Pain and Suffering

By James L. Morrisson

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III. WHY DO PAIN AND SUFFERING EXIST?

"How unsearchable are [God's] judgments, and his ways past finding out!" (Romans 11:33 KJV)

A. WE CANNOT FULLY UNDERSTAND THIS ISSUE.

I start my discussion of this "why" question by recognizing that we cannot answer it completely. We simply do not understand all of God's ways. He has not explained everything. He does not owe us any explanations.

Scripture is full of this sense of mystery, this sense that we do not, and probably never will, understand it all. I recently read that a group of scientists agreed that they understand perhaps 2% of what there is to know about the physical world. Some thought that even 2% was a gross overestimate. Why should we expect to understand everything about the spiritual world?

Paul tells us that now, on this earth, "we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror" and we "know in part" (1 Corinthians 13:12). He writes, "O, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!" (Romans 11:33 KJV). "Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom" (Psalm 145:3). God has knowledge that is "too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain" (Psalm 139:6; see Job 42:3). "Who has understood the mind of the Lord?" (Isaiah 40:13).

"'For my thoughts are not your thoughts neither are your ways my ways', declares the Lord. 'As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts'" (Isaiah 55:8-9).

Scripture says, "No one has ever seen God" (John 1:18). We are told that "Enoch walked with God" (Genesis 5:22). Jacob "saw God face to face" (Genesis 32:30). The Lord knew Moses "face to face" (Deuteronomy 34:10) Moses, Aaron and 72 elders saw God on Mt. Sionai (Exodus 24:11) .While each of these had a remarkable degree of personal contact with Almighty God, none of them saw the fullness of his glory. Not even Isaiah (chapter 6) or John (Revelation chapters 4 and 5) has seen the fullness of God's majesty and glory.

We cannot expect to understand God fully. And it is very good that this is so. If our human minds could comprehend God, then he would be no bigger than our minds. We cannot limit him by our limited ability to understand, any more than we can limit the physical universe by our limited ability to understand it. Why should we expect that our limited minds would be able fully to comprehend and understand the creator of the universe, who sustains it by the word of his power?

If our human minds could understand God fully then we would be tempted to rely on our human minds rather than on God. God has told us to "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding" (Proverbs 3:5). We can trust God even when we don't understand. Perhaps I should say that it is precisely because we don't understand fully that we are forced to trust God. Corrie Ten Boom, who had experienced much suffering in a Nazi death camp, has said, "Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God."

Jesus told us, "Unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 18:3). God wants us to "become mature", and to "grow up into the Head, that is Christ" (Ephesians 4:13, 15). But he also wants us to keep a childlike faith by which we can say, "I don't understand this. But God does and I trust God." Our ultimate faith is in a person, not a set of concepts or ideas. Paul said, "I know whom I have believed" (2 Timothy 1:12).

Scripture says, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom" (Psalm 111:10). Part of this fear, or awe, of the Lord, I suggest, is the recognition that he is so great as to be beyond our comprehension, and that his ways and thoughts are far higher than ours.

God "has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness" (2 Peter 1:3). God, in his Scriptures, has revealed much about his character and his ways of dealing with mankind. He has told us much about what he expects of us. He has told us all we need in order to be able to live a godly life and acquire godly character. He has not answered all our questions. He wants us to trust in his character and not in our own understanding.

