Spiritual Brain Surgery with Dr. Lee Warren

If God is Good, Why is There Suffering?

A hard look at the biggest question: why is life so hard if God loves us?

Here'a a look at the answer, and what to do about it!

Scripture: Romans 5:3-5, James 1:2-4, Proverbs 2:10

Book Mentioned: Is God Real? by Lee Strobel

Please go to The Dr. Lee Warren Podcast for Part II of this episode: The Neurobiology of Suffering
Apple Podcasts
My website (with transcript)

Leave a voicemail with your question or comment!

Music by Austin French  and Tony Rice & Ricky Skaggs
(Music shared on The Dr. Lee Warren Podcast is authorized under BMI license #61063253 and ASCAP license #400010513 ) 

Five Ways You Can Support this show:
  1. Pray for us!
  2. Subscribe, like, and share it with your friends! (We even have a YouTube channel!)
  3. Leave reviews and comments wherever you listen to podcasts!
  4. You can become a paid partner of the podcast and get special bonus episodes and lots more content by clicking here. 
  5. Visit one of our affiliate partners and consider using their products (we use them every day):
Other Helpful Links:
Click here to access the Hope Is the First Dose playlist of hopeful, healing songs!
Be sure to check out my new book, Hope Is the First Dose!
Here's a free 5-day Bible study on YouVersion/BibleApp based on my new book!
Sign up for my weekly Self-Brain Surgery Newsletter here!
All recent episodes with transcripts are available here!

What is Spiritual Brain Surgery with Dr. Lee Warren?

When life gets hard, does what we think we believe hold us up, or does it crumble under the weight of doubt? I'm your host, Dr. Lee Warren- I'm a brain surgeon, author, and a person who's seen some stuff and wondered where God is in all this mess. This is The Spiritual Brain Surgery podcast, where we'll take a hard look at what we believe, why we believe it, and the neuroscience behind how our minds and our brains can smash together with faith to help us become healthier, feel better, and be happier so we can find the hope to withstand anything life throws at us. You've got questions, and we're going to do the hard work to find the answers, but you can't change your life until you change your mind, and it's gonna take some spiritual-brain surgery to get it done. So let's get after it.

Good morning, my friend. I hope you're doing well. I'm Dr. Lee Warren,

and we are going to talk about suffering today.

This is Theology Thursday here on Spiritual Brain Surgery Podcast.

I'm so grateful to have you listening. That was Ricky Skaggs and the great,

late Tony Rice, two of my favorite all-time bluegrass artists.

And they have this old gospel song, Talk About Suffering, here below.

That's what we're gonna talk about today. I had an incredible conversation with

a friend yesterday and have heard from many of you on the prayer wall.

Get out to the prayer wall, by the way, wlewarrenmd.com slash prayer.

If you've got something going on in your life and you wanna share it anonymously

or with your name or just with me and Lisa and Tata, You can share it with your

name and email address attached to it, and when people pray for you,

you'll get an email to let you know that somebody out there is thinking of you and praying for you.

If you share it anonymously, you'll still get the email, but your name won't

be associated with it, and so you'll find out that people are praying for you,

but they won't have your name out there.

So you can write your prayer request in a way that doesn't put your name out

there if you want to, or you can even just say don't share it online.

Line, you can just make it a private request for me and Lisa and Lisa's dad, Tata.

Tata's coming back, by the way. Next week, we'll have Tata back on the podcast.

So if you're new around here and you haven't heard Tuesdays with Tata yet, you're in for a treat.

He's coming back, and Tata is a decades-long, experienced hospital chaplain

and minister, and he knows the word as good or better than anybody I've ever

been around and is an incredible prayer warrior.

Actually, literally literally has a flat spot on one of his knees from kneeling

to pray with people for so many years.

And Tata's coming back. So not this coming Tuesday. We got a special episode on Tuesday coming up.

But Tuesdays with Tata will be back after that, and we're going to get after it with Tata.

So anyway, I've been hearing a lot of people on the prayer wall that are suffering

in different ways, losing children, having spouses die, finding out they have

cancer. They're suffering. suffering.

And yesterday I had a conversation with a friend that I'll tell you about in

a minute, and it just made me think that we've had some episodes about suffering,

but today we're going to do a special thing we've never done before.

