In many ways, it is clearer to counsel sin than suffering. The objective in counseling sin is obvious — stop it! But let us not mistake that for being easy, that would minimize the power of sin. But when counseling suffering the objective is not clear. Suffering is the revolting of life against the law of cause and effect. No longer does the principle of sowing and reaping apply. The theological definition of suffering is pain that is not caused by our sin.
It is also much easier to bridge from sin to the gospel than it is to bridge from suffering to the gospel. With sin the gospel calls us to repent and trust in the work of Christ on the cross. With suffering we have nothing to repent. We feel as powerless to change our suffering as we were to cause our suffering. This makes the suffering more intense and confusing.
With all of those challenges being noted, this presentation given at The Young Theologians Conference in Piedmont, South Carolina attempts to explore how the gospel prepares us to counsel suffering. It does so, not by delineating principles or action steps, but by unpacking the testimony of Psalm 102. Just before this presentation, a written testimony was read from a couple who were grieving the loss of their 23 year old son. The opening prayer acknowledges and responds to their testimony.
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