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A Question of Suffering

Is blaming God for suffering always logical?

by Kirstine Davis

Suitable for Whole School (Sec) - Church Schools

Aims

To consider whether suffering is always God’s fault.

Preparation and materials

  • You may wish to show images of a range of situations depicting suffering, but sensitivity is needed when choosing these and the range of students in the assembly should be carefully considered. You will also need the means to display these images during the assembly. Some examples include:

    - a war zone, available at: http://tinyurl.com/h6th8bb
    - a refugee camp, available at: http://tinyurl.com/gms5us2
    - the results of an earthquake, available at: http://tinyurl.com/z4tvwju
    - the results of a flood, available at: http://tinyurl.com/z9o4yvc

  • Optional: you may wish to play the song ‘Man in the mirror’ by Michael Jackson, in which case, you will also need the means to do this.

Assembly

  1. Today, we are going to spend a few minutes thinking about ‘logic’. I wonder how logical you are. I am going to ask you four questions and I want you to think about the answers carefully!

    You may wish to listen to a range of answers or simply pause while the students think about the questions.

    Question 1: How do you put an elephant in the fridge?
    Pause for thought or listen to responses.
    Answer: Open the door, put the elephant in and shut the door.

    Question 2: How do you put a giraffe in the fridge?
    Pause for thought or listen to responses.
    Answer: Open the door, take the elephant out, put the giraffe in and shut the door.

    Question 3: All of the animals have been called to attend a meeting in the jungle. Who is missing?
    Pause for thought or listen to responses.
    Answer: The giraffe – he is still in your fridge!

    Question 4: You come across a river where you know crocodiles live. How do you get across?
    Pause for thought or listen to responses.
    Answer: You swim – the crocodiles are all at the meeting!

  2. Let’s turn our attention to something rather more serious. So often, when something awful happens [give a recent example from the news], we wonder where God is. So often, when illness affects our lives or if we have a personal tragedy, we ask the question, ‘Where is God in this?’ Stephen Fry, who is a highly intelligent man, states that he couldn’t believe in God because of things like childhood cancers. Christians often get asked these questions and they are not questions that can be easily answered. However, there is some logic that is missing from questions like these.

  3. Many of the awful things we see on TV and in the news are the result of our own doing. Unfortunately, humankind is not always very kind and unfortunately, people do not always make good choices. We all have choices to make. God didn’t make us like robots or stuffed toys. God gave us choice.

    Many of us have played computer games where we have to look after a pet. We choose a cyber pet and we feed it, we give it drinks and, when it gets dirty, we wash it. Cyber pets are great fun, but they are not like a real pet. A real dog will run off when it is taken for a walk; a real dog will mess up the house and chew your favourite shoes. But a real dog will also LOVE you. A real dog will wag its tail and come running to see you when you come home. A real dog will roll over when you stroke it so that you can stroke its tummy! You can have a relationship with a real pet. Christians believe that this is true with God.

  4. Much of the suffering in the world is caused by greed or wanting power. Many natural disasters are thought to be due to people abusing the environment for generations. Of course, there are many things that we don’t understand, such as why a child should suffer or why people close to us have to go through bad times. It is essential that all the research possible is carried out to find cures for things like cancer and all the other serious diseases.

  5. Some of us will feel that we can blame God for the suffering in the world. Others will feel that he allows us all freedom of choice and people make bad choices that lead to problems. Whatever our views, we can all take the time to look at our own lives and choices. Are our deeds always kind? Do we care for the world and the people around us? Are we doing our part to stop suffering or are we causing suffering to other people? Do we act in a greedy way? Do we want to be powerful and try to get our own way all the time?

Time for reflection

Let’s spend a moment thinking about ourselves and how our actions can cause other people to suffer. Let’s think about those questions again.

- Are our deeds always kind?
- Do we care for the world and the people around us?
- Are we doing our part to stop suffering or are we causing suffering to other people?
- Do we act in a greedy way?
- Do we want to be powerful and try to get our own way all the time?

Prayer
Dear Lord,
We are sorry for the times when we are selfish.
We are sorry for being greedy and hurting people with our actions.
Please help those who are suffering [name some recent situations].
Please help us to play our parts in bringing an end to suffering in the world.
Amen.

Song/music

Optional: ‘Man in the mirror’ by Michael Jackson

Publication date: September 2016   (Vol.18 No.9)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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