If We Suffer, Does That Mean God Is Our Enemy?
If we suffer, does that mean God is our enemy?
If you are a professing Christian—that is, if you have received Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior and Treasure and, therefore, have been adopted into the family of God such that now all things work together for your good and God is your Father—it is sin to think of him as your enemy.
He is the enemy of those who are perishing. He was your enemy once upon a time (Romans 5:10). He is not your enemy now. Therefore it must be owing to either a spiritual or a theological flaw that we would begin to interpret God's fatherly discipline, as it is called in Hebrews 12, as the judge's punishment in prison or flogging. There's a huge difference between a father who disciplines a child for his good and a judge who sends a person to jail or to the electric chair.
Jesus bore all of our judgment. We do not, according to John 5:24, come into judgment. We don't come into judgment. It's past. Jesus bore the judgment. We have a Father now, and everything that flows our way is mercy. So he should never be viewed as our enemy.
How do we know how to respond to people who are suffering?
I think that is determined by three things:
1) Your track record with the person. Do they trust you? Have you established a relationship with them? The more relationship there is between you, the more you can do freely with them.
2) It flows also from what they're saying. Are they quiet and incapable of conversation right now on that level? Or are they asking concrete questions, and do they manifest an intellectual and emotional wherewithal to press on with the conversation?
3) You might just discern that this person has been in a funk too long and they just might need to be confronted. "Shape up! Shake it off! You are acting as though God were not your Father. Let me tell you something about how much God loves you."
Let me tell you this story. Martin Luther married Katie. Katie is a really feisty lady. Martin has his ups and downs. She comes down one morning and Martin is in a funk, and he is absolutely miserable. So she goes upstairs and puts on black clothing as though she were at a funeral. She comes down and he says, "What are you wearing that for?" and she says, "Well, because God has died." And Luther explodes, "God has not died! He is alive and on the throne!" And she says, "Well then, why are you acting as though God were dead?"
So there she is, in his discouraged despondent condition using a pretty abrupt and confrontational strategy. I thought that was pretty smart of her. And sometimes we just need to get tough with people and say, "Shape up! You're a Christian! God is your Father! Get out of this!"