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Is God Silent During Suffering?

Recently my Japanese friend, a missionary in Japan, asked for prayer about her troubled feeling aroused by the movie, Silence, shot in Taiwan by Hollywood director, Martin Scorsese. According to Time Magazine, “Silence is a somber epic about Jesuit priests struggling to keep their faith in violently anti-Christian 17th century Japan”. (Note1)

My friend also posted an article written by a Japanese pastor, Marre Ishii. He was upset after watching a screening of this film. I learned from this article that the movie was adapted from the novel, by the same name, about Japanese history. According to Mr Ishii, the book author, Shusako Endo, ” … wrestled with Catholic faith but continued to be a Catholic out of respect for his mother”.

After reading through Ishii’s article (Note 2), I cannot help but point out three observations and hope to encourage my Christian fellows to discern Satan’s deception.

  • “Why was God silent in the midst of this tragedy in history?”Mr Ishii wrote that this is an universal question asked by all religions and races. He mentioned tragedies like the Holocaust, African slavery and the 9-11 terrorist attack. Nevertheless, I feel sad to say that not many people in the world know much about another tragedy: the Nanjing (Nanking) Massacre. This was an episode of mass murder and rape committed by Japanese troops against the residents of Nanjing in 1937.According to BBC Magazine, reported by Mariko Oi in 2013 (Note 3), the former history teacher and scholar, Tamaki Matsuoka, accuses the Japanese government of a deliberate silence about atrocities in the massacre. I do not mean to condemn the Japanese people. On the contrary, it’s urgent to recognize that the spiritual darkness over Japanese society is so heavy there has been an increase in suicide rates and many other emotional issues.“Japan has no history of Christianity so here suicide is not a sin,” says Wataru Nishida, a psychologist at Tokyo’s Temple University (Note 4). Therefore, I pray for my missionary friend whom God sent to “ … open their (Japanese people’s) eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in Jesus” (Acts 26:18).
  • Mr Ishii wrote that from his experience in Japan, and as a pastor, that this movie will portray a God of great love and compassion as indifferent to the suffering of his saints. Faith in Jesus and love for all saints springs from the hope that is heard from the word of truth (refer to Colossians 1:5). As Christians, we shall spread the gospel in a God-loving motivation, rather than the fear of not completing our obligation.When we are asked, “How is a loving God indifferent to the suffering of His saints?” we don’t need to fear people and sugarcoat the gospel of sins and forgiveness. Instead, we rely on the Holy Spirit to intelligently and graciously encourage people to find out what a faithful saint’s reaction would be during the suffering from the testimonies of those who endure hardship to the end in the whole wide world. This is what I observed from African and Chinese persecuted Christians who still spread God’s love and love their enemies.
  • Mr Ishii said he was aghast when he heard that an American pastor said hell is where a non-believer goes after death. Mr Ishii said, “This type of insensitivity has turned many Japanese people into adversaries of God.” I agree with Mr Ishii that only God truly knows if a person has a genuine faith to go to heaven. In Asia, many people believe in various religions and think that they don’t need Jesus in order to be saved because they worship gods and try to do good. On one hand, telling the truth could be seen as insensitive because it hurts people’s pride. On the other hand, it could also be sensitive to the real danger of one’s spiritual death.Pastor John Piper wrote in his book, Jesus, The Only Way To God: “The world will tell you that you are arrogant, not loving, if you spread the message of Jesus’s saving work as the only way to God. But God calls it love … Oh, how we need to let the Bible define what love does! … Apart from the work of the Holy Spirit, who works through the word of the gospel of Christ (1 Peter 1:23-25), there is no faith and no new birth and no salvation. This is why repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His name to all nations’ (Luke 24:47).” (Note 5)

I painfully remember that I did not tell my uncle, sick with cancer, about where he would go after death without believing in Jesus because I worried that he might feel scared. Shortly, he was sent home from the hospital without the hope of living. While he was still alive, his family dressed him with a funeral shroud to keep his muscles from getting too stiff to wear it after he died.

I was in grief to know that tears rolled down from his eyes while lying on the bed waiting for the unknown destiny. Sadly, I was not around and could not tell him to receive Jesus. Even today, I hope in the bottom of my heart that my uncle did listen to the gospel tape I left him and received Jesus as his Savior in his mind. Since then, I would rather risk being shamed or rejected by people than fail to tell them the gospel in love.