We're going to do a two-part Theology Thursday, the first part here on spiritual

brain surgery. We're going to talk about suffering.

We're going to look at why we suffer, what it means, how to answer the great

question of our lives, really, which is, if God loves me, why is there suffering?

If there's a good God who has omnipotence, Why does he allow bad things to happen?

It's the great question of theodicy. Why, God? Why?

We're going to play that song at the end, Austin French's amazing song,

Why God, just to give you a few moments to pray and think and ask those questions.

And we're going to go deep into what the Bible has to say about suffering and

to look at suffering from a philosophical and spiritual standpoint.

And then at the same time, on the Dr. Lee Warren podcast later,

I want you to listen to both of these episodes.

We're going to talk about the neurobiology of suffering, what happens in your

brain, what happens in your mind, how those things are connected,

what does it do to your body, what does it do epigenetically to your offspring, spring?

What kinds of suffering did you inherit from your parents and your grandparents and their parents?

And what does that all have to do with how we can change our minds and change our lives?

We're going to do a two-part hit at the problem of suffering.

Somebody wrote in the other day and said, hey, it's great that you talk about

trauma and tragedy and massive things all the time.

You give us these ways to reframe and reset and refocus our lives.

But what about people that have chronic pain? What about people that have chronic

illness that won't go away?

What about them? How are they supposed to find hope? How are they supposed to

hold up knowing that this is never going to go away? Let me give you a way to

think about that today, friend.

So over on the Dr. Lee Warren podcast, it's Theology Thursday,

Suffering Part Two, Neurobiology of Suffering, going to drop at the same time today.

And I want you to listen to both of them. If you're not so into the spiritual

stuff, you can just go listen to that one if you want to.

But I think you'll be missing something because no matter what you believe or

say you believe, The great question of most of our lives is if there is a good

God, why does life hurt so much?

Why is everything so hard? Why do kids get cancer?

Why do we lose spouses? Why does my son get stabbed to death?

And by the way, this is incredibly timely and relevant for me,

for Lisa, for our family, for Tata, because tomorrow would be Mitch's,

our son Mitch, would be his 30th birthday.

He died 11 birthdays ago when he was 19.

And I'll tell you, suffering's a real and present thing in our lives all the time.

It doesn't go away. It doesn't stop. There's pain.

There's grief. Of course there is. If you've been through something hard like

that, you know that's true. It doesn't stop.

How do we then find lives full of meaning and purpose and hope and maybe even

happiness again when we suffer?

So let's talk about suffering today.

We're going to get after it. and I hope that you've learned that you can't change

your life until you change your

mind and sometimes it takes some spiritual brain surgery to get it done.

When life gets hard, does what we think we believe hold us up or does it crumble

under the weight of doubt? I'm your host, Dr. Lee Warren.

I'm a brain surgeon, author, and a person who's seen some stuff and wondered

where God is in all this mess.

This is the Spiritual Brain Surgery Podcast where we'll take a hard look at

what we believe, why we believe it, and the neuroscience behind how our minds

and our brains can smash together with faith to help us become healthier,

feel better, and be happier so we can find the hope to withstand anything life throws at us.

You've got questions, and we're going to do the hard work to find the answers.

But you can't change your life until you change your mind, and it's going to

take some spiritual brain surgery to get it done. So let's get after it.

Are you ready to get after it? All right, let's do it.

Hey, I had a good conversation, long conversation with a friend yesterday.

And he shared with me that he and his wife have been through a couple of really hard things recently.

And I won't go into the details. I don't want to out him for having this conversation with me.

But it just reinforced the idea. I was already kind of batting around this concept

of having kind of a two-part episode on suffering. And I think this is something that we'll do a lot.

One of the reasons that I split the Spiritual Brain Surgery podcast off from the main Dr.

Lee Warren podcast is because I wanted to have an opportunity to do a little

deeper dive on the science side,

detached from so much spiritual content on one hand for people who are more

doubters and more agnostic who want to get to these concepts but don't want

to be sort of hit in the face with it sometimes.

And also, I want it to go deeper on the spiritual side for people that are all in for that,

that want to go deeper and deeper and deeper and to see how do our faith and

our, how does science and faith and doubt and fear and neuroplasticity and all

these things smash together.

