Why Good People Suffer – Stavesacre (2002, (stāvz’ā’kər))

click on image to listen to song for free.

Hot Topics series continues with a hard rock look at a tough question that all of us ask: why do good people suffer?

Stavesacre has been storming the scene of rock and roll since the mid-90’s and their sound has always been a shining gold star among the Christian attempts at loud music.  Their self-titled (or pronounciation-titled?) album was one of their most critically acclaimed and within it, they tackled this subject head on.  “Why Good People Suffer” is an honest and humble dialogue about what this perplexing question should cause us to really think about, listen:

i tell you what i want to
never more than what is safe
i show you what i want to
and the rest i hide away
sometimes i can feel myself leaning
towards the basest of things
am i just a liar? or a killer? or a beast?

should i sit in judgement?
do i have to judge me?

(chorus)
i couldn’t tell you why good people suffer
i couldn’t tell you why the bad ones run free
God showers blessings
on the righteous and the wicked
i only know that that covers me

do i feel like screaming
when the weak fall to the strong?
would i trade my freedom for a cheap thrill?
right for wrong?
and if i could just rid the world of all the evil within
would that include me?
i guess that would depend

who am i?

When you write a song about such a difficult issue it is important to set a tone.  Stavesacre is clearly out to answer a big question with another important question: Is there anyone out there who is really good?  Smartly, he points the finger at himself first.  There is an empathy for those who burn with the flame of injustice.  But the overarching theme to this song is that none of us are “good” enough to judge who should suffer and who should be blessed.

What does the Bible say about this question?

Psalmists write several times about similar questions that they have for God:  God, why do my enemies flourish while I am dying?  God, why have you abandoned me?  God, why is my righteousness not rewarded?  But in each case, the psalmist praises God despite still having unanswered “why” questions.  Job stands in the position of first-in-line, in terms of people who deserve to ask God these kinds of questions.  Yet, his summary of these things is to say, “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away.  Blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Job 1:21b)

How does Job get to this conclusion and is it the right one?  Let’s allow Apostle Paul to help answer this from Romans 9:

14 Are we saying, then, that God was unfair? Of course not! 15 For God said to Moses, “I will show mercy to anyone I choose, and I will show compassion to anyone I choose.”

16 So it is God who decides to show mercy. We can neither choose it nor work for it.  17 For the Scriptures say that God told Pharaoh, “I have appointed you for the very purpose of displaying my power in you and to spread my fame throughout the earth.” 18 So you see, God chooses to show mercy to some, and he chooses to harden the hearts of others so they refuse to listen.

19 Well then, you might say, “Why does God blame people for not responding? Haven’t they simply done what he makes them do?”

20 No, don’t say that. Who are you, a mere human being, to argue with God? Should the thing that was created say to the one who created it, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 When a potter makes jars out of clay, doesn’t he have a right to use the same lump of clay to make one jar for decoration and another to throw garbage into? 22 In the same way, even though God has the right to show his anger and his power, he is very patient with those on whom his anger falls, who are destined for destruction. 23 He does this to make the riches of his glory shine even brighter on those to whom he shows mercy, who were prepared in advance for glory.

Heavy words to go with a heavy song and a heavy question.  The summary of it all is this:  Why does God allow good people to suffer?  First, none of us are good on our own – not good enough at least to have the right to even ask God this question (see verse 20).  Second, all of us deserve to be called “vessels of wrath”, BUT God has chosen out of His love and mercy to show us His grace.

He shows His grace to the entire world every day by holding back the full potential of evil and destruction.  Things could and should be a lot worse.  He also shows His complete grace to those who believe in His Son.  He promises to all true believers an eternal future of perfect joy and a pain-free, tear-free life with Him in paradise.

These answers don’t necessarily make us feel better about today’s troubles.  Sometimes, we even feel like shouting back at God and saying, “Hey!  I need more from You!  More answers and more help!”  Feeling this way is OK.  The Psalmists and Job and others obviously did the same thing.  Acting upon those feelings is a different story.