This is precisely the point of the Book of Job. Job, a man who is righteous in all his ways, loses his wealth and his family and is stricken with a painful illness which covers his body with sores. For 35 chapters Job asks, Why? Why is this happening to me? What have I done to deserve it? Why is there suffering? Why? Why? Why? His friends, his "comforters", try to answer his questions according to conventional religious thinking and their answers are totally unsatisfactory. Finally God speaks. He does not answer a single one of Job's "whys". Nor does he give Job a word of comfort. He merely says, in effect, "Job, look at who I am". Listen to a few of God's words from this marvelous passage. "Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge? Brace yourself like a man; I will question you and you shall answer me. Where were you when I laid the earth's foundation? Tell me if you understand" (Job 38:2-4). God lists many of the wonders of his creation. Then he says, "Do you know the laws of the heavens? Can you set up God's dominion over the earth?" (Job 38:33). "Who endowed the heart with wisdom or gave understanding to the mind?" (Job 38:36). "Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct him? Let him who accuses God answer him!" (Job 40:2). "Would you discredit my justice? Would you condemn me to justify yourself?" (Job 40:8). "Who has a claim against me that I must pay? Everything under heaven belongs to me" (Job 41:11). And Job finally replies "Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know.... My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes" (Job 42:3, 5, 6). After this God restores Job's health, wealth and position

Job finally reached the point of saying, "These are things too wonderful for me to know. I can't understand them. It's enough that I have seen who you really are. I trust you for who you are and I do not need to understand why you do everything you do."

I suggest that's where we need to be ultimately on the so-called "problem of pain and suffering". We need to be able to say, "God, I don't understand why there is so much suffering. But I trust in your total power, total wisdom, and total goodness. I trust in your thoughts and your ways which are so much higher than mine. And so I will simply accept the fact that pain and suffering exist and get on with the job of learning how to deal with them."

Lucien Accad, a Christian leader who lived through the 15 year war in Lebanon, puts it thus:

"Although I do not always understand the things my God does, nor see the reasons behind the way He does them, I am glad that this is how He works. It is truly wonderful. I love the ways of the Lord. Even though I ask questions: 'Why, Lord?' from deep in my heart, and while I wonder how I can carry on, I have no doubt in my mind that he knows and loves and cares... I don't expect answers to all my questions, just the peace that comes from knowing that He loves me, the peace of being free to love Him. If I am to serve my God I cannot claim as my right an easier life than that of Jesus. No, it will be hard at times. Answers are not necessary. All I need is to know how to live righteously before Him and, through the sadness and trials of this terrible world, praise and glorify His wonderful, mighty name." ("Bound to be Free", p. 106).

One thing we know for sure. In the world in which we live today, pain and suffering do exist. They are not going to go away. We need to accept them and learn to deal with them. Complaining about them and saying they shouldn't happen is not going to get rid of them, nor will it help us deal with them.

There are some who say, "I can't believe in a God who will allow so much suffering." To them I would make this answer. The law of gravity results in much pain and suffering. People fall and are hurt or killed or crippled for life. Airplanes crash and bridges and buildings collapse. Avalanches and landslides kill and wound many. Yet without the law of gravity all of us would fly off into space. Should we say, "I can't believe in a law of gravity that results in so much suffering"? Or, "'Mother nature' should have worked it out so that we could get the good without the bad"? The laws of thermodynamics are very useful to us, but they can cause much suffering. Fires and live steam get out of control, chemical explosions occur, and many are hurt. Should we say, "I can't believe in laws of thermodynamics that cause such injury"? Our weather keeps us alive, but it also causes much suffering. There are hurricanes, tornados and other storms; floods; droughts and famine. Should we say, "I can't believe in laws of meteorology that cause such suffering"? With so-called "natural laws" we accept the down side along with the benefits. With God, many people take the blessings for granted and complain about the unpleasantnesses. We would not think of trying to edit "natural laws", but we are very ready to edit God.

Having said all this, we can now look at some of the things God has disclosed about this issue of pain and suffering.

B. WE LIVE IN AN IMPERFECT WORLD.

When God created the earth, and put plants and animals on it, and created man, he "saw that it was good". Initially, I believe, there was no sin, there was no death and there was no pain and suffering. Eventually, as I shall point out, there will be a world in which there is no sin, no death and no pain and suffering. But for the present, pain and suffering are a part of our life. How did this come about? The picture is not entirely clear, but we do know some things about it.

1. The rebellion of Satan.

At some point, we don't know just when, one of the angels whom God had created as his messengers and servants, decided to rebel. He tried to "raise my throne above the stars of God" and to "make myself like the Most High" (Isaiah 14:13, 14). Apparently a number of angels joined his rebellion.