And I want to have two places to do that so that wherever you are in your journey,

you can have a comfortable conversation with me.

And we're going to get to the truth, okay, because there is a truth.

But I want you to find a path there that no matter which side of this equation

you are on, that you can find the solution.

Remember, equations always work both ways, right? So we never hide from the

truth. We just start from a different place so that we can all get there together, okay?

So my friend shared with me that his wife has recently been through two major traumatic events.

And the common theme between them was that both of them happened,

both of these were real events where her life was legitimately threatened.

And both of them happened in places where she should have an expectation of being safe.

Okay? I don't want to say much more

about it than that. But basically two different times she encountered,

within the last like two months, so two different times this person was in a

situation where they're supposed to be safe and something extremely dangerous

and unusual happened that threatened their not only physical safety but also emotional safety,

the safety of their children, of other people around them.

In one of those situations, she actually had to get involved and deliver care

for somebody who was injured in this place that was supposed to be safe.

You're in a place where you're supposed to be providing care for people,

and instead you're having to

react to an emergency situation where there's something dangerous happen,

and a person is injured in that dangerous situation, and your life is in jeopardy,

and you still have to do the work in the midst of it.

That's a difficult situation, and it kind of reminded me of being in Iraq.

When we were in Iraq, obviously we knew we were not in a safe place,

but inside the hospital,

you're supposed to be safe, and when they would shoot at us,

when they would mortar us in the hospital, like bombs landing close to or on

the grounds of the hospital, it always made me so mad,

but also sort of psychologically messed me up because we put the Red Cross up

there, and we say, hey, if you get hurt on the battlefield,

even if you're the bad guy, We're going to try to take care of you,

and yet you're trying to hurt us. And so it's not fair.

It doesn't seem fair. It challenged my sense of safety and security,

but also sort of justice was challenged. And it was just a difficult situation.

So my friend shared with me that his wife is really struggling with this idea

that the world can be so unjust and that suffering and danger and fear and death

and bleeding and stress and all those things can happen,

and even in the places where we are supposed to be safe.

And that creates stress. It creates post-traumatic stress. It creates difficulty processing.

And it definitely creates big questions on the theodicy side.

What's theodicy? It's this study of suffering and why suffering can occur in

a world where we supposedly have an omniscient and omnipotent and all-loving

and all-caring good God.

If we have that, why can there be suffering?

Suffering. And I was reminded of a book that I read, Is God Real?

Lee Strobel, who was on the podcast recently. And if you haven't heard that

episode, go back and listen to it.

Tremendous talk with Lee Strobel, where he took a journalistic look at the question,

the big question, is God real?

And of course, if you're going to ask that question, you're going to come around

to the question of suffering at some point.

And he did an interview at the end of the book with Peter who's a philosopher

and writer and has written some incredible books about suffering.

In fact, my all-time favorite book about suffering, I think, was from Peter Kreeft.

And Kreeft weaves sort of philosophy and religion and science and all these

things, has a great grasp of history from Socrates, Plato, Aristotle,

Augustine, Kierkegaard, Dostoevsky.

He just writes beautifully about the problem of suffering. So it was a fascinating

interview between Lee Strobel and Peter Kreeft.

And one of the things Kreeft talked about was this metaphor,

this analogy of comparing our relationship to God with our relationship to some

of the higher animals, like bears, for example.

And Kreeft would say, think about this for a minute, like when people say things like,

You know, this child died in Africa because there wasn't enough rain and the.

Crops failed and the child starved to death.

And how can there be a God who loves people and is a good God if something like

that could happen? Like all this kid needed was some rain.

How is it possible that that person, that there's a God out there who cares

about us if something like that could happen?

God controls the rain. Surely he could send some rain and that wouldn't happen, right?

Well, it's a good question. Of course it is. And that was a famous,

by the way, a famous statement by an atheist named Templeton who wrote about

this kid that died in Africa, a woman who died in Africa because of a lack of rain.

Billy Graham talked about her and talked about him.

And apparently late in his life, Templeton actually had an experience and came back to faith.

But Kreeft uses that story as a way to say, to take a hard look at what happens

when we actually ask those questions about where is God in our suffering.

