Why does God allow suffering? Is it even the right question?

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Thursday, April 10, 2014 0 comments

“Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” (Job 2:10b)

This rhetorical question was spoken by Job directly to his wife after he told her she was “talking like a foolish woman” for urging him to give up on his faith in God because of all the intense suffering he had experienced (vv. 9-10). Before we bash Job’s wife, let’s remember that she went through significant suffering as well. In Job 1, we read that Job, one of the wealthiest men who ever lived, loses oxen, donkeys, sheep, camels, servants, his house, and finally, all of his sons and daughters. All of those things would have been just as much of a loss for Job’s wife as it was for him. Then in Job 2, he is inflicted with painful sores all over his body. Who do you think probably had to try to help him through his condition? One could understand how his wife could arrive at a point of overwhelming grief, frustration, and even anger towards God.

You probably know people in your life who don’t want to believe in God because of how they feel he has failed in their tragic circumstances. One such person is at the very center of the plot of the fantastic new movie “God’s Not Dead”. If you’ve been one of those people yourself, you know what Job’s wife was going through. It probably made her angry that her husband could still be choosing to trust in God after everything he had allowed them to experience. I dare say that she may have even taken it to mean he didn’t really care about their lost children! But I believe Job’s point of view toward his suffering was determined by something greater than his momentary grief. Job 1:1 says that he was “blameless and upright” and that he “feared God and shunned evil”. To fear God is to know that you are NOT him, no matter how good life is or how comfortable you become in your wealth, power, and self-righteousness. Knowing that you are not God is knowing that you didn’t create yourself, which means you are not owed a thing!

Job was able to maintain his appropriate attitude toward God during his intense suffering that was unlike anything most of us experience mainly because he was active in developing it while life was good. Job 1:5 tells us that it was Job’s “regular custom” to offer daily burnt offerings to God just in case his children had sinned. Maintaining the faith when life is good is usually where you and I struggle. We take for granted each blessing and each day that is filled with good things and little or no trials. We assume tomorrow will come and that we will be blessed in it. If you read last week’s post, you know that James calls this “boasting”. Remembering that tomorrow is not guaranteed may not help us in dealing with today’s suffering, but it certainly should make us feel better about each day and blessing we receive because we understand that God didn’t owe it to us but loved us enough to give it anyway.

Many of the Jews in the New Testament had a misunderstanding of suffering. In Luke 13:1-5, we see a story in which Jesus is approached by some Jews who evidently believed that tragedy struck those whose sins were greater than their own. They specifically bring up Galileans who were slaughtered by Pontius Pilate while they were offering animal sacrifices. Jesus adds the example of eighteen people who died when a tower fell on them. While the Jews are standing around wondering how bad the deceased must have been that God would allow such suffering, Jesus simply warns them they would “all likewise perish” if they do not come to repentance. I’ll never forget a sermon I heard by notable author and pastor John Piper about this very passage. He challenged his hearers to think about more recent tragedies in our nation and world. For you and me today, maybe we think of the Malaysian flight that literally disappeared or the recent mudslides that led to a large number of lives lost in Washington. Piper said that the question we should be asking isn’t why all of these lives had to be lost, but rather why WE have been spared! This is the right question not because God doesn’t care about us, but because the consequence of sin is death and every day we are given is undeserved. Think about it, even right now as you read this. Is there anything you can do this day to guarantee yourself another one? No matter what security or technology is available to you, the answer is still NO.

While this writing may not have seemed encouraging or uplifting to you, my prayer is that it will cause you to want to dig deeper to understand all that God has given you and how gracious he has been to you. When we understand that and also come to know by faith what awaits us when this life is over, there is no better encouragement for daily living in my opinion. I’ll leave you with the words of one whose life was marked with suffering for the name of Jesus – the Apostle Paul. “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18). Take some time to thank God today for all the good things he has given you, and then remember he is still the same God when suffering comes. Trust in him and do not lose heart because your troubles will be only a fraction of time compared to the eternal blessings that will come through faith in him!