Why Do Bad Things Happen

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					                        Issues, Etc.

                      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!