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Archive for October, 2013

Doesn’t Job Give Some Answers To Suffering?

Job doesn’t teach that God can’t be understood, but God is misunderstood sometimes. Job didn’t sin by questioning God; it was Job’s friends who were required to atone for their sins (42:7). God did challenge Job’s assumptions. Eventually Job understands that God is just despite Job’s undeserved suffering. Our demands for an all-powerful, invulnerable God as opposed to a vulnerable God can only come at the expense of freedom. There is no other path to true intimacy, as not even God can force genuine love, or God would have chosen it. God’s alternative was to not create or override freedom. Destroying freedom is to destroy the higher good that results from free, moral decisions.

God Does Not Cause All of Suffering

Job 2:10 hints of things to come in the story: “shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” This passage doesn’t declare God the cause of evil and sufferings that result though God allows trouble. God can’t create and guarantee life without death, violence, suffering, and struggle and yet there be free will necessary for genuine relationships. Freedom causes a complicated world for us and God. All sufferings are not some cosmic play between God and Satan, but readers are privy that Satan was the cause of evil in Job’s situation. God allowing Satan to test Job severely does not make God responsible for Satan’s actions. The Bible nowhere says God originates or causes our suffering unless for clear discipline reasons. Evil originates out of the hearts of men and women. God also doesn’t cause natural disasters, diseases, or accidents that lead to so much suffering. It is a complicated world of God and us.

Suffering is Not Evidence of Sin 

God rejected Job’s friends’ assumption that suffering is evidence of sin and God’s displeasure. Is cancer or lack of healing because of sin in one’s life? Please! Suffering doesn’t prove you have sinned or deserve to suffer. God in this story is very clear that Job “…is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil” (1:8). The suffering that Job experience is totally undeserved as is a great deal of suffering at the hands of evildoers. Bad things happen to good people in a broken world.

God Can Be Just And Caring Despite Suffering

God also rejected Job’s assumption that the wicked must be judged or the righteous rewarded immediately: “…Why should I not be impatient…Why does the Almighty not set times for judgment? Why must those who know him look in vain for such days” (21:4, 24:1)? Job perhaps began to wonder if God was in control and cared by not intervening in his suffering sooner. God defended Himself to Job: “Would you discredit my justice? Would you condemn me to justify yourself” (40:8)? God’s justice doesn’t means the righteous never suffer here on earth or the unjust don’t seemingly prosper. God apparently doesn’t react to suffering, inevitable in a free world, as we humans do.

Job Recognized God Knows How To Best Run A Free World       

Job says “my ears had heard of You but now my eyes have seen you” (42:5). God did not say Job sinned by trying to understand God. Job just needed to hear from God and reminding that God was the Magnificent Creator of all (Chapters 39-41). Job perhaps began to realize that he was ultimately challenging God’s wisdom on how to run the universe. God may know a thing or two about running a world that has chosen to rebel again their Creator. Instant justice does not allow room for mercy.

Can Job’s Suffering Provide Insights For Our Sufferings? 

God wants us to be comforted by Him in our sufferings by not making any false assumptions, and understand He suffers alongside of us. God wants us to understand our sufferings which are inevitable in a free world, though not caused by God, can serve a purpose in our life and the lives of others we influence. Are there rational reasons that God allows suffering and doesn’t intervene immediately?

  • Most understand deserved suffering. Cheat on your partner and all hell can break loss. God never says all of suffering is deserved so shut-up! Job’s suffering was clearly not deserved. Suffering obviously is not always retribution or correction from God. God allows suffering but does not will suffering in the same way.
  • Suffering enables us to not fall in love with temporal existence and love what the world offers. We are more likely to look to God, who desires our everlasting happiness, during adversity than prosperity. I am better off when my prayers are not answered. Suffering brings to light our defects so to examine and overcome our weaknesses. No pain no gain is true both physically and emotionally. Profound trust in God during suffering can lead to wisdom about life in general.
  • Our suffering can empower us to better serve others. Did Martin Luther King have to suffer to move the scales from the eyes of many how they tolerated bigotry? Personal tragedies or undeserved insults can make us more sensitive to others in similar situations. Miracles turned heads but Jesus’ suffering turned the hearts of billions of followers. Suffering, inevitable in a free world, is necessary if you are going to be of much use to others.
  • God could annihilate people at the first sign of evil, but don’t we give our wayward children chances to change no matter the harmed caused to themselves or others? God is merciful and patient in trying to change lives. Our demands for an all-powerful, invulnerable God comes at the expense of trusting God know best how to run the universe and change as many lives as possible through their own volition.
  • Job gave up trying to control God, accepting God knew better how to run the universe. Satan had a point. True love in any relationship is determined when you suffer and yet still love. But Satan’s evil brought the exact opposite intended. Ultimately, we may not know all the reasons for why God allows evil to continue or be so random, as Job, but we know one reason is not because God doesn’t love us as evidenced by suffering Himself through Jesus.


Why Does God Allow Us To Experience Pain?