And this is a little bit raw, but the truth is if you look closely at what we

all say when we're going through hard things, we all say very clearly things

like, I don't understand.

I don't think that's fair. I wouldn't do it that way.

And so we start when we question God and we question if there is God and we

question the nature of God and we question God's goodness.

It's always based out of our perspective of what we think is right or fair or

good, isn't it? I mean, just be real honest with yourself.

I can tell you, my son was stabbed to death 11 birthdays ago, August of 2013.

And this tomorrow is his 30th birthday.

My son, who's 19, who would now be a grown man. And it's been part of every day wondering.

What he would have looked like now if he would have gotten married,

what she would have looked like, what their kids would have looked like.

Sometimes we'll be out and we'll see a little kid somewhere,

and I'll say to Lisa, he looks a little bit like Mitch did when he was a boy.

I bet Mitch's son would look a little bit like that.

And it just never stops, right? You have this constant sort of reorientation

back to the day or to the thing or to the phone call or to the memory of what you've lost.

It's just natural. but when I think about it when

I go down the staircase down into that

hole for some reason in my mind when

I revisit Mitch I always see this mental staircase and I wrote about it in Hope

is the First Dose my newest book and I always see this door at the bottom of

the staircase and somehow I know that if I go down there and get to that door

that on the other side of it is my son who's bleeding after he's been stabbed

and I just have this strong mental.

Urge to go down there and go through that door and find him.

And maybe I can save him or maybe I can hold his hand while he's dying.

And I see that. And it's easy for me if I get quiet and close my eyes and allow

myself to have my mind wander, it's easy for me to go down into that place.

And inevitably when I do, I start asking those why questions.

Why, God, did this happen? How could you let this occur?

Mitch was a good kid. He was coming home. We were reconnecting.

He was going back to school.

Everything was getting right. right, you were answering our prayers,

and then he was gone. Why? Why?

And I just have to tell you, J.I. Packer's right. J.I. Packer said,

if you ask why God, you don't ever get an answer, almost never get an answer.

So the real question is, what am I supposed to do now?

How am I to glorify you now? How am I to live my life now that this has happened?

And when you ask that question, Packer says, you start to get answers.

So Kreeft says, look hard at the words that you say in response to suffering,

and they will teach you something about yourself. Like, are you focusing on

God's perspective on what's happening in the world?

Are you focusing on your opinion of what should be happening in the world?

And Kreef tells this incredible story, this analogy between,

do you think you're, are there more differences between you and God, or say you and a bear?

So if there is a God who's omnipotent, timeless, eternal, sinless,

perfect, knows everything, can speak and worlds are created,

can snap his fingers and say, let there be light, and it happens.

If there is really that God, okay, is he more different than you than you are, say, a bear, right?

Certainly, I'm probably closer to a bear than I am to God because I can't snap

my fingers and make light.

I can't create the universe with my word. I can't, you know, part the waters.

I can't walk on water. I can't turn water into wine. I can't raise the dead.

I certainly am closer to a bear than I am to God. Now that sounds silly,

but think through this analogy.

Kreeft wrote this beautiful analogy. Think about it.

There's a bear caught in a trap in the woods, and a hiker goes by who happens

to be a veterinarian. Okay, I'm embellishing the story a little bit.

Let's say the veterinarian, our Dr. Susan that used to take good care of Harvey

and Lewis before they died, she's walking through the woods,

and she sees this bear caught in a trap, and she's going to try to help the bear.

Well, the bear's enraged, right, because he's stuck in the trap,

and he's angry, and his leg hurts, and he's afraid, and he won't calm down.

Even though Susan approaches him carefully and she says, hey, calm down,

I'm here to help you, the bear is so confused and so enraged and so limited

by the lack of massive prefrontal cortex that has language and symbols like

we do that he can't understand what she's saying.

And he naturally assumes that she's going to try to hurt him more.

So she ends up having to reach into her backpack and pull out some sedatives and sedate the bear.

She doesn't have enough to knock him all the way out. But now he's subdued,

and he's aware that she's there.

He just can't fight back now, and now she's going to try to save him.

And he thinks that her drugging him is further evidence that she's against him.

So he's now really mad and really hurt and really scared.

