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Dr. James C. Denison
President, Center for Informed Faith, Dallas, TX
January 28, 2011

The piano on the sandbar

Did you hear about the piano on a Miami sandbar? It sat there, remote and surreal. No one knew where it came from. Finally 16-year-old Nicholas Herrington admitted that he put it there.

It was an old movie prop which his family wanted to remove from his grandmother’s home. So Nicholas loaded it on a boat and put it on the sandbar to warn boaters about the ridge’s existence. It caught a photographer’s eye and soon the picture swept the Internet. But the strange photo isn’t so strange once you hear the explanation.

If only evil and suffering were so easy to explain. We’ve been exploring the most difficult question Christians must answer. We believe that God is all-powerful, so that he could remove pain from our lives, and all-loving, so that he should want to. But he doesn’t, at least not as often as we would like. What do we do then?

We have been discovering practical steps to take when life hurts. As we saw yesterday, the free will model asks us to consider whether our suffering is the result of misused freedom. By no means is this always true, as Job’s innocent sufferings prove, but it is good to check. The soul building approach suggests that we ask God what lessons he wants us to learn from this difficult time.

Third, the future hope model asks: how can God redeem this present suffering for future good? How could he use your witness to touch the lives of people you may not know? How will he reward your present faithfulness in the future and in glory? You may not be able to see the future, but you can believe that it is real.

Last, the present-help approach asks you to trust God’s help in the midst of your pain. Know that he loves you, no matter how the world assesses or treats you. He will always be your Father, if you have asked Jesus Christ to be your Lord. He will enable you to withstand this trial until the day he takes you home to glory.

Peter Marshall was a Scottish-American Presbyterian pastor and Senate chaplain. Consider his observation on our subject: “It is a fact of Christian experience that life is a series of troughs and peaks. In his efforts to get permanent possession of a soul, God relies on the troughs more than the peaks. And some of his special favorites have gone through longer and deeper troughs than anyone else.”

We think of Joseph in Potiphar’s prison, and Job’s sufferings, and Daniel in the lions’ den. Each of Jesus’ disciples except John was martyred, and John was imprisoned on Patmos. Suffering is nothing new or exceptional in this fallen world. But your Father stands ready to redeem for greater good all he allows.

An elderly professor once advised me, “Son, be kind to everyone, because everyone’s having a hard time.” Was he right about you?

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