I believe God chose His anointed saints and will bring them back to one holy nation (Refer to 1 Peter 2:9). Therefore, my heavenly identity as a citizen of God’s kingdom is higher than my earthly identity as a citizen of the USA and Taiwan with Japanese blood.

God sent Ezekiel to open his mouth and say to people, “This is what the Sovereign LORD says, ‘Whoever will listen let him listen, and whoever will refuse let him refuse; for they are a rebellious house.’ “(Ezekiel 3:27)

It’s only God who can soften every sinner’s heart to listen. Meanwhile, we shall be like Ezekiel to “listen carefully and take to heart all the words God speaks to us,” (Ezekiel 3:10) as we share His truth in love. For only the truth shall set each of us free from the trap of sins and stronghold of evil darkness. (John 8:32)

How do you answer the question: Where is God when there is suffering?

Note1: http://time.com/4640566/taiwan-silence-scorsese-movies-china/
Note2: Pastor Marre Ishii’s article: http://www.wnd.com/2017/01/what-promoters-of-silence-wont-tell-you/
Note3: What Japanese history lessons leave out: http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-21226068
Note4: Why does Japan have such a high suicide rate? http://www.bbc.com/news/world-33362387
Note5: http://www.desiringgod.org/books/jesus-the-only-way-to-god

About Manling Chen

Manling Chen
Manling was born and grew up in Taiwan. She came with her husband and 2-year-old son to New York, NY, at age 30 to fulfill her dream of studying in the graduate school. She received a black belt in Taekwendo at age 40 and has been applying the Bible truth and discipline learned in the martial art to fight in her faith as a spiritual warrior. She works with God to write and is currently a freelance reporter for a national Chinese newspaper and writer based in Minnesota. Much of her writing is in the areas of spiritual learning, Bible study, parenting, education, Sunday school, opinions, interviews, and people's stories, etc.

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5 comments

  1. Avatar

    Absolutely awesome article! An honest and scriptural look at answering the question many Christians ask and have asked for a very long time. Gave me some things to think about and study. Thanx for this. Very timely and well written!

    ron,

  2. Cora Buaer

    As I was reading your article, I am reminded that even in ancient times when God was bringing the Jewish nation out of Egypt, the world back then also was steeped in idolatry and even was influencial in the mindset of the Jewish people as they travelled through the desert towards the promised land. Many foreign gods and beliefs were embraced and practiced throughout the known world that did not reflect the true and living God. But God was about overthrowing the demonic principalities and rulers in dark places that captured the hearts of men and ensnared them into a false trust which would lead to eternal condemnation.
    He stated that He was a Jealous God but also One who shows loving kindness; the only true God who changes not. That message has to be conveyed to the masses today. We are blessed that there is A Way to Him. He has provided it in love. Just as He provided a freedom from enslavement and hope for the Jewish people by making Himself known by His great acts so as to lead them to faith in Him. People want to keep having things their way because it feeds their ego or desires that suit them without any accountability. That is the problem. It has to be only by the provision that God established. It is a message of love. Praise the Lord such a message is real indeed. How can we do one better and ignor such a great salvation?
    Thank you for your advice. This has been a problem throughout generations. Just as Cain wanted to go about worshipping in his own way from the beginning not willing to listen or give God. Making his attempt to offer the works of his own hand in place of what God required. So the story repeats itself and people want to reject the sacrifice made by the blood of the Lamb.

  3. Cora Buaer

    I have to correct my last paragraph. My typing was too small for me to make some wording correctly. I thought I was thanking you for article you put forth,, not the advice.
    Also the line in regards to Cain not willing to give God what He required as a covering for sin and reconciliation.

    • Avatar

      Hi Cora,

      Thanks for your sharing. I also thought a lot about where Cain started to go wrong. You made a good point about his heart of unwillingness of admitting his sin. May God’s truth shine light to people’s hearts and grant them repentance and lead them to know the truth. So they can come to the sense and escape the trap of devil. (Refer to 2 Timothy 2:23-26)

      In Christ,
      Manling

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