He's stuck in this trap, and now this woman has drugged him,

and he can't fight back. And boy, now everything's really even worse.

And now she can't spring the trap. She's not strong enough to spring the trap

and pull his leg out by herself.

So she realizes that she's got to push his leg farther in to release the tension

on the spring, and then she'll be able to step on it and release it and get his leg out.

But when she pushes the bear's leg further into the trap, it hurts him even more.

And even though he's partially sedated and he can't fight back, he feels more pain.

And now he's really convinced that she's trying to hurt him.

And he's 100% convinced that Susan is his enemy who wants him to suffer,

and she's there to cause him pain, and he doesn't understand.

And maybe she even set the trap in his mind.

Maybe she's the one that put it there in the first place, and she's really after

him, and he's gonna end up for sure dead and stuffed and mounted on her wall, and he's just furious.

But he can't do anything about it. He's just suffering.

Well, you would recognize that the bear has drawn a series of incorrect conclusions,

about Susan's intentions.

Dr. Susan's there to help him. She didn't set the trap.

Somebody else did that. A person did that who was trying to trap a bear.

But she was just hiking through the woods. She's there benevolently trying to help him.

But to do so she's got to do some

things that are counterintuitive to him that are

above his ability to understand that are beyond

his ability to reason and noodle that out that she's there to help him because

he's not capable intellectually built to understand and nor does he have the

the insight to see the big plan that she has for him that actually is in his best interest.

So the bear can't understand what's happening because he lacks the tools and

the perspective and the cognitive ability,

because he's fundamentally different than she is with a different kind of brain

and a different kind of thought process than she has.

And you can see that, right? That analogy actually starts to make sense when

we apply it to suffering and the difference between the bear and the person

is vastly closer than the difference between us and God.

So sometimes maybe God has a different perspective on this than we do.

God has a different perspective on our suffering. Now, you would say,

well, if He's really God, then He wouldn't allow suffering.

But I would submit to you that if you're going to give God credit for all the

suffering, then you should also have to give Him credit for all the good in the world.

And then you would have to start to see, wait a minute, if God is all good and

he created us with free will so that we could choose whether we wanted to follow him or not.

Because if he didn't give us free will and we didn't have the opportunity to

choose whether we wanted to love him and be in a relationship with him,

then we would be robots or slaves and that's not loving.

So a loving God could not have created us without free will.

And the problem with free will is it opens up the opportunity for us to choose

things that are not good.

Now, understand some suffering is because of physical illness and some suffering

is because of birth defects and some suffering is because of things that people do to other people.

So there are certainly some things that happen that seem completely inexplicable.

Why does the two-year-old get glioblastoma? We have to zoom out and look at

the entire story and understand that human illness and human death and human

aging and human interaction that involves sin against one another all came out

of that original sin in the garden. okay?

That all sin and all death and all physical malady and all physical illness

and disease came from the fact that our bodies now have the ability to age and

die and develop disease.

So you have to zoom out to the entire story to agree that the existence of evil,

even in physical maladies that aren't willful choices, still is part of that

original problem, this long narrative arc of the the story that we're in, okay?

So the bottom line is, if you are going to allow for the objective.

Presence of good in the universe and the objective presence of evil in the universe,

then you can't blame God for the evil.

If you also understand that there is good and that He has a long,

redemptive plan in place to deliver us from all of this, okay?

And back to that in just a minute, but I want to share with you.

A couple of ideas from Kreeft, again, that as he addresses this problem of what suffering is all about,

it comes down to the fact that criticizing God for what we think he ought to

be doing right now is very much akin to looking at a,

say, look at a long novel like War and Peace or The Brothers Karamazov or Crime

and Punishment, say, 800-page novel, right?

If you picked up that book and you opened it to the middle page and you started

reading from the middle and all the characters were in disarray and there was

all kinds of mayhem and all kinds of trouble and you couldn't figure out what was happening,

if you stopped reading that book and you threw it in the fire and you said,

that's the worst author I've ever seen, I hate that story,

I don't understand why he would write it that way, that's a terrible author and a terrible story,

and I'm never going to read anything else he writes again. end.

Well, people would say, well, you're crazy.

You can't start in the middle of a novel and then blame the author for not understanding

the plot, not understanding where it's going. You got to read the whole thing.

