DEVOTIONAL: God-Induced Suffering and God-Infused Spirituality | Pr. .Jose Memana
Looking unto God through the dark times of pandemic remained hopeful for people of God as their focus was not on the dark but on the ray of hope they found in God. Godliness and spirituality had been tried and tested through these times: some grew spiritually, others grew unspiritual, while others took up the task to be agents of God’s message and channels of God’s care.
Very little could our human minds picture the destruction the pandemic brought along, and probably more that awaits us. Panic and anxiety hit people hard and brought adverse effects upon individuals, families, organisations, nations and even the churches. Each of us tried to fight for ourselves and for our loved ones as much as we could for our protection, and we continue to fight. One could simply thank God from the depth of his heart if he hadn’t gone through the trauma of losing parents, partners or children or even being admitted in the hospital with less chance of recovery. People’s life and normality has been affected, economic balance has been disturbed, the social system has been altered and the question of going back to normality is unimaginable at least not any time soon. But it is true that people have almost been chopped up with the new normal life through rough and tough. Thank God for technology and the ways it helped people to live on and stay connected with friends and family even when they were forced to be within their homes.
The whole world is sure that there is an incidental cause behind the global situation which may or may not be discovered. Somebody will be blamed for what has happened or it will be left as a mystery unsolved. But as Christians when we believe that nothing happens without God’s knowledge or that which God allows to happen, some would even go to the extent of believing that the pandemic was caused by God himself and thus saying that He is trying to do something on earth by causing such things. If God was to punish people, then we need to seriously ask God to open our inner eyes to see what and where we have gone wrong deserving such a furious punishment. God did destroy people in the past; in fact, wiped them out completely from the face of the earth with rain and flood leaving just one family of eight members. We have also seen God pouring out His wrath upon a group of people or a nation in the old testament.
God’s wrath has been manifested in several ways. The flood during the time of Noah, destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, the ten plagues in Egypt, are those obvious ones we can see in the old testament. They are destructions sent or caused by God to wipe out sin from the world or turn people’s hearts towards Him. The book of prophet Jonah is a classical book which shows God’s furious heart towards a nation because of its wickedness, and towards a man because of his disobedience. Like other times God decides and plans to induce destruction into the nation saying, “Nineveh will be overthrown”. God induces pain and suffering into the lives of people or nations only to then lead them out of it transformed inside-out. When God induces pain and destruction, it is sure that in the end the beneficiaries are ‘people’ so that through pain, gold-like purity may be reached.
The city of Nineveh initially goes unaware of a man named Jonah and what God does with his life when he tries to trifle with Him. Jonah was not only disobedient to God, but he was also negligent of the serious issue of Nineveh’s wickedness and at the same time unworried of the consequences of their deeds. It looks certain that he had to go through a traumatic experience and finally be in the belly of the whale for three days to kneel down before God in prayer. What touched my heart is what happened to Jonah later. Somehow this person whom we see as one who runs away from God and God’s mission gets infused with the same mind and heart of God and buckles up to finally act, to preach.
This pandemic has many interpretations, but we shouldn’t go unaware of the truth that God is someone who can change His mind for His people. If God induced the global situation for people’s transformation, it includes you and me. He can change His mind out of His compassion and relent Himself from destroying the land and people in the land, if we call out to Him out of a genuine and sincere heart. God loves His people and nothing can alter that. But He also punishes/disciplines them which is an indication of God’s character of being a loving father. But when man suffers, God sympathizes with us at the same time which evokes in us the depth of His love for us. God does not keep his anger forever because He forgives and forgets our transgressions and our sins. Nineveh is spared because of their attitude towards God and His words. The message of God through Jonah induced spirituality into their lives and they are reconciled with God.
Prayers and intercessions are made by people of God and churches like never before through online and offline platforms. But the root of all what we do and try to do should start with God, by being infused with His mind and His heart into ours that we may become like Jonah and Nehemiah of this generation. That, I believe is the need of the hour, be people who are permeated by the word and the Spirit of God, ready to do the undone and speak to the unspoken. There must be more mouth-pieces of God than more word speakers. God’s word preached on pulpits are for encouragement and spiritual nourishment of the gatherings but speaking what God says is mostly for the restoration of a nation or an individual. We cannot bypass the mission of God laid upon our lives simply because we think we are incapable and that it is meant for someone else. If we do so, God will have to take us through Jonah-like experiences and finally into the Nineveh God intends for us. If God is so serious of the sin of the land, so should we; if God is so concerned of the cry of the land, so should we; if God should forgive be concerned for the land, so should we.
American politician, Charles Bent said, “intercessory prayer might be defined as loving our neighbour on our knees”. The Holy Spirit invokes in our hearts as God’s people to respond to the global situation not with arms but with prayers. Responding to the spiritual call can determine the status of the spiritual life within us just like poking on a body with a spear or even a needle. If it pains, we are alive; if it doesn’t, we are dead.