Issues, Etc. With Host Todd Wilken Topic: Why Do Bad Things Happen? Guest: Rev. Matt Harrison, executive director LCMS World Relief and Human Care Date: December 28, 2003 WILKEN: Greetings, and welcome Why does God allow these things to to Issues, Etc. I‟m Todd Wilken. happen? Thanks for tuning us in. HARRISON: Well, that is an I trust that all of you had a amazing and deep mystery. I was joyous Christmas; but what if you floored by Kenya. I‟d been in Third didn‟t? What if Christmas was not a World circumstances numerous time of joy but a time of sorrow times, but this is the first trip to because there was an empty place Kenya, one of the world‟s poorest at the table—someone has died in countries. the last year; or, you‟re ill, and it‟s We went to Nairobi, and one hard to enjoy the holidays when you of the first things we did was travel to have a serious illness or disease. the Nairobi slums. And right there, Maybe there‟s been an accident in something like 1.2 or more million the family, a lost job. Why do bad people live in the most unbelievable things happen? circumstances imaginable. Wood-- Theologians and philosophers mud huts on stick frames with alike frame this question as the corrugated iron as roofs in many problem of evil—that‟s what they call cases. Narrow streets filled with the it—but the basic question is “why do worst imaginable rubbish. Children, bad things happen?” Are they acts adults, the elderly, people in trouble, of God? Or, on a more personal the ill. And it really, really throws a level, are they the consequence of Westerner for a loop to face that kind missteps and mistakes for which of poverty. And one has to—it was God is punishing us? In the course really interesting with the entourage of this conversation we might have to of people we brought along just to come around to the real question, watch those who had not not so much the problem of evil but experienced the Third World before the problem of God. just have to wrestle seriously with Our guest as we talk about who they were with the comparative “Why Do Bad Things Happen?” is amazing and abundant wealth we Pastor Matt Harrison. He‟s have in the Western world and to executive director of LCMS World begin to cope with the theology of Relief and Human Care, and he‟s this kind of suffering. translator of the devotional book, WILKEN: We have a certain Meditations on Divine Mercy. Matt, calculus that we employ as fallen welcome back to Issues, Etc. sinful people when we see bad HARRISON: Hi, Todd. It‟s always a things either on a grand scale like great pleasure to be with you. you witnessed or on the individual WILKEN: Matt, you were recently in scale, and our calculus tends to Kenya in Africa, and you saw a lot of operate according to the way we encouraging things in your time think the world works. How do we there; but you also saw a lot of very reason these things out according to bad things: poverty, disease, our fallen sensibilities? starvation, children left orphaned to HARRISON: Well, I think the main AIDS—all of these kind of things. thing that gives us trouble when we view these kind of things, is we have And Joseph, of course, is sold into assumed that people are responsible slavery by his brothers. We like to for the circumstances they are in. think, “Well, Joseph is the one who This is something that‟s very natural got himself sold into slavery.” But to us. It‟s part of the American sort- yet, what does the text say in of Protestant work ethic. It‟s all Genesis 45 after—you remember the around us: “Pick yourselves up by text so well, I‟m sure, from Sunday the bootstraps.” “Take control of school—after Joseph who‟s ruling your lives.” “You‟re in control of your Egypt reveals himself to his brothers, destiny.” And we in America— the brothers are just absolutely cut to especially in Evangelicalism but also the heart, and he says, “Don‟t be in other places—clearly have come distressed, don‟t be angry with up with a theology to match it. “You yourselves for selling me here, do what is required of you, and God because it was to save lives that will do what you require of Him, and God sent me ahead of you,” who everything will turn out well.” was acting above it all and beyond it I remember here in town, the all. He goes on to say in Genesis last time the Rams unfortunately lost 45:7, “God sent me ahead of you to the Super Bowl—just before the preserve for you a remnant on earth Super Bowl, one of the players was and to save your lives by a great interviewed about the key to their deliverance.” And what happened success. I won‟t mention his name, out of that, of course, was the people but he said, “If you are faithful and of God were saved, they increased