The result is that there is now a force of evil in the world, a force that opposes God, a force that seeks to "steal and kill and destroy" (John 10:10), and to "devour" whomever he can (1 Peter 5:8). There is "warfare" going on between good and evil; we "wage war" with "weapons" that God has given us (2 Corinthians 10:3-4; see also Romans 7:23). We "struggle" (KJV says "wrestle") against "spiritual forces of evil" (Ephesians 6:12). We "resist the devil" (James 4:7; see 1 Peter 5:9). Ultimately there will be a pitched battle in heaven and the devil will be totally destroyed (Revelation chapters 19-20) but that has not happened yet.

This is not a battle between equals. God is the creator and satan is one of his creations. God is Almighty. Jesus Christ is "far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but in the age to come. And God placed all things under his feet" (Ephesians 1:21). At the name of Jesus every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord (Philippians 2:10-11). "The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet" (Romans 16:20). But satan's power is not yet destroyed. Evil still exists in the world.

One might ask, "Why does God allow this? Why doesn't he just get rid of satan and his evil spirits now and end all the suffering satan causes?" God hasn't told us. We might speculate that the sharp contrast between good and evil helps us to choose the good, that the struggle against evil strengthens us and makes us commit ourselves to God, and that the awareness that we cannot fight evil in our own strength makes us readier to depend on God's strength, to "be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power" (Ephesians 6:10). But we don't really know.

2. The fall in Eden

At the Creation, God put Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. He gave them everything they needed. They had food, shelter, and dominion over the earth. They apparently walked with God every afternoon. He put only one restriction on them. He told them not to eat the fruit of one tree. They disobeyed and were driven out of Eden.

The result was that sin, death and pain came into the world for the first time. "Sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin" (Romans 5:12; see also 1 Corinthians 15:21).

God told Adam he could not longer live forever (Genesis 3:22). Pain is mentioned for the first time. God imposed "pain in childbearing" on Eve and "painful toil" on Adam; he would have to struggle against "thorns and thistles" (Genesis 3:16-18).

Another consequence was that man lost his dominion over the earth, and satan became "the prince of this world" (John 12:31, 14:30), and the "god of this age" (2 Corinthians 4:4; see also Ephesians 2:2-3). There are now two kingdoms that coexist in the earth. There is the "dominion of darkness" and the kingdom of God (Colossians 1:13). There are "children of God' and "children of the devil" (1 John 3:10; see also John 8:44). "We know that we are children of God and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one" (1 John 5:19).

Since the Fall in Eden the earth has been under a curse. "The whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time" (Romans 8:22).

All of this raises a lot of questions. Some may ask, "What was the big deal? Why was it so terrible just to eat a piece of fruit?" The point is that they disobeyed the only prohibition God had given them. They believed and trusted the serpent (satan) rather than God. They let the serpent persuade them that God was depriving them of something good, and that the serpent was more interested in their welfare than God was. They relied on their own impressions rather than God's explicit words. They did it their way rather than God's way, and that is at the root of all sin.

Some may ask, "Why did God allow this to happen? Couldn't he have zapped the serpent and stopped it? Why did he let the serpent into the garden? Why did he put the tree in the garden if he didn't want Adam and Eve to eat its fruit?" This kind of Monday morning quarterbacking of God is unproductive. Who are we to tell God that he should have done things differently? "Who are you, O man, to talk back to God? 'Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, Why did you make me like this?'" (Romans 9:20). But I think we can see a reason for what God did. God chose to give man free will. He could have made him a robot, who could do only as he was instructed. God did not want that. He wanted a creature with free will, who would love and follow God because he chose to and not because he was incapable of doing anything else. But having free will means that you have the capacity to make mistakes And the price for giving man free will was that man, in the persons of Adam and Eve, made a terrible mistake.

