June 2010

Second In Five-Week Series on “The Problem Of Evil and Suffering”

Like Death, it’s no respecter of persons.  The rich suffer, as do the poor.  Both the educated and the uneducated experience it.  And, everyone—regardless of their race, creed or color—know firsthand the pain it brings, regardless of the reason for its arrival.

Yet, in the midst of it there’s still a painful question that perplexes us and begs for an answer, much like the one we looked at last week (“Where is God?”).  And, that question is simply:  “Why Do‘Good People’ Suffer?”

Down through the centuries theologians and philosophers alike have grappled with this question.  Both pastors and parishioners have struggled tofind answers to it—particularly when standing beside the bed of acritically-ill loved one or at the open grave of one who departed much too suddenly or too young.

Yes, “Why Do ‘Good People’ Suffer?”

Back in 1981 Harold Kushner, a conservative Jewish rabbi, wrote a provocative book entitled When Bad Things Happen To Good People.  Written after the tragic death of his young son, Aaron, at age 14 in 1977 because of the incurable genetic disease progeria, Kushner concluded that not everything that happens in this world has a purpose or comes from God.  Thus, in trying to maintain his belief in God,he basically concluded that God’s omnipotence is limited and He cannot quite control the world He created.

Yet, dear Reader, the grief-stricken rabbi was wrong in his conclusion.  Aswe see in a study of the book of Job, just because God allowed Job to suffer doesn’t mean He was incapable of preventing it.  And, nothing could be further from the truth.

Truly, in Job’s story we grapple as to why He would allow satan to rob Job of his possessions, his servants, his children and even afflict him with painful boils (1:6-2:7).  And, if we look at this from logical, analytical standpoint, we shall soon join end up like Job’s wife who said“Do you still retain your integrity (faith)?  Curse God and die!” (2:9).

But, that’s where faith comes in—a faith that is rooted in God’s Love and Faithfulness and realizes that suffering is simply a part of life in our fallen, sinful world.  In reality, we all suffer for one (or all) of five reasons:  Adam’s sin. . .others’ sin. . .our own sins. . .satanic oppression. . .or God’s chastening Hand.

The question is:  “Will we curse God and die?”  Or, will we like Job continue to “worship the Lord” (1:20), “bless the Name of the Lord”(1:21) and say “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him” (13:15a)?

Again, suffering is not unique to any of us.  Even though the circumstances surrounding our suffering may differ from others’, the fact remains that all of our “fiery trials are common to man” (ICorinthians 10:13).  And, the Good News is that God sent His only-begotten Son into the world knowing ahead of time what would happen to Him (because of His omniscience) so we would not be alone in our suffering and “find Graceand Mercy to help in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:14-16).

In Job’s case his suffering took him to a new and deeper level of faith.  Prior to it, his theology was quite simple:  You do good and you get blessed; you do wrong and you get whacked.  And, as we saw last week, his whole “theological box” was turned upside down when he got whacked while faithfully serving the Lord.

But during his search for answers and defending himself against the accusations of his three “friends”—whom he called “forgers of lies, physicians of no value and miserable comforters” (13:4; 16:2)—God ultimately helped Job to realize that He is sovereign and must be trusted even when we can’t understand why we’re suffering (36:1-42:3).

And, again, that’s where faith comes in.  It’s believing that “God is good” and worthy of all praise (Ps. 73:1, 25). . .is a Partner in our pain (Ps. 46:1; Daniel 3:24-25; Heb. 13:5b). . .and will use oursuffering for our good and His Glory (Romans 8:28; I Peter 1:6-9).

Here’s praying that you’ll “give thanks in everything”—even your suffering (I Thessalonians 5:18)—for it is our continual gratitude for His “sufficient Grace” that enables us to “know Him and the power of His Resurrection” (II Corinthians 12:7-10; Philippians 3:10).  Thank You, Lord.

(NOTE: If you’d like to contact Bro. Tom or receive his daily e-mail devotional, entitled “Morning Manna,” you can write him at P.O. Box 582, Coushatta, LA  71019 or e-mail him at pressingon@hotmail.com).