obedient to God, God will be faithful even under slavery, they were and obedient to you.” [Laughter] I brought out, went back to the Holy kid you not! Land and from them came the WILKEN: So, it‟s a little bit like that Messiah. God was above and in and famous song from The Sound of through it all. Music where the nun Maria has had WILKEN: We come up with all sorts all her dreams realized. She‟s of wrong answers to the question married Baron von Trapp. The that we often ask when we suffer, children are all hers now. And she “Why me?” or when others suffer, sings, “Somewhere I must‟ve done “Why not me?” Our wrong answer something good.” usually has always to do with the fact HARRISON: Precisely, precisely. we think we‟re in control of the And it‟s so common in the heart of situation. And you said right here, men. I think of Job and Zophar in God is behind it all. chapter 11. He says to Job, “If you You tell a story about the devote your heart to God and stretch death of a teenager when you were out your hands to him, if you put a parish pastor, and a funeral you away the sin that is in your hand and attended, and a funeral sermon you allow no evil, then all things are heard from a female pastor trying to going to go well with you, Job.” And explain to the people there why this that‟s the way we like to think, even teenager had been taken so early. when we take a look at the story of What was her answer, and what was Joseph and his coat of many colors. your reaction? HARRISON: Yes, we are facing only characters in the Gospel who when we look at the problem of actually get it right about Jesus—“I evil—we‟re facing an absolutely tell you the truth, you are the Son of unfathomable and profound mystery God”—are the demons! Those in that is not easily explained. In fact, the spirit world recognize who Jesus it‟s in many respects unexplainable. is! St. Peter says—you know, Jesus A young boy had been says, “Who do men say that I am?” involved in a car accident in a rural And “Some say John the Baptist; community. I attended the funeral as some say Elijah.” “But who do you pastor of a neighboring church—so say I am?” “Thou art the Christ, the many of our children were Son of the living God.” Mark 8. And devastated by this accident. And the Jesus praises him, “Blessed are you, woman preached in the sermon— Simon Barjona, God has revealed right up front she said, “I want you to this to you.” And then what know God had absolutely nothing to happens? Jesus starts to predict His do with this accident.” And I thought, suffering and dying, and what does “Well, you know, that‟s a nice way to Peter do? Right away he contradicts say, „Get the problem of suffering off Jesus! “I won‟t have that kind of God‟s plate and off our plate, suffering Messiah. There‟s no bad worrying about what God has in stuff in my Messiah‟s life; it‟s victory!” mind for us.‟ On the other hand, can Then you go through the rest of the I believe in such a God who is not Gospel, and nobody understands strong enough to prevent these kind who this Jesus is! When He does of things, or is sort of hands-off in miracles they chase Him out of town! this world? Is that the God I believe Well, who finally gets it right? The in?” I don‟t think so. I mean, St. only one besides the demons who Paul says in Acts 17, “In Him we live actually knows who Jesus is, is a and move and have our being.” And centurion who has crucified Him. we know God is all-powerful. There And Jesus is hanging on the Cross— has to be a different explanation. chapter 15, the second-last WILKEN: Another wrong answer chapter—and as Jesus is hanging that we develop, Matt, is, “Well, what there dead on the Cross, finally the we call bad really isn‟t bad; it‟s centurion says, “Truly, this man was actually good. The God I believe in the Son of God.” is so good that He wouldn‟t let And I think there‟s an anything bad happen to me.” How absolutely fabulous and fundamental do you respond to that? truth in this for us. We see—we HARRISON: I think that is simplistic finally see God, we know God in as well. There‟s really an amazing ways that are quite unexpected: we truth in the Bible—especially the see Him in suffering, and that New Testament—and I think you find changes everything about how we it so clearly in Mark‟s Gospel, for look at the world and our lives. instance. Mark is the shortest of the WILKEN: When we come back from Gospels. Read Mark‟s Gospel and this break, we‟re going to continue you‟ll note something. Everybody in our conversation with Pastor Matt the Gospel gets Jesus wrong. The Harrison, executive director of LCMS World Relief and Human Care. think, “The way it works is this, it‟s a We‟re going to be talking more about