Suffering isn’t something we like to think of. Particularly if you live in a culture where the goal is happiness. In a naturalistic framework, suffering is the ultimate evil–killer of happiness. What does the Bible say about it? Quite a bit.
Lately, I’ve been camped out on two subjects: the problem of evil, and suffering. If you want to take Suffering 101, read the book of Job. That’s where we’ll be today, Job 1, and looking at the lessons from it.
A Philosophical Look At Job
It begins with an introduction to a man so righteous and good that only two other Old Testament characters can compare. Of course, it’s Job. Philosophically speaking, the question is, can you love God for who He is rather than what He’s done for you?
Job proves that you can. However, we learn something about the culture at the time. There were two lines of thinking then.
One is the Great Symbiosis, a line of cultural thought that says you seek favor from a deity or multiple gods by caring for them. Offerings were usually just cooking them dinner, or plying them with gifts.
A good modern day equivalent is talismans or offering something for a favor. How many of us have ‘negotiated’ with God? I have and didn’t keep my end of the bargain.
The second is the Retribution Principle. It simply states the righteous will prosper while the wicked will suffer. Karma follows the same line of thought, someone paying back what they did in a past life. You see calls for it online, “Karma will get them,” or “They’ll get what’s coming to them.”
My question is when they go through hard times, do they consider it to be their bad karma being worked off?
At the core of the Retribution Principle is justice. In a perfect world, it could work. However, we cannot avoid being affected by others’ actions, or our actions affecting others. The fact Job was the most righteous man to have ever lived at that point blew that principle out of the water.
A Personal Look At Job
This is where we turn from the philosophical to the personal. Job wasn’t guilty of anything, yet he suffered. Jesus wasn’t guilty of anything, yet the Son of God suffered. Not all who suffer are guilty of anything.
It’s not always punishment or the natural consequences of a sin. It can be because of this broken world, a personal or satanic attack. Supernatural beings aren’t using us as pawns in an undecided game. We serve an all-powerful, all-knowing God who sees and knows the end result.
Part of that was God the Son coming to earth to suffer and die for us. God knows suffering on more than an intellectual level. Suffering is actually part of the Christian life. 1st Peter is a pretty good book on it.
I don’t know who said it, but they put it like this: to the Christian, joy is at the center with suffering at the periphery. For others it’s reversed, suffering is at the center and joy is at the periphery. How can this be true?
The Christian’s joy comes from a relationship with an unchanging God.
What’s This Mean For Us?
We can’t comprehend the why of it in totality or see how far the ripples will spread. Romans 8:28 tells us God knows and He’s with us working all things–the good and bad–for the good of those who love Him, according to His purposes.
In this light, since I came with nothing, and will leave with nothing I have gotten for myself, I should–as hard as it is–give thanks in all things (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). Because as Christians, we have our salvation to be thankful for, the good to enjoy, the lessons pain teaches us so we can help others, and can rely more on God.
So cry, and run to the Father, remembering He works all things for your good according to His purposes.