Week Four - Where is God in the midst of suffering?
Preparing for Week 5
Next week is the “Strongholds Week.” Be sure to consider how you will break up your group and who will lead each. If you don’t have a co-leader that’s the opposite sex, be sure to pay attention this week to someone with leadership-capacity and prepare them to help in the following weeks.
Your facilitator’s guide offers substantial help when it comes to that week on pages 98-105. They come from a slightly different theological background than us (charismatic), that is more conscious about the spiritual dimension. Some of this might be strange, but I’d encourage you to do your best to let their theology stretch yours.
Make sure to get something on the books for your experience between or around weeks 6 & 7 (3/3-3/23).
Try to prioritize something that’s relational with those you’re serving. It’s not a must, but it’s highly preferred.
You can find a list of serving opportunities that we’ve begun to connect the dots with at the button below. Be sure to review some of the basic information provided there to see if it’s something that would fit your group.
Week 8 (3/24) - All Groups at 6:00 pm at the RLA
Don’t forget that the wee of 3/17 your group is not expected to meet, unless you’re utilizing that flex week. Always consider how your group will be doing their daily devotions at a pace that helps build the habit. Do your best to be clear about those instructions.
“Why are we meeting as a whole group to talk about Generosity?” You might be asking this question. I certainly was. Churches who have done Rooted over the last several years all throughout the country, highly recommend giving some specific clarity about how their specific church financially operates. It gives the church’s leadership a chance to clarify how important giving is for their specific community and how that giving is used.
More importantly, money is a sacred idol for most people. That’s true for modern Americans, in a society that’s built on capitalism and consumerism. Not that any of that is evil at all, it just grants money a lot of power in out lives. Jesus’ appearance on the planet was perfectly timed, as economies were increasingly moving toward a money-based economy (rather than goods-based). His teaching about money was extensive. Look at this quote from a leadership and financial teacher, Howard Dayton:
Jesus talked much about money. Sixteen of the thirty-eight parables were concerned with how to handle money and possessions. In the Gospels, an amazing one out of ten verses (288 in all) deal directly with the subject of money. The Bible offers 500 verses on prayer, less than 500 verses on faith, but more than 2,000 verses on money and possessions.
We want to make sure we get this conversation right and have everyone on the same page. Christians are only giving at 2.5% of their income right now. If they would only double this we’d be able to substantially address most, if not all, preventable suffering. That’s particularly a helpful reminder in this week 4 conversations. “Where is God is suffering?” Maybe part of the question is “Where are we in suffering.” Check out this article again that we gave you all during our Pilot Rooted Experiences.
Tragedy, Suffering, Chaos, & God’s Sovereignty.
“If God is all-powerful and all-loving, why is anyone suffering? He must not be one of the two.” The study of this question is called Theodicy. This is an important question and one that has a lot of attempts at explanation. We will never fully be able to understand the answer in this lifetime. Your Rooted book goes through some very important perspectives and partial-answers about this and I won’t revisit all of them here. The most important of them all, of course, is that God doesn’t trivialize our pain or remove himself from the situation, but instead he experiences it completely for himself so that we can have a way out. The second most important point is that the ability to love necessitates the opportunity to choose and trust.
A life-changing perspective, at least for me, began when I realized that ALL WORLD-VIEWS had to answer this question. As I tried to compare their attempts, I found that none of them were anywhere near as satisfying or compelling as the Biblical ways of describing God’s character and the way he directly confronts evil. Suffice it to say, God’s unlimited GRACE is absolutely the best solution for the chaotic suffering of our world.
So, there are two key ideas for the posture of your group as you start this conversation:
Don’t Try to Solve It. Theodicy is a mystery. Though there are important clues, our limited perspective will never be able to truly explain for sure why everything happens.
That means that you should do your best to avoid and redirect cliches. Though people oftentimes trying to be comforting, some of those trite, simplistic phrases can cause more damage than good. However, this needs to be a safe place for even the people saying these cliches. So, try to ask clarifying question to help them think through what they mean. Here are some examples:
“Everything happens for a reason.” This is a well-intentioned mantra of faith. However, “everything” includes a lot of heinous things that are certainly not the “will of God.” It won’t take long for you to imagine some examples. The “reason” might simply be that we have a sin-infected world full of sin-infected people with free will. Still, it’s hard to understand why most forms of disease exist or natural disasters happen. God is pretty clear about how he feels about injustice, suffering, and evil (Psalm 12:5, Isaiah 10:1-3). I think this inadequate phrase reflects an even more beautiful truth: He’s so good at redeeming messed up situations that he makes them look purposeful. Things don’t happen for a reason, but God can bring reason or meaning to those situation.
“What is God trying to teach you through this?” God may teach you something through a situation, but that doesn’t mean he caused that situation for the purpose of teaching you a lesson. Yes, the Bible tells us he “disciplines” those he loves (e.g. Hebrews 12:6), but that doesn’t mean their painful situation is God’s discipline.
“You just need to have more faith.” Jesus certainly uses measurement metaphors when talking about faith. However, he also says that a tiny amount of faith (e.g. a mustard seed size) is enough to do impossible things (e.g. move mountains, Matthew 17:20). He also helps those who admits their struggle to have faith. (“I believe, help me with my unbelief,” Mark 9:24)
You can probably think of some more, but be ok with the mystery of causation while helping people embrace hope in God’s faithfulness.
Be Sensitive. Hopefully, you’ve had a chance to be pretty vulnerable with each other so far. It’s likely, though, that there are several painful scars or even ongoing issues among those in your group, that have not come out in your group yet. Recognize that there may be someone in your group who’s seriously asking this question in the middle of their present or lingering suffering. Have the demeanor of a counselor and be in tune with your instincts about what might be under the surface of the conversation.
One of the best ways to keep the weekly ideas and rhythms of Rooted in front of your group is by utilizing these phone wallpapers. Feel free to share this link with your group: discovertogether.com/wallpapers