mathematical equation: I do good why bad things happen. The real deeds, God rewards me in this life, answer to the problem of evil and of and then He rewards me with eternal suffering is found—begins and life because I am a good person.” ends—at the Cross. So when we Every religion of the world has some come back we‟re gonna talk about a variation on this, and when theology of the Cross. That is a way Christianity goes wrong, it has this of talking about God and all that He variation as well. does in terms of the Cross as God works in quite a different opposed to our natural theology. We way. He calls it the “wisdom of the sometimes call that the theology of cross.” St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 1 glory. Stay with us. We‟ll be right and following, talks about the back after this break. “wisdom of the world” and the [COMMERCIAL PAUSE] “wisdom of the Cross.” And the WILKEN: Welcome back to Issues, wisdom of the Cross is “foolishness Etc. I‟m Todd Wilken. Pastor Matt to men.” Paul goes on to say that Harrison is our guest as we talk “we preach Christ, the crucified about why bad things happen. He‟s One.” And it‟s very interesting, the executive director of LCMS World Greek verb that he uses there is a Relief and Human Care, and he‟s verb that means Christ is the One also a translator of the devotional who was crucified at one point in the book, Meditations on Divine Mercy. past and continues always into the Now, you can read an article future to remain the crucified One. that Matt has written, titled, “Why Do When we want to see God at work in Bad Things Happen?” on our Web this world, we want to think, “Oh, my site. The address: issuesetc.org. goodness! God is gonna give me Under the “What‟s New” section, dreams so I know His will. God is you‟ll find this article, “Why Do Bad going to tell me how I can follow a Things Happen?” by Pastor Matt certain path—a 12-step path so I can Harrison, our guest in this hour. have health, wealth and prosperity. Matt, before the break you If only I open my heart enough, I will brought us to the Cross as the then have wealth, and I will have the beginning and the end of the answer Holy Spirit.” But the thing that we to the question of why bad things often forget is, and the thing we happen. There‟s a distinction made really mess up is all those schemes by theologians between a theology presume me as the actor—getting of the Cross—a way of thinking and God to do something—and the talking about God in terms of the wisdom of the Cross is none of that. Cross—and a theology of glory. The wisdom of the Cross is simply Make that distinction for us, and you and I are nothing in Christ‟s explain how that helps us get a sight. We are dead in trespasses handle on the problem of evil. and sins. And God has to act. And HARRISON: How does God work in He acts through a cross. He acts in this world? That‟s the great a most surprising way. He acts question. We are prone naturally to through a cross to bring about the all-powerful. And “God works all best for us. things together for good for those And the really interesting thing who are called according to His here, Todd, is that this one act is purpose”—Romans 8—a passage both supreme evil and supreme that has long since been my favorite. good, depending on the way you WILKEN: Some would say, “Well, look at it. So, is Christ‟s death a that‟s all fine and good, Pastor result of sin? Well, absolutely! Is it a Harrison, but Christians need to result of a pusilianimous and sinful move beyond the Cross into the ruler by the name of Pilate? victorious life, and that‟s gonna Absolutely! Is it the result of a first- mean a constant kind of betterment century Jewish community that of our lives. That means that what attacked Christ and His message was true of suffering in the past, it‟ll and rejected Him as Messiah? be gone. The more victorious we Absolutely! Is it the result of are, the more victorious we‟ll be over disciples who fled and did not stand our sin. We‟ll struggle less, and we‟ll to confess His name? Absolutely! struggle less with these kind of hard All those things. It is unmitigated questions like the problem of evil.” evil. It is killing the Son of God, God HARRISON: Well, the problem with in the flesh. And, yet, right in the that idea is that Jesus doesn‟t do it midst of what looks to be the most Himself. I mean, Jesus lives a horrible thing, God is doing exactly perfect life on earth, follows the will what He plans. of His Father perfectly, and what Think of the women who are does it get Him? Crucifixion! And, standing there looking at Jesus dying by the way, when St. Peter‟s hanging on the Cross. “It‟s over! God upside-down on a cross being apparently hates Him and hates us, crucified upside-down because he too. Everything we had our hopes counted himself not worthy to be on is dying there—is even dead on crucified in the manner of his the Cross.” And they could not know Savior—when Peter is hanging that God was doing everything— upside-down, are you gonna tell him, everything good right there on the “Peter, you‟re not living the victorious cross—for the blessing of the entire life!”