You got to get to the end and see what it's about.

You got to let the author write the story out so that you can ultimately understand what happened, right?

You'd think it was nuts if I condemned the novel after only reading a few pages

in the middle or I criticized the author.

You have to understand that you're in the middle of a long story, right?

So if you then say, all right, well, God, if you actually read scripture and

see what God says about the story that we're in, then what God actually says

about the story that we're in is this, I'm not done yet.

I have relieved your pain. I have redeemed your suffering. I have forgiven your sins.

I am going going to redeem your body. I am going to fix all those people that

were stuck with bad bodies or broken bodies or accidents that paralyzed them

like Johnny Erickson taught.

I have a plan to fix all of that. You're just in the middle of the story right now.

If you could start seeing it that way, start seeing that we're in the middle

of a long narrative arc, then we could start perhaps perhaps to see that pain

and suffering might have a purpose after all.

C.S. Lewis said, God whispers to us

in our pleasures, speaks to us in our conscience, and shouts in our pains.

It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.

Well, what does he mean about that, rousing a deaf world?

I would challenge you, friend, I would challenge you to look back over your life to this point.

And answer a question honestly. What periods of your life have led to the most growth?

What periods of your life have led to the most improvement.

In your ability to think and carry out your life in a reasonable way,

to develop character, to understand that you're tougher than you thought you

were, to lead your family when they're going through hard things?

What periods of your life have been the most most ultimately beneficial to you

in the development of who you are?

And I would bet that most of the answers that I would get if everybody listening

to this today all around the world answered that question, I would bet just

about any amount of money that most of the answers would be, you know what?

When I went through that hard thing, when I had that cancer scare,

when I lost my daughter, the way that my life played out after that turned out

to be an intense period of personal growth and I'm different than I was before I went through that.

I'm stronger than I was before I went through that. I know more about myself

now than I did before I went through that.

Think about every movie and every play and every novel you've ever read. Think about it.

What makes those stories stick out in your mind, the best ones,

the good ones, the ones you want to watch again or the ones that you talk about

when you discuss things in your workplace, when you talk about your favorite

novels? What are the ones that stick with you the most?

Aren't they the ones where the characters went through something intense and

difficult and they changed and grew and evolved and overcame?

Isn't it the difficulties they went through that ultimately made the story more

compelling, that made you learn from them? Isn't it?

If Saving Private Ryan started on the beach and the Nazis just threw all their

weapons down and surrendered and the good guys won and there was no stress and

Private Ryan was right there on the beach waiting for him, it wouldn't be a

very interesting movie, right?

It would be boring because nobody had a challenge.

Nobody learned, nobody grew, nobody overcame anything.

So the stories that matter the most are the ones where you go through something

hard guard and you come out of it on the other side, having learned or grown

or changed in some way. So what does that mean?

God uses our suffering as an opportunity to help us grow.

He doesn't cause it, but when it happens, he comes into it.

The story of Christianity is the story of the incarnation of God coming down

and being with us in this world.

He doesn't sit up in heaven and say, I hope you guys figure this out.

And I'm watching, I'm judging you.

You better hold on. You better better not mess up. I'm watching this happen

and you better get through it. No, God came down here.

He was born of a virgin. He was born and he walked around this world and he

lived and he bore our sins and he stood up against the suffering that we inflicted upon him.

And he came down here to answer the question of suffering for us.

Because what the Bible clearly says is that since Jesus laid his life down for

us, that since he became the perfect sacrifice, that he then became the answer to our suffering.

And that answer is hope.

And it's hope not for something, but in someone.

That the answer is right there in the Lord's Prayer.

The Lord's Prayer, He says, Jesus said, you need to pray, deliver me from evil.

Yes, pray to God, deliver me from evil. Get me through this,

help me overcome this, help me survive this, give me the tools to deal with this. But you know what?

Deliver me from evil is not the last word in the Lord's Prayer.

The last words in the Lord's Prayer are yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever.

Okay? So we're not in a story that ends and the lights go out.

That's atheism, and there's no hope there.

There's no hope there. And atheists fight about why life is so hard because

there's no meaning or purpose beyond it. So they need to try to perfect it while they're here.

And we have a different answer. We have a kingdom and power and glory forever.