Just remember one thing: at the end of the day, God is more merciful than we could ever imagine.  He is not cruel, He is holy.  You and I wouldn’t really want a God who didn’t stand up for Himself.  Today, people suffer (good people and bad people alike).  Tomorrow, the heavens will open wide and Jesus will call home His own.  That is a real hope to cling to, no matter how many “why” questions are left unanswered.

At the Moment – Stavesacre (1996, Friction)

click on image to listen to song for free.

I get chills every time I listen to this song…and I’ve been listening to it consistently for over 15 years.  I figured that it was high time to go old school after introducing several newer songs over the last couple of weeks.  In addition to heading back to the past, we are heading back to the loud and the declarative.

Stavesacre was a Christian hard rock band throughout the late 90’s and 00’s.  The lead singer and songwriter, Mark Solomon, had also spearheaded the ground-breaking hardcore/punk group, The Crucified, before experiencing a crisis of faith and a time away from the limelight.  His return to the cross and to the stage produced the band Stavesacre and this song, which is a personal reflection on the goodness of God to restore him.

At the Moment:                                                                                                                         With a sigh I greet the day, I feel the morning on my face,
weary at the moment I awake,
even as i lie the thought returns to mind,
“Welcome to the rest of your life.”
Somewhere I’ve lost my way from saved to stray and failing,
in silence my spirit pleads,
“Is the vision lost or has it been passed on?
Is there any use continuing?”

My soul will wait, my soul waits silently
for God, my God (God my refuge)
and I will live and know some destiny
still waits for me.

His faithfulness, my hope
it brings comfort to my soul
with a still small voice whispering,
“Call upon My name and I will set you up on high,
be still and know that I am God.”

Creation speaks to me , I’m stricken to my knees in reverence and fear,
forever my Almighty, the heavens in Your hand surpass the grains of sand.
Who am I before you?
elieonai eli adullam [God my father, God my refuge]

This song is a great example of showing the human process of going from a conflict full of questions and fears to a solution full of hope and peace.  Solomon truly screams from the heart on this one as he recounts his own wayward journey that found its way back to the grace of Abba, Father!

The Psalms capture this format quite often, as well.  David and other biblical writers share in prose and meter their own journeys of trial to triumph, scorn to salvation, the depths of hell to the heights of the heavens.  Psalm 73 is a perfect example.  Asaph begins with confessing his precarious position of falling away from God because of the oppression of enemies around him.  He lambasts God with questions and complaints while he searches in the dark for answers and footholds.

Only after God mercifully leads him to His very presence in the sanctuary does the blindness of pride and sin disappear.  He sees things as they really are.  And what he sees is that God is everything.  Our song selection arrives at the very same conclusion, which is summed beautifully in these verses (Psalm 73:25-28):

Whom have I in heaven but You?  I desire You more than anything on earth.  My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; He is mine forever.  Those who desert Him will perish, for You destroy those who abandon You.  But as for me, how good it is to be near God!  I have made the Sovereign Lord my shelter, and I will tell everyone about the wonderful things You do.”

Throughout history, time and again, people have been writing songs like this.  God shows up when we are still and listen.  God shows up when we seek Him in His house.  God shows up when lay aside our self-centeredness and worldly-mindedness.  And when He does “show up”, you can be sure that He is all that you ever needed or wanted.

At the moment, you may be doubting these truths or afraid that you are the exception to the grace of God.  Listen to the sound of tens of thousands of years and millions of testimonies, my friend.  This is the moment that God awaits for you to embrace Him as He is, for He will always do the same for you…and rest assured that you will be saved, satisfied and saturated with His love.  The true believer in Jesus Christ can take a tune like this one and cry out with joy and freedom from deep within their gut – knowing that God is Father and Refuge – even from ourselves! (kinda makes you glad that it’s a loud song, right?)