? And Paul just before the blade world until after the resurrection. swings to chop off his head, “Paul! And I would hold that that is the lens Weren‟t you living the victorious through which we must view not only life?!” And have you not read, can the most horrendous suffering in the you not look at your New Testament world like that in the Third World and if you have that view to take a look at other suffering we come upon, but all those places where Paul talks also the suffering in our own lives about all the enormous suffering—in and in our own families. And in that trial, at sea, in danger at sea, in sense we cannot understand always danger from false brethren, he goes what God is doing. By no means on and on complaining about all the can we understand it. We will challenges he faces. Then he says, understand it one day, but we can “I‟ve got a thorn in my flesh”—in 2 know this: God is in charge. God is Corinthians—and he pleads with the Lord three times to take it away—it‟s hope in Him!” Job 13—12 or 13 or all present-tense. And the Lord so. That is real faith! says, “No, no. You come to know Now, St. Paul makes it clear. Me most perfectly through suffering. He requests the Lord take the thorn My grace is sufficient for you.” And from him three times, and the Lord then Paul goes on to say, “When I says no. Now, notice the language am weak, then I am strong.” The there: “I was sent a thorn in my victorious life is simply this: it is flesh, a messenger of Satan.” realizing evermore that I am nothing, Passive: I was sent. Who sent it?! and when I am nothing, Christ is my God Himself. And the point here is, everything. Satan is like a pit bull on a chain. And you can go fool yourself. Satan only gets out as far as the You can live—you can think that Lord lets him get out. And that is you‟ve got everything down, and something we must cling to in this you‟re living holy, and that‟s why life. Evil is controlled by God and you‟re driving a new car, and that‟s used for His purposes, as why God is so-called blessing you in unfathomable as they may be. so many ways. But, finally, you‟re WILKEN: Pastor Matt Harrison is gonna face death some day. You‟re our guest. I want to talk a little bit gonna face that last moment barring more about that when we come back Christ‟s return where you‟re gonna from this break and then apply the be terrified of sin, death and the old distinction of Law and Gospel to devil. And at that point are you the problem of suffering as well. gonna say, “I‟ve lived the victorious How does it help answer what God is life”? Or are you gonna say, doing and why bad things happen? “Dearest Jesus, forgive me. I am a [COMMERCIAL PAUSE] beggar and a sinner”? I‟d say you‟ll WILKEN: Welcome back to Issues, either say the latter, or you will not Etc. It strikes me in the midst of this spend eternity with Him in heaven. conversation that, well, you know the WILKEN: Pastor Harrison, we have old song is, “denial just isn‟t a river in only a minute here and no more Egypt.” It‟s something that all of us before we go to this break. At this engage in, denial, especially when it point someone‟s asking, “Well, what comes to the problem of evil. That‟s place does Satan have in all of this? what the theology of glory is, in How does Satan—where does he fit essence, a denial of how God is into the problem of evil?” How really working in this world, and a should we rightly understand that? denial of what the real Christian life HARRISON: Well, we see with the is. case of Job where actually the devil You know what the real comes to God and basically gets Christian life is? It‟s the Cross! permission to test and try Job. And That‟s what the real Christian life Job is so wonderful! I mean, he says looks like. It looks like a crucified just after Zophar says, “Straighten up Savior! Now, that message comes and these bad things wouldn‟t across in conversations like this happen to you,” Job says, “Even when we‟re talking about the though the Lord slay me, I will yet problem of evil, and I hope and pray that it comes across in every speaks in Scripture? How does it conversation we have here on help the Christian understand his Issues, Etc. own suffering and suffering on a If you appreciate the Christ- greater scale as