Some may ask, "Didn't God know that Adam and Eve would fail? Doesn't God know everything before it happens? Why did he set it up so that for thousands of years all mankind would suffer, when he knew that was how it would come out?" This gets us into an area in which I have no sure answers. God knows many things before they happen; that is why prophecy is possible. He certainly knew, ahead of time, that Adam and Eve could fail. Did he know that they would fail? Does he know ahead of time how man will exercise his freedom of choice? If he did would there really be any freedom of choice? I simply have to say that I don't know. There are Scriptures which sound as though God was disappointed in what man has chosen. For instance, Genesis 6:6 says that, before the Flood, "the Lord was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain" (KJV says "the Lord repented"). Again, after the people of Israel made the golden calf at Mt. Sinai, God's anger burned at his people Israel and he planned to destroy them and make Moses into a great nation (Exodus 32:10), but then he changed his mind at Moses' urging. The whole of Genesis chapter 3 sounds as if God was deeply disappointed at what Adam and Eve had done.

3. There will be a world without pain and suffering

At some time in the future there will be a world without pain and suffering for those who are righteous and follow God. In the New Jerusalem "There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away" (Revelation 21:4). "The sound of weeping and crying will be heard in it no more" (Isaiah 65:19) There will be "everlasting joy" (Isaiah 51:11). "Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away" (Isaiah 35:10). "They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain" (Isaiah 11:9, 65:25). "No longer will there be any curse" (Revelation 22:3). Our bodies now are perishable, dishonorable and weak; but we shall eventually have bodies that are imperishable, glorious, and powerful (1 Corinthians 15:42-44). Even animals will no longer eat each other (Isaiah 11:6-9, 65:25). The present world is not the way God finally wants it. But for the present, we have to learn to deal with pain and suffering.

C. PAIN AND SUFFERING SERVE A USEFUL FUNCTION.

I think we can see that, in the present imperfect world, pain and suffering serve a useful, and even necessary, function. Let me illustrate this in several ways.

1. The physical body.

For our physical bodies pain serves as a necessary warning system. We put our hand on a hot burner and instantly snatch it away. We cut or scratch ourselves and react instantly to get away from whatever is causing the injury and to deal with the injured tissue. We feel an internal pain which gets us to the doctor, who tells us that our appendix is inflamed, we have kidney stones, or whatever else is wrong, and we get it attended to. In a sense pain is like the warning lights on a car which alert us to things that need attention. Our pain system is carefully designed and adapted to our bodies' needs. For instance, the pain sensors are much more strongly concentrated in some areas than in others; some areas are very sensitive to pressure but less so to pricks or scratches; etc. The system is carefully and specifically designed. Interestingly, the same nerves that transmit pain, also transmit pleasurable sensations.

There are some who are unable to feel pain, such as lepers, advanced diabetics, and some others. They can injure themselves and not know it. Sometimes, during sleep, they have parts of their body eaten by rats and do not know it. Their life is full of hazards and very difficult. They would give much to be able to feel pain.

Study with these people, including unsuccessful attempts to create a workable man-made warning system, has made it clear that any warning system must give a strong enough signal so that we cannot ignore it. When people tried using lights or other indicators, those who wanted to do something that might set off the warning learned to turn the indicators off, or to ignore them. Physical pain cannot be turned off, and it is so insistent that we cannot ignore it. It's a good thing that the signal is strong and unpleasant.

Does pain serve a function in our spiritual life? I think it does.

2. Responsibility for our choices

There are many "natural laws". Ignoring them often results in pain. If we try to walk off a rooftop we will fall and hurt ourselves. Foolish, dare-devil actions can produce painful consequences. If we touch a hot thing we will get burned. If we smoke heavily we have a greater likelihood of getting cancer. Drinking heavily, overeating, and using "recreational" drugs can all have painful consequences. If we were to be relieved from all pain and suffering, we would never have to face the consequences of our actions.

