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A Tanzanian answer to, Where does suffering come from?

Luphurise Mawere‘s latest podcast episode is some teaching she gave at the weekly women’s meeting she runs. This week the passage was Peter sinking after he took his eyes from Jesus. She asked, where do the waves come from? What about the hardships in your life?

Her answer was that many people blame God but these problems do not come from God who wants good for his children. So, logically they must come from you and your lack of faith.

This does not necessarily seem logical to me. The theological tradition I come from sees a third option: hardships and suffering are a result of the Fall. They continue to be with us as we live in a fallen world and will be present until the second coming of Christ when all things reach their consummation. However, the Fall did not feature in Luphurise’s argument. There were only two options: either it’s God’s fault or your fault.

I suspect the absence of the third option is because emphasis on suffering as a consequence of the Fall sounds too fatalistic in a Tanzanian context. It sounds like you have to accept suffering and hardship as just part of how the world is, that you can’t do anything about it. The tendency towards passivity which Luphurise so passionately combats is reinforced.

But even as she asks, is it God or is it you?, we need to understand the nature of the question. For those from fear/power cultures, questions about where suffering comes from are not focused on assigning blame as they are for those of us from guilt/innocence cultures. They’re about power: where the power for change comes from because you’d better look to the right source.

This is exactly where Luphurise took her teaching. Her main message was: don’t think you can change your life circumstances on your own. Faith is key to change, not in yourself but in God. As she went on and on imploring the listeners to have faith, she was not blaming them for a lack of faith so much as she was pointing them away from themselves and towards the One who can bring change.

And so, she calls her listeners to lift their eyes and see Him. She said (translation mine):

Are you passing through trials?

Are there things in front of you you do not understand?

Is there a great mountain before you? Or a war?

Do not cry.

Do not be afraid.

Do not fight yourself.

Call Jesus Christ.

He is Legendary, the warrior of courage

Lord of War

Lord of Lords

The lion of Judah

Emmanuel, God together with us.

This one is with you.

Call him.

Pray, humble yourself, become low, entrust yourself to him, entrust your ways to him

He will save you from the trap of the hunter and break the plague

In the name of Jesus

Categories: Grassroots theology Tanzania Tanzanian culture Written by Tamie

Tagged as:

Tamie Davis

Tamie Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at

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