well? centered, cross-centered message HARRISON: Todd, I think this whole of Issues, Etc., please consider matter of understanding suffering is prayerfully making a year-end deeply tied with what is called the financial gift to this outreach. Now, doctrine of justification: how do I in the past year we were forced to know that I‟m right with God? And eliminate the production of CDs for this depends completely on Law and our tape-delay affiliates from our Gospel. And these two realities— budget. However, the CD distributor these two words of God—are has been producing these CDs simultaneous realities. Under the entirely at his own expense. But Law I am a sinner. Even my he‟s not going to be able to do that in righteous deeds are “as filthy rags” 2004. So, we‟re looking for says Isaiah. And St. Paul complains someone to make a one-time gift of so loudly in Romans 7, and he does $4,000. We‟ll use this money to pay not use the past-tense. Paul, for the production and the probably the greatest Christian that distribution of CDs for almost half of ever lived, says, “I do not understand our affiliates that air Issues, Etc. on a what I do, for what I want to do I do tape-delay basis. Now you can now not do, but what I hate I do! And if I donate online. Our Web site: do what I do not want to do, I agree issuesetc.org. Go there, click on the the law is good. The law isn‟t the “What‟s New” section. You‟ll find a problem. As it is, it is no longer I way to donate. Also, you can donate myself who do it, but it is sin living in by calling our resource line by credit me.” And he goes on to complain card: 1-800-737-0172. Or you can about when he wants to do what is make a year-end tax-deductible gift right, he doesn‟t carry it out. And by check to Issues, Etc., P.O. Box even when he does what is right, sin 9360, St. Louis, MO 63117. is right there crouching at his door. Remember, no gift is too small. If He says, “In my inner being I delight you‟d like to be this special $4,000 in the law of the Lord,” but then right donor to Issues, Etc. for that CD away he finds himself sinning. fund, please ear-mark the gift The reality is, sin is so much a “Issues, Etc. CD Fund.” part—so corrupted us—even as We‟re talking about why bad Christians we constantly have the things happen. Pastor Matt Harrison wrong motivations, even when we do is our guest. the right things. Under the Law Matt, there‟s another everybody always is condemned. distinction that is made in Lutheran I love to do a little play from theology and other theologies as Dr. Seuss: The law said what it well, the distinction between Law meant and meant what it said. It and Gospel. How does this help the damns every one of us 100 percent! individual Christian understanding Always! There‟s never a time the these two words of God which He Law will cease to condemn you. But what‟s the purpose of the Law? So committing adultery and not stealing you could earn heaven? No, that‟d or murdering, then now we have to be like trying to climb to heaven on a explain the problem of why bad ladder made of sand. The Law has things happen to those kind of a purpose, and its purpose is to drive people. us to Jesus. So at the end of Paul‟s Well, actually, the real sins great complaint in Romans 7, he are sins against the first table of the says, “Oh, wretched man that I am, Law: “You shall have no other who shall save me from this body of gods,” which means we shouldn‟t death?” fear, love or trust in anything else, And so suffering—suffering is and yet we do. We fear all kinds of the Lord‟s alien work as Martin things. We fear speaking truth Luther would say. It is His work because we‟ll be attacked. We which is used for another more fear—we love sex, or we love or lust important purpose, to drive us to after goods or money or a better Jesus. And when we believe in paycheck, and we‟re discontent. Jesus, even our own sinfulness— Those are the big sins. And we are even our bad conscience that always guilty of those sins. plagues us—and, by the way, a bad The premise of the book is conscience is evidence for a wrong because the reality is, all of us Christian that he actually believes in are sinners and none of us deserves Jesus, because if he didn‟t believe in anything good from God whatsoever. Jesus, he wouldn‟t be troubled by a That is a radical viewpoint of the bad conscience. Those things as we New Testament, and it really has to look to Jesus in and of themselves be believed. It is not something I become crosses which continue to can come up with rationally. drive us to our merciful Savior so WILKEN: Maybe part of the mystery that we may cry out with blind of God‟s will—and this is where I‟d Bartimaeus, “Lord, Son of David! like