filter system which is trained to notice what we need to know, not just what we are curious to know.

I often say ” we only notice what we know” lots goes past us which was sent as a signal or a prompt to respond or pray. Did we catch it?

When it comes to family, church members and small group regulars, I have trained my self to STOP and ask this question: ” Why do I know this?”

” John wasn’t at church this past weekend” ( why do I know this?) = check John is ok
” Mary is 40 next week” ( why do I know this?) = ensure the group marks it well
” I don’t have a bible” ( why do I know this?) = help them pick a good one, show them how to use it.
” I struggle to pray” ( why do I know this) = offer someone to help grow them in prayer

Now is always a good time to act or delegate action based on what you know.
Think about some of the the things you know about your group already

Someone is facing redundancy
Someone has not been baptised yet
Someone always looks preoccupied
Someone is showing great hunger for the word of God
Someone comes alive when we worship and praise
Someone is always on the edges of the discussion
Someone has to get three buses

You get the idea, whatever you know, ask yourself every time:

” Why do I know this?”


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Doing life between meetings

Hi Everyone,

This weeks question: how much should I be in touch with group members between the formal moments.

First a point about communicating: you can use text / email to enhance a relationship but you can’t use it to get one started or keep one healthy just with these methods.

We need to talk and we need to be able to see each other!

The quickest way to get the job done is give it the time it requires first time round.
We encourage all our small group leaders to enjoy at least one home visit with a group member each week, and just keep it rolling. Who you choose is based on where families / people are at. Some you will see more than others.

We find people give more head space to simple opportunities to build relationship than they do actually doing them. For example a home visit need only take 30 minutes and should always include some prayer and discussion around the families faith journey. As you get to know people you journey deeper together.

Here is another thought: your group members want you to be warm and friendly, but they probably have enough friends already- what they are short of is leaders who make space for them in their lives for spiritual growth purposes. They NEED you to ask the questions no one else will ask and they need you to help them go forward in their maturity like no one else will.

This is where for us our discipleship checklist helps out:
Growing nearer, growing deeper, growing outward growing forward.
We will look at these in depth as weeks go by.

Leader you are called to lead! Not manage, supervise, organise or chaperone: lead and let God give you the courage to do so.

Psalm 27:23 : ” Know well the condition of your flocks and pay attention to your herds.”


Are you up for that? It takes courage.

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The small group leaders priorities (1)

Hi everyone,
Thanks for checking in again this week.

How often do you pray for your small group members?
How often do you reflect and ponder on how far they have come and where they are going?

Prayer works and using your imagination is a great way to assist your prayer.

Our small group leaders are made up of people from every walk of life and every corner of the globe…

Former alcoholics work with those who enjoy a glass of wine.
The single lead marrieds and vice versa
Former or current asylum seekers passionate about Jesus
Academics alongside those who never finished school
Second time married people.
Business people
People healed of mental illness or life controlling issues
Stay at home mums and working mums

I could go on!
Regardless of where they come from a leader who understands the gospel of grace AND Prays something about it is a leader people grow beside.

Take a look at your group members in your minds eye today…what do you see?

Jeremiah 1:11 ” the word of The Lord came to me: what do you see?”

As you pray and exhibit Godly leadership your folks are growing! Make sure you are up to speed of where they are today and keep praying them towards Gods best.

Someone did it for you!


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