The same is true with spiritual laws. There is a spiritual principle called sowing and reaping. "Do not be deceived; God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows" (Galatians 6:7). If we sow anger, hatred, hostility, bitterness, unforgiveness, ingratitude, selfishness and the like, we shall receive the same from others. If we choose to cause harm to others, we can expect to receive harm. By the same principle, if we are giving, loving, considerate, thoughtful, and unselfish towards others, we will receive many blessings. "Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you" (Luke 6:38).

This principle does not work perfectly. Nothing does in this imperfect world. But it still is true, in my experience and that of many others, that those who choose to be giving and loving usually receive love and generosity, while those who choose to give anger and hatred receive anger and hatred. If there were no painful consequences to our negative actions, would we ever learn to give them up? Would we perceive them as harmful and spiritually dangerous if we did not have a pain mechanism to warn us? If there were no unpleasant consequences from violating them, could these even be said to be laws?

I find that in most areas of life I can choose to be thankful or I can choose to complain. If I choose to be thankful, I can usually find many things to be thankful for. If I choose to complain, I can usually find many things to complain about. The way of thankfulness brings joy and a sense of richness; the way of complaining brings misery and a sense of deprivation. If there were no painful consequences to the way of complaining, would I ever learn to give it up? Would I perceive it as harmful if there were no pain mechanism to serve as a warning?

This principle applies more broadly. God has given us certain commandments and laws. For them to be meaningful, there need to be consequences from following them or violating them. In many places Scripture sets forth blessings and curses. God says, behave in this way and you will be blessed; behave in that way and you will be cursed. In Deuteronomy chapter 28, for example, God set forth a series of blessings and curses. If his people obey his law and commands they will be blessed with prosperity, military success, and honor and recognition. If they disobey he will send on them plagues, wasting diseases, military defeats, oppression, madness, blindness and confusion of mind, and much more. Then in Deuteronomy 30:19 he says, "I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live." God is using the possibility of intense suffering as a way of bringing his people into obedience.

In the New Testament, Paul contrasts two ways of life: living by the flesh and living by the Holy Spirit. Living by the flesh results in sexual impurity, idolatry, hatred, discord, jealousy, dissensions, drunkenness, and the like. "Those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God" (Galatians 5:19-21). "Because of such things God's wrath comes on those who are disobedient" (Ephesians 5:6). In contrast, those who "live by the Spirit" receive the "fruit of the Spirit", which is "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control." (Galatians 5:22-23). One group is miserable and suffers; the other group is blessed. In Romans Paul expresses the difference as that between life and death (Romans 8:5-17).

God has declared that those who believe in Jesus Christ will have "eternal life", while those who do not believe in him are "condemned already" (John 3:16, 18). He has established a judgment in which the righteous go to "eternal life" and the unrighteous to "eternal punishment" (Matthew 25:46), the righteous "will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father" while the wicked will be thrown into a "fiery furnace" (Matthew 13:42-43, 50; see also John 5:29).

In all of these we see the use of pain and suffering as a means of enforcing the laws God has established, and as a consequence of violating those laws.

3. God uses suffering as a way to train and strengthen us.

As I have said earlier, the early Christians endured a great deal of suffering. What was their reaction to hardship and suffering? They welcomed it as something that taught them and strengthened them! Look at what they said about it.

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything" (James 1:2-4). "We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us" (Romans 5:3-5). "Now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith - of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined in the fire - may be proved genuine" (1 Peter 1:6-7). "God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. Therefore strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees" (Hebrews 12:10-12).

In other words, pain and suffering teach us and strengthen us. Without them we would be flabby and complacent. We see this illustrated in another way. Where the Body of Christ has had to face intense persecution, as in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe before the fall of the Soviet Union, and in China today, the church grew and is strong. In Western Europe, at least until very recently, the church has generally been weak and ineffective.

Part of the process by which God brings us to spiritual maturity is to put us in difficult situations. In order that we may learn love, God may put us among people who are difficult to love. To develop patience, he may put us in circumstances that test our patience. To develop faith, he may put us in circumstances in which we cannot prevail by our own resources and we have to depend on him. We cannot expect to win a victory without fighting a battle. In other words, the process by which we grow and mature is by having to work against obstacles. Often this process is painful and frightening. But it bears fruit.