to talk about two things that Kyrie, eleison—Lord, have mercy Luther says regarding suffering. upon me!” And that is the epitome of First of all, he points out in the a Christian. catechism that we cannot see how it WILKEN: There was a book that is that God is constantly acting became very popular some decades behind the scenes to thwart the will back written by a Rabbi—very of the devil. Everything that the devil famous book, Why Do Bad Things would do—rob us of God‟s kingdom, Happen to Good People? It‟s of our daily bread, of life itself— become a cliché for people to even HARRISON: True. Yes. ask this question at times of trouble WILKEN: —and especially of faith and at times of catastrophe. Is there in Christ—we don‟t see God! a false assumption here? HARRISON: That‟s right! Hey, HARRISON: Sure. The premise is Todd, I think that‟s often—it‟s like that we are all good people that old Charlie Chaplin movie where fundamentally. Sin is not such a he‟s walking along reading the terribly big problem. If we just avoid newspaper, and he steps into a the, you know, the big sins like construction site and steps onto a beam that is being elevated—have to pieces! You‟re hacking me to you seen this? nothing! You‟re gonna kill me!” And WILKEN: Yeah. the vinedresser says, “Oh, no. I‟m HARRISON: It‟s being elevated, just trimming away the unfruitful and he continues to read the paper. branches so you‟ll be even more The beam goes up at just the right fruitful.” And then next the time, so he steps off onto this vinedresser comes along and starts structure of the building, and then he prodding the roots of the plant, and ends up stepping back off to another the plant screams again, “What are beam being lowered down by a you doing, you fool! You‟ll chop me crane. He continues on the off at the roots right there! I‟ll be sidewalk, and he‟s just been through dead for good! No fruit whatsoever!” a hair-raising experience. I am And the vinedresser says, “Oh no, convinced our lives are just like that! I‟m not chopping anything. I‟m just And then once in a while God will loosening the soil around you so that allow us to stub a toe or something, you will be able to grow and produce and we will howl! Scream to high a wonderful harvest.” And then heaven after we‟ve just been through finally the vinedresser comes along the previous experience of being with a big wheel barrel of manure saved from who knows what, we will and, sure enough, throws the scream, “Where were you God?! I manure right on the root area of the broke my fingernail!” I‟m convinced vine, and the vine screams, “What life is just like that! are you doing?! You‟re gonna drown WILKEN: Luther also talks in terms me in that muck!” And the of John 5—I think it is—where Jesus vinedresser says, “Oh no, I‟m just speaks the famous words, “I am the fertilizing you. It‟s unpleasant now, vine, you are the branches. but I‟m fertilizing you so that you‟ll Whatever vine in me bears good produce the best harvest ever.” And fruit, the Father prunes so that it Luther says that‟s what it is in the might bear more fruit.” Recount for Christian life. The Lord does a lot of us how it is Luther deals with that fertilizing, and Lord knows we go passage in terms of human suffering. through all kinds of muck in this life. HARRISON: That is just one of my But we know, in Christ, that suffering favorite sections of Luther. Luther is purposeful just like the Cross, just said, “If I want to be a Christian, I like the Cross. And we “share in the must also wear the court uniform. sufferings of Jesus,” Paul says. We Dear Christians, dear Christians fulfill the sufferings of Christ. Isn‟t it must suffer.” And that‟s the court an amazing thought? And He brings uniform of being a Christian. it about not for our destruction but to Now, he says in this vine and drive us to cling to Him. I wouldn‟t branches text, “I am the vine, you pray much if I didn‟t have to suffer a are the branches,” he personifies the bit in this world. vine. So the vinedresser comes WILKEN: Pastor Matt Harrison is along one day and starts pruning the our guest. We‟re answering the vine, and the vine screams, “What question, why do bad things are you doing?! You‟re chopping me happen? He‟s executive director of LCMS World Relief and Human about it next week on Issues, Etc. Care. You can check out the Web with Drs. John and Tim Saleska. site for LCMS World Relief by simply Now, if you‟d like to know going to our Web site: issuesetc.org. what we‟ll be discussing in to 2004 Under the “What‟s New” section on Issues, Etc., visit our Web site: you‟re gonna find—I‟m sorry, under issuesetc.org. While you‟re there at the links with “Regular Guests” the Web site, be sure to