This is Part 1 answering the question, “What are man’s ways of dealing with the suffering God allows?” in the larger question, “How can a loving God allow suffering?” Parts 2 and 3 will be posted over the next two days.
Years ago, I had a 1971 Plymouth Duster. I bought the car in high school, because I needed transportation and I wanted to learn responsibility for it. It was a 318 V8 that was jacked up and had glasspack mufflers, H60 tires, baby moon hubcaps on chrome reverse wheels and it was hemi orange! It was fun because gas was cheap. What I loved about having my own car was the “privilege” of having to fix it when something went wrong.
I had a friend in high school who also had his own car. It was a Pontiac station wagon, we called ‘the boat,” because it was so big. When he had trouble with his car, he pulled out a hammer and beat on the engine to get it going. Fortunately, he only paid $150.00 for his car, so he wasn’t too concerned.
I didn’t want to treat my rumbling monster with a hammer. When my Duster became sluggish, I went and bought the Plymouth manual for the car and the other diagnostic equipment needed: tools, timing light, etc., in order to do engine tune ups, flushes, brake work, headlamp replacements, stereo installations, etc. I realized if I was going to restore the car to “new” condition, I needed to consult the manufacturer’s specifications and procedures for tune-ups and replacements. There is a real analogy here to the spiritual life and how to deal with problems – man’s way versus God’s way – the hammer vs. the manuals.
Man’s Way versus God’s Way
The differences in how my friend and I cared for our cars were very different. Our care of automobiles is similar to the difference of man’s way versus God’s way. Man’s way looks at problems or suffering and responds with what seems to be the “reasonable” or “logical” solution at the moment. God’s way, on the other hand, consults the original Manufacturer’s specifications and procedures for restoration to a “like new” condition. Man depends on what he perceives is right (his mind and flesh), what the world says (the culture and society around him) and the influence of the spiritual realm (the temptations of the devil and demons to act independently of God). God’s way determines to consult the Creator’s original manual (the Bible) and do the restoration through His procedures (dependency on the Holy Spirit by faith). We will look more at God’s way in Parts Three and Four. For now, we will focus on man’s way of dealing with suffering. There are two ways to approach everything: man’s way versus God’s way.
Man often acts without thinking. He does not understand God’s perspective, so he acts unaware of God’s way, or he acts independently of God’s way. Sometimes he doesn’t agree with God’s way and he just doesn’t care to understand, so he acts in a way that he thinks is right. Solomon explained that, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” (Pro. 14:12 NKJ) But what does that look like?