My Broken Palace. The Problem of Pain.

An organization called Book of Hope has a division of their outreach entitled 'My Broken Palace'. It is a movement directed toward the hurting and the troubled teen in our world. Over the past year I have written several sermons with this thought in mind. Here is the compilation of those sermons:

There is a theme of brokenness and ruin in scripture that is a contrast to how we think in America today. In America we see hardship as a negative thing. It is a curse. And we avoid hardship. And then ultimately, we blame God or others for it. But, God uses what we see as evil or hardship for His glory. Part of the problem is that we do not see the big picture. Of course, there are other reasons also, such as our perspective of our problems or even the fact that Americans are spoiled.

What we must understand is that the kingdom of God and Christianity see hardship from a completely different angle than our culture in the West. Christianity embraces hardship as a tutor to greater character and ultimately blessings. But, the Western mindset says that hardship comes to those who are weak and that it is an evil and must be avoided. A picture is being painted in America of a Disney generation who lives a story that includes a prince, a princess, a dragon, and an enchanted kiss at the  end of every situation. This couldn't be further from reality. Because most of the 'palaces' we live in are broken.

A perfect generation of young people does not exist, And that is ok. In fact, it is a beautiful thing. It is where God does His best work. Where He turns our MESS into his MESSAGE. Where our CHAOS is placed on His CANVASS and He creates a masterpiece.  Try as we might to paint a different picture, we live in A Broken Palace. Where God is the landlord.

Young people who have gone through so much brokenness and ruin and pain and destruction can become great examples of Christianity. It’s how God works. We become His display. The displays of His good works and grace. Although we try and avoid trials and complain in times of difficulty, it is these times that shape who we are. If we are going through a hardship, we are a Candidate for His blessing.

Athletes know the principle. “No Pain - No Gain”. Paul said it well in Hebrews 12 when he said that if we are not going through hardship, we are not His sons. That we are illegitimate. And he also said in the letter to the Corinthians that “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creation, the old things have passed away, and behold, all things are made new.” (2 Corinthians 5.17)

 We are going to learn two lessons about brokenness from Job.

First, that we tend to think of the trial, the hardship, and the pain of the story. But, I want you to think about the presence, the authority, and the healing in the story. Just like your situation!
(Read Job 1.1-4, 6-12, 13-22, 2.1-10, 11-13)

Job was a righteous man. And he had a large family, a lot of land, all kinds of cattle, and even servants. Everyone knew it. Even Satan. But, one of the things that Satan does is test us. So he came to God and asked if he could wreck Job’s life. God told him that he could, but only so much. God gave him a limit. He could only go so far. Did you hear that? You need to remember that. What you are going through has a limit.

And so it happened. Satan took his children, his servants, his cattle, his ranch, and even his own health. And his wife turned on him because of this. His wife was telling him to curse God and die. There is no way out. Even some older friends of Job’s came to him and tried to give him advice. They told him that he had sinned and that is why all this happened. They told him that if he were blameless this would not have happened. They told him he did not seek God enough. And some of you feel that way also. People have told you there is no hope in the midst of your situation.

That is the first lesson we can learn from Job’s story. That there is more to the story than the hardship. God is painting and He is not done with the picture. When an artist begins to work, we might look at the portrait or the painting and think that the picture is terrible. Just lines and half thoughts on a canvass. But, remember, God is not done.

When we look at Jobs life, we see how God used Jobs problems for His glory. He turns my chaos into His masterpiece. My black and white becomes a blast of colors in the end! I have learned this valuable lesson. IF THINGS ARE BAD, IT IS NOT THE END. BECAUSE IN THE END, THINGS ARE NEVER BAD. THEY ALWAYS WORK OUT FOR GOOD. So just hang on until the end.

It is evident that we have many broken young people in America today. But this is ok because the kingdom of God is not finished. His handy-work is still being displayed. I call it the University of Suffering, where you graduate with a degree in Spiritual Maturity. You have to know that God is not done. He is still painting. You cannot look at an artist’s painting until it is complete. Otherwise you are going to see half the picture and half of the talent of the artist.

We have seen the first lesson. The second lesson is simple.
Second, that our SoulPoverty is God's SoulPriority. Job was only able to deal with this situation because he was righteous. His strength in this story is his spiritual maturity.

When we look at Job’s life, we see how important it is to stay close to God. Our spiritual life is more important than our physical and natural life. I know that sounds mean. But, it is reality. This generation loves to do justice and mission causes. It makes them feel good in spite of all of their indulgences. But, we must address the poverty in the soul of this generation and the church before we can address the poverty in the world. Otherwise, we simply send people to hell who are well-fed and well-clothed.

Satan was trying to destroy Job. But, JOB KNEW GOD SO WELL THAT HE DIDN’T FALL FOR IT. The closer you are to God, the easier it will be for you to understand what you are going through and why you are going through it. As young people, we need to understand that God has a way. Even when it doesn’t look like it. Focus upon God to make it through the chaos. In all of this, Job did not sin.

Let me speak to the question of pain and suffering: How can a good God allow bad things to happen to people? Maybe people have told you that if God were good, how can this happen to you? Or they have said that bad things happen because there is sin or evil in our lives. Let me try and answer this simply.

How do we answer the problem of pain and suffering in the world and in our lives?
  • I don’t know. And that’s ok to say.
  • Be around Godly people. The right people can make all the difference. 
  • Life just happens. Sometimes there is a cause and effect. We have free will. Accidents happen.
  • See with His perspective. Our pain is not as important to God as our gain. What we think is killing us could actually be shaping us.
  • He always turns things around for His glory if we will cooperate. In Genesis 50.20, Joseph said that everyone and everything that was against him and was causing him harm and pain was going to work out for good. He said, “What you have intended for evil, God has intended for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.

People have told you that if God were fair, kind, and concerned about you, how come this happened? People have said that God is not near you. You may think that God is unfair, unkind, and unconcerned with you and your situation. That Job is the poster child for oppression, tragedy, and suffering. And that God left Him. That you are the poster child for an unfair God.

But, let me tell you something. God is fair because it is His nature to be fair. Jesus was talking about love when He said that it will “rain on the just and the unjust.” (Matthew 5.43-48)

God is kind because it is His nature to be kind. And He will often use His kindness to bring a little tough love our way. Paul said that we should “…endure hardship because then God is dealing with us as sons. And if you do not partake in hardship, you are illegitimate.” (Hebrews 12.7-9).

And God is totally concerned with your situation. That is why He is in it with you. God said, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you. And through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. And when you walk through the fire, you will not be burned.” (Isaiah 43.2)

We serve a God who is WET. We serve a God who is in the DEEP. We serve a God who is on FIRE. But, the FIRE doesn’t burn Him. I am not trying to minimize your situation. I hear stories every week of how life is breaking down teenagers. But, God cannot be someone He is not.

God closes this book out with a flurry of statements to Job. Statements about God’s authority. God’s power. God’s sovereignty. God’s omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence. About waves, and oceans, and shorelines. About stars, planets, and galaxies. About the rising sun of the morning and the setting of its giant splendor. About hanging the earth in space, creation, and the heavens. About how eagles fly, lions roar, and horses gallop across the earth. About the creation of man and woman and our intricacies that balance our existence. And finally, about birth and death.

And what God is trying to get across to Job and to you and me, is that He can handle it. That the story isn't done yet. and that the story is more about our spiritual lives than the suffering we are going through.

And in the end, God RESTORES TO JOB DOUBLE what he had before all of this hardship. See, God always finishes His story. Always.