I may do everything in my power to spare my children of pain. They may not study enough and fail, but I prevent certain, appropriate consequences. I rather my children not suffer injustice at the hands of others though their experience may make them more sensitive to the injustices of others. I can’t tolerate the pain that I am in because they are in pain. Some parents refuse to let their children experience consequences from drug use or bullying others despite lack of remorse.

God apparently is not the same kind of parent that I am.  God’s pain surely is greater than ours. He has more children. Only God know how good it really was in the beginning before pain entered the world. God could stop all pain. I suppose the pain involved when a child is wayward and allowing them to suffer consequences in hopes of seeing the need to change is more manageable. But, what about the pain involved when your child is treated unfairly. Jesus was crucified for telling the truth and God didn’t intervene.

God, like human parents, desires children who relate to Him in love than obey Him out of fear. Love without the freedom to hate is neither authentic nor desirable. God took the same risk we do when having children. No amount of good resulting from evil justifies the evil actions of others, but was God’s risk in allowing freedom necessary to obtain the highest good in relationships? It is not heresy to suggest even God cannot create and guarantee life without death, violence, suffering, and struggle and yet there be genuine free will. When evil was chosen suffering became a part of God’s story to lead us of our own volition to a paradise appropriate for free beings.

The truth is suffering, whether deserved or undeserved, can enable us to not fall in love with temporal existence and love what the world offers. I benefit more from my prayers not answered than being answered. Also, undeserved suffering enables us to relate to and help others in similar circumstances. Are we influenced more by how people handle miracles or trust God in difficult circumstances? Jesus’ miracles simply left people wanting more miracles and shortcuts to character-building. Jesus’ suffering changed billions of lives. Jesus’ life and death was God’s attempt to preserve our freedom, oppose our rebellion, and persuade us to be unselfish lovers.

God challenged Job’s assumption that the wicked are judged or the righteous rewarded immediately: “…Why should I not be impatient…Why does the Almighty not set times for judgment? Why must those who know him look in vain for such days” (21:4, 24:1)? God didn’t declare He is perfect and we aren’t perfect, so we always deserve suffering. Freedom makes for a complicated world. Perhaps God allowing suffering allows the most people to change for their own good without giving up on them. God is patient and merciful in hopes we will change.

I can’t always explain how any good comes from horrific evils by the hands of dictators. I do know God’s constant interference makes a mockery out of freedom. I can better comprehend God’s ways on smaller evils, but we would never be totally satisfied until all pain and suffering ceased. I will have to trust God regarding the bigger evils that overwhelm.  I do know God is in a great deal of pain when He doesn’t interfere though He could. I do know God is always working to bring good from intended evil. I do know that sufferings, which are inevitable in a free world, change more lives than miracles.

When Are The Bible And Theology Dangerous?

Interpretations are fallible. When you think you know your interpretation is correct, you don’t. The Bible is written in foreign languages thousands of years ago. The Bible is not a single text with a single author. The Bible rarely addresses theological issues in a systematic way. We must show humility. What good is Christian love if we can’t share and consider one another’s opinion gracefully, so to work out our own convictions with as much consistency as possible.

When two debatable interpretations in Scriptures exist, we best err on the side of grace and mercy to avoid misleading anyone in what God is truly like. God is love. God’s wrath is simply another aspect of God’s love for one’s good. Biblical interpretations must be plausible based on what a loving God should be like. To portray God as a Hellish, sadistic torturer, since there is a defensible exegetical alternative, is questionable. Humans don’t even keep their enemies alive on purpose so we can keep burning them.

Human reasoning is not the enemy. The reason we have internal moral absolutes, which most beings can agree on at a fundamental level, is because we all are made in God’s image. We share God’s nature, so God cannot ask us to believe in anything unworthy of human, rational belief as it would go against His nature. God’s love and perfect human love are one in the same. God is the perfection of the human parents we have always desired. We best err on the side of interpretation that portrays God as the most relational and rational to the human mind.

We may think interpretations must strike the “fear of God” in others to control behaviors in an attempt to produce godliness. A survey of the times “fear of God” is used in the Bible suggests fearing God was synonymous with fearing evil. Those who deny their horrible evil acts should be warned. You are likely not a candidate for a “fear of God” warning if you are reading this.  We often are not invited to understand how much God loves us so a true friendship can develop. Has gloomy uncertainty as to God’s favor conquered battles against self-centeredness or long-standing habitual sins in your life? Fear does not lead to intimacy in relationships which can transform us more into the kind of person we truly want to be.

Have Christians made a mess of the Christian religion by some of their views or lack of open-mindedness?  Beliefs have consequences. Believing one human race is inferior to another human race leads to racism. We all are one human race if you believe the Bible, since we are all descendants of Adam and Eve. Bad theology has consequences. Our theology must not make it difficult for people to turn to God by misrepresenting God’s character. Let each person come to their understanding of God if they are seeking. Understand our dogmatic theology can make it difficult for others to turn to God. Trust God to work in the heart of His individual children.

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