WHY DO PAIN AND SUFFERING EXIST?
unsearchable are [God's] judgments, and his ways past finding
out!" (Romans 11:33 KJV)
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.
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?
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?"
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'"
"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."
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).
"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.
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
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."
a Christian leader who lived through the 15 year war in Lebanon,
puts it thus:
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.
all this, we can now look at some of the things God has disclosed
about this issue of pain and suffering.
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.
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.
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
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
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).
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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).
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?
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
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.
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
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
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
and Joy May be Connected.
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
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.
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.
"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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