With death before time, sufferings may not end but probably be the start of a new cycle which may be worse than the present- Are we ready for the unknown before taking the plunge?
A conversation with the Heavenly Family
We are living in the ‘now’ generation that wants answers to every question available at the click of a button and gets easily discouraged at the smallest of defeats. There have been many instances of individuals sending explicit messages about their intention to commit suicide, the location and the method and even gone to the extent of live streaming of the event to the horror of their helpless friends and relatives. A tree without or with shallow roots tends to fall easily but what after that?
Most of the Indian religions profess life after death and a cycle of 8.4 million lives to be undergone before one gets a chance to become man. A man is thus believed to be given this life to get closer to and merge into God- Atma joining the Param Atma; Spirit merging into the Highest Spirit. The basic aim of a man’s life as per these religions is to attain this union or else be born again and again till this is finally achieved. How an animal form, that does not have a soul, will achieve this perfection to get back into a man’s life is neither explained nor understood.
The other view is of judgement on the basis of our deeds and eternal punishment or blessing to land up in hell or heaven. Another theory is that a person who suffers untimely death does not get salvation, either way, and his spirit keeps on hovering in the universe as a demonic or evil force to harass and or punish those who caused it to land up in that situation. Various rituals are performed to ensure salvation for the departed spirit to ensure salvation.
Uniqueness of Man-Bible, on the other hand, teaches a different view of uniqueness of each life. in Genesis 1 plants, birds, animals, fish were all created by God before man was. God commanded and everything else came in to being while man was created specifically by God with His own hands. Since everything was created differently, there cannot be a possibility of their changing their life position with each other. And to man God says “I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb” (Jeremiah 1:5) and it is only to man does God say “See, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands” (Isaiah 49:16). This exceptionality of man is further illustrated by God when He declares “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11).
All of this declares the love of God for mankind and He created us not to live a life of dependence but abundance for He blessed man to “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the earth” (Genesis 1:28). God provided everything for man before creating him and set him up in the place of abundance in the Garden of Eden. He provided everything and it is we who turned our face away from Him and walked out of the blessed place.
What is my fault in all this that I am suffering? We are exposed to only our own self and the situation of a few more people around us but not about the entire world as such. The forces of evil cause sickness, sufferings and other traumatic events in the lives of all, even those who believe in God, love Him and try to live their lives as per His laws. It is natural to be lost, feel isolated and totally alone in times of extreme pressure due to personal situations. We look for answers and none is forthcoming causing further feeling of isolation and desertion by everyone, even God. Bible is full of situations faced by various people and this is recorded for the sole purpose of providing us an insight to face our own peculiar circumstances. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, the three friends of Daniel were doing their jobs diligently, yet were thrown into the burning furnace due to envy and evil designs of rivals. It was their faith in the fairness of God and complete surrender by placing their lives in to His hands that saved them (Daniel 3:16-20).
It is difficult to get an answer to this question and easy for others, like Job’s three friends, to give painful advice about repentance for some unknown sins. There is no doubt that we end up suffering consequent to bad choices that we make in our lives. These come to haunt us far in distant future when we have already forgotten about it. Lamentations of Jeremiah provide us with some insight “The Lord has brought her grief because of her many sins” (Lamentations 1:5). But what about little children hurt because of some pervert coming their way? Our Lord was asked the question about the cause of blindness in a man, as to whose sin caused that? His answer is revealing “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him” (John 9:2-3). God does not cause but allows sufferings, at times, to admonish His ‘loved ones’ to bring them closer to Him and transform their lives (Hebrews 12:12-13).
Why does He not intervene since He is All Knowing and Omnipotent? The same question in a little different way was asked by His own Son in the Gethsemane Park “If it is possible, let this cup pass from Me” (Matthew 26:39). The simple question hides the other words- why should I suffer for others sins; it is not my fault that mankind is enslaved by Satan- they asked for it and succumb to his temptations every day. “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all” (Romans 8:32a) does not stop the suffering to give us the ‘crown of glory’ that waits on the other side. He permits suffering that “after you have suffered a while, (He may) perfect, establish, strengthen and settle you” (1 Peter 5:10). The trials that we face seem endless and keep coming at us, one after the other, and seem to be overwhelming us with pain. It is natural for anyone to cry out to God under such circumstances- where are You God? For His Own Son experienced total isolation to scream “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:46). He can but He knows the end before the beginning and in His mercy allows the trial for refining only comes through fire.