God can also use pain and suffering to get us to depend on him rather than ourselves. Paul refers to the "great pressure" he was under in Asia, and says, "But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God who raises the dead" (2 Corinthians 1:10). He asked God to take away his "thorn in the flesh" and God replied, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Paul added, "That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong" (2 Corinthians 12:7-10).

There is a principle in athletic training that says, "No pain, no gain". I suggest that the same principle applies to our growth into spiritual maturity. Quite often it seems that we grow only in the presence of discomfort or pain that makes us feel the need for change, and forces us to cry out to God

4. Pain and Joy May be Connected.

There seems to be a connection between pain and joy. There are some who live life on a pretty even keel, emotionally. They seem to have few strong feelings of either pain ofrjoy. Others have higher peaks and and lower valleys. They go through difficult times, but also times of great joy. Can it be that the two are in some way connected, that the capacity for great joy carries with it a capacity for pain and suffering?

We see such a connection expressed in Scripture. Jesus told his disciples, "You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world" (John 16:20-21). "Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh" (Luke 6:21). Jesus saw various distressing things in the end times - wars, famines, earthquakes - as "the beginning of birth pains" (Matthew 24:8). Hebrews says that "for the joy set before him [Jesus] endured the cross, scorning its shame" (Hebrews 12:2). Paul, who suffered much pain and wanted to "know the fellowship of sharing in [Jesus'] sufferings" (Philippians 3:10), was an apostle of joy. "Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again, rejoice" (Philippians 4:4). "Be joyful always" (1 Thessalonians 5:16). The disciples, after being flogged, left "rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name" (Acts 5:41).

We find this connection also in the Old Testament. "Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy" (Psalm 126:5). "Weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning" (Psalm 30:5). "I will turn their mourning into gladness; I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow" (Jeremiah 31:13; see also Isaiah 61:3).

I do not fully understand the connection between suffering and joy, nor can I define it, but I believe there is a connection.

5. God wants us to love him for who he is and not what he does for us.

This is the issue in Job. Job was a wealthy man, with a large family; "the greatest man among all the people of the east" (Job 1:3). Satan said to God "Does Job fear God for nothing?" "Strike everything he has and he will surely curse you to your face" (Job 1:9-11). Then he said "Strike his flesh and bones and he will surely curse you to your face" (Job 2:5). Job's wife told him to "curse God and die" but Job replied, "You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?" (Job 2:9-10). Job complained to God, he demanded explanations, he showed anger at God, but he never turned away from God. At the end, when God gave him no explanations, he was content with the fact that "now my eyes have seen you" (Job 42:5). He remained faithful to God for who God was, even though God had allowed satan to take away his family and wealth, and to inflict on him a painful disease. He served God for who he was and not for what he had bestowed on Job.

David wrote, "Delight thyself also in the Lord; and he shall give thee the desires of thy heart. Commit thy ways unto the Lord; trust also in him, and he shall bring it to pass" (Psalm 37:4-5 KJV). Often, before God is ready to give us the desires of our heart, he may test us to see whether we have truly committd our ways to him and are willing to trust him. It is when things are going "badly" that we have to trust in God because we have nowhere else to turn. Just as he did with Job, God may have to test us with troubles so that he, and we, can know whether we are really committed to him and trust in him.

When the three young Hebrews refused to worship Nebuchadnezzar's statue, and his gods, he threatened to throw them into a fiery furnace. They replied, "The God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up" (Daniel 3:17-18). They believed that God would save them from suffering. Be even if he did not, they would serve him. Their serving God did not depend on what he did or did not do for them, but on who he is.

If God always blessed us with good things, and rescued us from suffering, then we would be tempted to love and serve him just for what he does for us. Our faith in him would be based on greed and self-advantage. God does not want that kind of faith. He wants us to love and serve him for who he is, and not for what he does for us.

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Copyrightę 2002 by James L. Morrisson
  

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     08/19/2007