check out section, you‟re gonna find a direct our Issues, Etc. Book of the Month link to Pastor Matt Harrison and for December, Saint Nicholas—The LCMS World Relief. Or, you can call Real Story of the Christmas Legend. our resource line: 1-800-737-0172. You can order the book And we‟ll give you the phone number online, by the way, at our Web site. and mailing address for LCMS World It cost $12.99 plus shipping and Relief. handling. Or you can call Concordia Luther says there are three Publishing House weekdays during things that make a theologian: regular business hours: 1-800-325- meditation, prayer and suffering— 3040. Now, when you call, make meditatio, oratio and tentatio— sure you mention Issues, Etc. It‟s suffering. It is the crucible in which our Book of the Month for December: we are purified—not purified so Saint Nicholas. much we tend to think of purity in Pastor Matt Harrison is our terms of morals—no. God is guest. For the next few minutes we‟ll purifying faith in Christ by suffering. conclude our conversation, And He is connecting us to the answering the question, why do bad sufferings of Christ, and then we things happen? begin to see everything—all the bad Matt, can we ever answer the things that happen in our life through question, “why?”—the big “why?” the lens of the Cross. If we‟ve been question with any particulars in this united with Him in a death like His, life before the resurrection? beyond this suffering there must be HARRISON: That is a huge hope, for then we will be united with question. I‟m asking you why you Him in a resurrection like His! When ask me that question. we come back, we‟re gonna talk WILKEN: [Laughter] about the question, why? HARRISON: Uh, actually, there are [COMMERCIAL PAUSE] obvious answers to obvious things. WILKEN: Next week on Issues, If I live in a fast and loose way and Etc., we‟re going to discuss the drive 100 miles an hour without my “Complaint Psalms” with Dr. John seatbelt on in a rickety car and go off Saleska of the Concordia Bible the road, there‟s an obvious cause Institute, and his son, Dr. Tim for that kind of activity on a limited Saleska of Concordia Seminary. basis. What did the ancient Israelites do WILKEN: Consequences for our when they perceived God to be their actions. enemy? Is it possible to complain to HARRISON: Absolutely. And God—to persuade God to change nothing have I said today wishes to His course of action? We‟ll talk circumvent that. But we are not prophets, and the Lord does not— when I am weak, then I am strong” contrary to what many believe—the because I‟m holding to Jesus, only Lord does not appear to us in Jesus, nothing but Jesus, always dreams, and the Lord does not Jesus, and nothing in me. And that appear to us in sort of through is Christianity in its best form. people who rant and rave and say WILKEN: I‟d like to talk for just a “The Lord told me this or that.” I look few minutes about not my suffering, at St. Paul. St. Paul was a prophet but about the suffering of my of God. He says, “I have been given neighbor. Is my neighbor‟s suffering certain surpassing revelations, but in my opportunity to act in love through order to keep me humble I was given the vocation—that place where God a thorn in my flesh.” Now, Paul has put me in life? knows—Paul knows the general HARRISON: Oh, absolutely. That is cause of the challenges he faced your vocation. You‟re called to serve were to keep him humble. And I Jesus. You know, you think of Jesus would say we are in exactly the in the Last Judgment in Matthew 25, same circumstance. Though we do saying to the righteous, “I was not receive revelations like Paul did, hungry and you fed me. I was thirsty we have the Bible. We are put and you gave me drink. I was in through afflictions by God to drive us prison and you visited me,” etc. And to Jesus, and therefore I can say the righteous say, “Well, Lord, when exactly—if I‟m going through troubles did you see you hungry or thirsty or in my life, I‟ll say, “Oh, Lord, I plead in prison?” And Jesus says, “Truly I with you three times! Take it away say to you, whatsoever you‟ve done from me!” But God responds to the least of these, my brethren, through this very word in 2 you have done it also unto me.” Corinthians 12 to us—not only to The service of God does not Paul but to us!—“My grace is happen primarily on Sunday morning sufficient for you, for my power is at church. That‟s where God serves made perfect in—what?