But does He care whether I live or die? It is difficult to answer this without taking into account the background to this situation dating back many years. In any case, after disobedience of Adam and Eve, nowhere doe the Bible mention a promise of God that He will prevent all loss, trials or sufferings in our lives. His promises are conditional to our love for Him and the maximum that He could do, He has done through forgiveness for our sins for He did not hold back anything, even His Own Son. After so much why and “how shall He not with Him (with Jesus) also feely give us all things? (Romans 8:32b).
King David asks and answers this question “What is man that You are mindful of him”. The answer in another question “For You have made him a little lower than the angels; and You have crowned him with glory. You have made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet” (Psalm 8:4-6). If He did not care He would not have engraved your photo on His palms to remember you always and keep track of your life. Job’s suffering was for the simple reason to prove to Satan that a man can love God without expecting anything also. But Job finally declared that He would like to seek answers from God but when God appeared, He did not provide answer for Job’s suffering but revealed His mighty power in creation. Sometimes God just wants to test our patience to wait for His perfect timing “For you have need of endurance/patience, so that after you done the will of God, you may receive the promise” (Hebrews 10:36).
Patience- but for how long since You don’t know what I am going through? “How long, Lord, must I call for help, but You do not listen?” (Habakkuk 1:2), even the prophet sounded completely exasperated at the long wait for an answer from God. But no one can provide a clarification about the way God works, for there are enough reasons to believe that He is and does care but why do the innocent people suffer- I don’t know. I do know what God says “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways, says the Lord” (Isaiah 55:8). He is all knowing and He is aware of His plans for me- plans of hope and a future and also the extent and reasons of our present state. He alone has the power to change the present to a future with a happy and blessed state.
David was anointed as King of Israel when he was just fifteen years old and before attaining the age of twenty, the age to join the Israelite army, he faced the giant Goliath and emerged victorious. It was not his fault that “the women came out of all the cities of Israel, singing and dancing to meet Saul, with tambourines, with joy and with musical instruments. The women sang as they played, and said, “Saul has slain his thousands. And David his ten thousands”. Then Saul became very angry” (1 Samuel 18:6-8). After escaping various attempts of Saul to kill him, David finally fled and was hiding in the wilderness for close to sixteen years. David has been called the ‘man as per My heart’ by God and through various Psalms, he poured out his heart before God, seeking maximum punishment for his enemies. Yet in the end he always surrendered before God in praise while acknowledging the great blessings of the past.
Psalm 37 is one such Psalm of David declaring God’s greatness “Rest before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not worry when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes” (verse 7). God in His perfect plan was preparing David through his sufferings to become the best king whose ‘kingdom will have no end’ and God’s own Son was born in to David’s lineage. It is difficult for us to always understand His ‘ways’ with our limited and sinful mind but “All things work out to the good of those who love God” (Romans 8:28). We may never know how it will happen but this is for sure that it will be so.
But isn’t it better to end it all through death- Yes it is definitely better to take the jump in to the unknown. But is it really unknown, if we see the examples given in the Bible. Lazarus the beggar and the rich man died and the beggar went to Paradise while the rich man landed up in Hades and was tormented in the hell fires. The reply he received clarifies many things “in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and you are tormented” (Luke 16:23-25). The life after death is not for a few days but for eternity and this means unending torment. To choose the option of stopping this trial and face eternal suffering in hellfire appears to be a wrong choice. The other choice is to get in to the other cycle of 8.4 million births of all types of animals and creeping things to wait for a chance to become man again- we can take a pick; whatever we believe.
One thing is definite that God creates in us those qualities that Jesus His Own Son acquired to be ‘perfect man’ to enable us to be like Him. It will not always be like this for Jesus Himself prayed to His Father “who always listens to Him’, “Father, I desire that they may also, whom You gave Me, may be with Me where I am, that they behold My glory which You have given Me” (John 17:24). He is in heaven ‘seated at the right hand of God’ and wants us to be with Him in heaven and His promise to prepare a mansion in heaven for those who believe in Him is true for He is true and faithful. His promise for us all is “The Lord will protect you from all evil” (Psalm 121:7). Out of the two, the better option is to wait, for the night is the darkest just before dawn- and your dawn may just be a few steps away!
I know that He is aware of whatever is going on in my life and is fully in control of everything and I will someday be in His presence and learn all that I need to know. Till then I have to patiently call upon His name for help! THE OTHER OPTIONS ARE TOO FEARSOME TO EVEN THINK ABOUT.
I pray to Him to guide us from darkness into His light and reveal what we need to know in our present state for I know God that You as our Father has our best interests in mind. THANK YOU LORD FOR YOUR GRACE AND MERCY. Father, Bless us in Jesus’ name who suffered for us. Amen!