We have the hope of the resurrection. I know I get to meet my son again someday.

And no mature Christian, Kreef says, will look back on their life and identify

some moment of intense suffering that didn't help them in some way get closer

to God and believe more powerfully in the resurrection and hope more fully in what's coming next.

We come through these hard things. Every study that's ever looked at cancer

survivors shows that most cancer survivors say that they ended up more grateful,

more thankful, less anxious, and better off on the other side of it after they

survived their cancer scare.

Or even if they didn't, as they're they're dying. Many people report personal

growth through the suffering that they've gone through.

So what's the purpose of suffering? To understand that we're not alone in it.

To understand that God came down and walked with us in it.

That the purpose of suffering is that we're supposed to be willing to help other

people in their suffering.

That we're the plan to show the world that there's There's a way to go through

suffering and hold on and still find hope.

Viktor Frankl said, Mankind's brain can invent the horrors of the gas chamber

at Auschwitz, but man can also walk into those gas chambers with the Shema Yisrael,

or the Lord's Prayer, on their lips.

Man can choose to stand up under intense suffering and find purpose and meaning in it.

There's an old saying that pain is mandatory.

Everybody's going to go through pain. We're gonna talk about that in the neurobiology

of pain episode in a little bit.

Everybody has pain, but suffering is optional.

Suffering is a mindset that we choose how we're gonna respond and react to the

hard things that we go through. And what makes it better?

God's presence. The book of Job, Job shakes his fist at God and he demands answers.

And you know what? He never gets them. What he gets in the end is God comes

and experiences him and gives him presence.

And that's what you really want when you're hurting, right? You want your friend

to come and sit at your bedside.

You want people to be around you. You want people to come alongside you in it.

Even though you know they can't fix it, that's the answer to suffering.

It's not explanations, it's presence. And the incarnation answers that.

God came down here to be with us in it. The Holy Spirit lives inside you to be with you in it.

The purpose of suffering is not to find an answer, It's to find the answerer. It's to find Jesus.

It's not words. It's the word.

It's not a tightly woven philosophical argument, Kreef says.

It's a person. It's the person. The answering to suffering, my friend,

here on Theology Thursday, when we talk about suffering here below,

the answer to suffering isn't an abstract idea because suffering isn't an abstract issue.

It's personal, and it requires a personal response. and the answer has to be

somebody, not just something because the issue is where is God in the suffering?

And the answer is, I'm right here.

That's the answer to suffering, my friend.

God hasn't left you alone in it. You're in the middle of a long narrative arc

of a very long story that ends with your redemption, ends with the tears being

dried, ends with the problem being solved.

Pete Gregg tells a story in his incredible book, How to Pray,

A Simple Guide for Normal People.

About in June of 2018, 12 members of a junior soccer team in northern Thailand

got trapped in a cave when a monsoon flooded the entrance, and they were stuck,

flooded, miles inside this cave system.

And once people figured out that they were missing, these boys,

these 12 boys and their coaches, or their one coach, which were discovered to

be there by rescuers who couldn't get to them.

And eventually the media found out about it, and more than 900 police officers,

100 divers, and 2,000 soldiers gathered with media at the mouth of the cave,

and it took nine days for them to find these boys.

The world was watching. I don't know if you remember this or not,

but for nine days divers searched for them.

And on July 2nd, so it happened on June 23rd, On July 2nd, a diving team found them.

One of them died. One of the divers drowned trying to rescue these boys.

They found these boys. They were alive.

They were huddled together on a shelf in a cavern inside miles of these flooded caves and tunnels.

And the divers found them on July 2nd. The news got out that the boys were alive.

And it took eight more days to get them all out.

They had to sedate them and put scuba masks on them and swim them out of there one at a time.

And it took days and days and days, and they got all these boys out.

They got them out after two weeks. On July the 10th, they got the last ones out.

So here's the thing. The Bible teaches this story in a slightly different way.

But basically, the boys were lost on June 23rd.

They were found on July the 2nd, but they weren't delivered until July the 10th.

The Bible teaches that we live in the dark days of hope, Pete Gregg says,

between July 2nd and July 10th. we're found, but we're not delivered.

The rescue is underway, but we have not yet been rescued all the way.