— you with His Word of forgiveness weakness.” Just like Jesus on the and His grace of Word and in cross. “And therefore I will boast all Sacrament, the Lord‟s Supper. And the more gladly in my weaknesses.” Luther will say, “There in the Lord‟s You notice wherever the Law Supper, Christ gives Himself all for is at work in the wrong way, we‟re you that you may now give yourself boasting about how holy we are: all for your neighbor.” And so my “Oh, everything will go fine in your neighbor‟s need is my vocation to life. If you get holy like me and service. And this is so beautiful follow these ten steps, you‟ll make a because a lot of times when we million like I have.” That‟s not the suffer things, we get into kind of a Bible. “I will boast all the more gladly pity party and think, “Oh, my! I—you in my weaknesses so that Christ‟s know—I can‟t see beyond my naval! power may rest on me. That is why, Why is God doing this to me?” But for Christ‟s sake, I delight in then later we find our neighbor who weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, is suffering those same difficulties in persecutions, in difficulties, for we once went through. And now we‟re worth something. [Laughter] for you no matter what—especially We‟re usable by God because we‟ve when you don‟t feel anything. been humbled, and we‟ve been WILKEN: Pastor Matt Harrison, taught something by suffering, and thank you very much for being our we can love our neighbor in a way guest on Issues, Etc. that was totally impossible previous Pastor Matt Harrison is to it. I‟ve seen this in my own life executive director of LCMS World many, many times. Relief and Human Care. He also WILKEN: There‟s a person listening translated the devotional book, to us just coming out of the holiday, Meditations on Divine Mercy. the Christmas season, and for them Folks, why don‟t you give a all of the joy of this time rings hollow. tape of this broadcast “Why Do Bad They say, “I don‟t see it! I don‟t see Things Happen?” to a friend or Jesus in my life! My life is at this coworker or a relative who is point darkness, loneliness, sorrow, suffering from depression or loss or loss!” What do you say to them? hardship? All you have to do is HARRISON: I say, good. Because contact a local church that sponsors you are learning that you are nothing Issues, Etc. for you, and they‟ll send in and of yourselves and you need you a free cassette recording. Get a Jesus and you are being driven to pen and a piece of paper ready, Jesus. I say to you, go to church. because right after the Issues, Etc. It‟s not about what you give, it‟s closed theme, you‟re going to hear about what you receive from Jesus. an announcement with a phone You say, “No, but they‟re all number and a mailing address right hypocrites at church!” Well, of after that theme. If you don‟t, course they are, and there‟s room for contact a local Lutheran church and one more: you. ask them to sponsor Issues, Etc. Church is not a place where And if you‟d like a complimentary we say, “Oh, come get holy like us! copy of our Issues, Etc. Journal, or if Come! Quit breaking the Law and you like to know how to contact be holy like us so we‟re pleasing to Pastor Matt Harrison at LCMS World Jesus!” No, church is a place where Relief, or if you would like to make a we say, “Come. Quit acting like you year-end tax-deductible gift to help don‟t need Jesus, and join us on our support the worldwide outreach of knees. Find a church that confesses Issues, Etc., call our resource line: Christ. Find a church where you 1-800-737-0172. Or write us at have to confess your sins in the Issues, Etc., P.O. Box 9360, St. liturgy. Find a church where the Louis, MO 63117. pastor says, „In Christ‟s stead I Paul was acquainted with forgive you your sins.‟ And no suffering, and I think in time it came matter how you feel that holds good. as no surprise to him that he would And Christ‟s Cross holds good for suffer. The deeper he grew to know you no matter how you feel. And his Savior Jesus Christ, the more it with time the Lord will let you have all made sense. Now, he didn‟t glimpses of joy now and again in know all the particular answers to the your life, but the Cross holds good question “Why am I suffering?” But he did know the One who suffered for him. When Paul was first called there on the road to Damascus, Jesus our Lord says of him to Ananias, the man who would later baptize him, “I will show him how much he must suffer for My name.” A man who has caused suffering for Christ‟s name—the persecutor of the Church—is suddenly put in the position of the sufferer. Well, why is this? Because that‟s the position Christ put Himself in for you and for me and for Paul and for Ananias and for those Christians who have suffered for His name throughout the centuries. Christ put Himself in that position, the One who suffers and dies for sinners like us. It makes our suffering all the better. Thanks for listening to Issues, Etc. Have a great New Year!