Our salvation process, the redemption of our suffering, the answer to our questions

has undoubtedly begun because he came.

And when he came, that's when the cave divers found the boys.

That's when Jesus showed up. We were found. We just haven't yet been delivered.

But our days of darkness are ending. There is an end date.

There's a time when we're going to come out of that cave because the rescue is underway.

It's already underway, friend. We just have to realize that we're in the middle

of that story, that the divers have found us, and the rescue is underway,

and the delivery is coming, and it's not going to be easy, but there is an end

to this suffering, and the end is a person.

It's not a thing. I'm going to give you a couple scriptures before we go.

James 1, 2, 3, 4 sounds a little crazy on its surface.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many

kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.

Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

What do you need when you're going through something hard? You need perseverance.

You need the ability to dig in. You know your anterior cingulate gets stronger

when you go through hard things, and that makes it easier for you to go through

a hard thing the next time.

And Jesus promised us that the enemy is here to steal and kill and destroy,

but he came that we might have abundant life.

Now, what happens is we already know that the enemy has been vanquished,

right? The Bible tells it plainly. The story's already been written.

The enemy's already defeated, but he's not dead yet. And have you ever seen a wounded snake?

They've been struck a mortal blow and they're dying, but they're still very dangerous.

The snake's throbbing around, thrashing around in their dying throes. They can still bite you.

And that's what's happening with Satan. He's wounded, he's cornered,

his days are numbered, and he is super mad about it.

And he wants to do as much damage to the kingdom and to you and your life as

he can before the end. And he is still very dangerous.

But you, my friend, have been delivered.

Romans 5, three through five says it this way. Not only that,

we rejoice in our sufferings knowing that suffering produces character,

I'm sorry, suffering produces endurance and endurance produces character and

character produces hope.

And hope doesn't put us to shame because God's love has been poured into our

hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

So my friend, I'll leave you with one more thought.

Proverbs 24, 10 says, if you falter in times of trouble, how small is your strength?

Listen, you can be strong because you know that God has come alongside you in

your suffering. Does that make it easier?

No. Does it make it more hopeful? Yes, because we know that this story that

we're in was written by a God who loves us, who cares about us,

has already made provision to rescue and deliver us, and that process is underway,

and it's underway in your life, and it's underway in my life.

So the answer to the question of why is there suffering?

It's not a philosophical meandering. It's not some grand equation.

And it's certainly not to believe that there's no God at all.

It's to know that the answer is answered by a person.

It's Jesus. And you have Him. If you want Him to come alongside you in this

story and help you talk about suffering in a way that helps you grow and change and learn.

As a bereaved father for 11 birthdays tomorrow, tomorrow, I can tell you,

it doesn't really get easier, but it gets more clear over time exactly why I'm here.

I'm here to do this, to talk to you, to deliver people from suffering with my

surgery, with my medicine, with my words, with my ability to help my family

hold on a little bit tighter when it seems impossible,

because He did come, and He does give us hope, and there is an opportunity for

me to see my son again, because this story is not over yet.

Even when I ask why God, as Austin French is going to sing to us in just a minute,

spend a minute asking why, and see if you don't get the answer, because I am. I'm here.

I'm here. I'm with you. Friend, you can't change your life until you change your mind.

And I hope that you'll remember the good news that you can start today.


Hey, thanks for listening. The Dr. Lee Warren Podcast is brought to you by my

brand new book, Hope is the First Dose. It's a treatment plan for recovering

from trauma, tragedy, and other massive things.

It's available everywhere books are sold. And I narrated the audio books.

Hey, the theme music for the show is Get Up by my friend Tommy Walker,

available for free at tommywalkerministries.org.

They are supplying worship resources for worshipers all over the world to worship

the most high God. And if you're interested in learning more,

check out TommyWalkerMinistries.org.

If you need prayer, go to the prayer wall at WLeeWarrenMD.com slash prayer,

WLeeWarrenMD.com slash prayer, and go to my website and sign up for the newsletter,

Self-Brain Surgery, every Sunday since 2014,

helping people in all 50 states and 60-plus countries around the world.

I'm Dr. Lee Warren, and I'll talk to you soon.

Remember, friend, you can't change your life until you change your mind.

And the good news is you can start today.