When we go through suffering in life we tend to like to find someone to blame it on – a friend, a spouse, an enemy, or often times we like to default to God. He’s sort of easy to pin it on when all other options are exhausted. We wonder where He is. Why isn’t He stopping this horrible thing we’re going through? Doesn’t He understand? Doesn’t He love me? Why would He allow this to happen?
Ever had one of those thoughts / questions run through your mind? So have I.
Let’s add another question to the mix – did God cause this suffering to happen?
That question is pretty much taboo in some of the circles I run in. There is an awful lot of teaching it seems that God certainly does not cause suffering, since in fact, He’s good and He’s loving, and so it would be against His nature.
Many times the answer we come up with is something to the following effect: “well God didn’t cause this to happen. He allowed it to happen and will use it for good in the end”. Our reasoning for that answer (and rightly so, I might add) comes from Romans 8:28
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
Again, that’s a valid line of reasoning from what we see in that verse.
But what if I told you, in my opinion, that the story of Job paints a slightly different picture on the possible cause of our suffering?
Many times when we talk about Job we go back to the “well God didn’t cause this to happen to Job, Satan did, but God used this tragedy in the end to teach Job and bless him when he came through it.” While that might be true, let’s look at a couple of verses that lead me to think otherwise.
In Job 1:6 we see that the angels have come to present themselves before God, and for whatever reason Satan has tagged along as well. When questioned by God as to where he comes from he basically says he’s been roaming around on Earth.
Chapter 1 verse 8 is where things start to get very interesting. It reads:
Then the Lord said to Satan, ‘Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.'”
For years I always thought that it was Satan’s idea to test and torment Job (and to some extent it is), but when we read this verse, at least to me, it seems God gets this ball rolling, if you will, by pointing out Job in the first place. Perhaps what happened to Job would have happened either way, but this verse really struck me.
Could God have been the cause for Job’s suffering? Let’s look at some more Scripture.
Verses 21 and 22 of Job 1 shed some more compelling light on this issue of who caused Job’s suffering.
‘…The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away;may the name of the Lord be praised.’In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.
Wait a second. Job didn’t sin by saying this? I would take that to mean Job wasn’t wrong about what he said, or at least that’s how I read the “Job did not sin” part of verse 22. Just to reiterate, Job is saying that God has taken away from him (his children, cattle, etc.), and Scripture says he did not sin in what he said.
Throughout the rest of Job there is back and forth between Job and his friends who are trying to counsel him, and they end up doing a pretty lousy job.
Job is very open in declaring how he feels about how he’s been treated throughout this whole ordeal (I’ll let you read that for yourself), and he and God end up “having it out”, if you will, towards the end of Job’s story. In Job 38:3 God says
Brace yourself like a man;I will question you,and you shall answer me.
And He most certainly questions away after that point. Quite pointedly I might add.
In Job 42, the story ends on a better note for Job. He ends up sacrificing for his friends, because God is quite angry with them, and then he is blessed again with cattle and possessions and 10 sons and daughters, but there’s a little bit of text in there you might just glance over while you’re reading the end of the story.
All his brothers and sisters and everyone who had known him before came and ate with him in his house. They comforted and consoled him over all the trouble the Lord had brought on him…
I don’t know who the writer of the book of Job is, but we are told in the New Testament that Scripture is God-breathed and Spirit-inspired. It is God’s word. Period. So it clearly states this trouble was brought upon by God, right there in verse 11.
Now, you might say “well you need to look at the original text. You’ll understand it all after that.” Maybe that’s right. Maybe I would have a different view. But if God is all-knowing and all-powerful (spoiler alert – He is), then I’d like to think he can use flawed humans to get across what He wants us to read in Scripture. Maybe that’s me being naive, but that’s how I feel on that point.
Why even discuss suffering like this? Well, like it or not, if you live on this Earth, you will experience suffering in some way, shape, or form at some point in life. It’s just part of the fallen world we live in. We’ve been through our fair share over the years. It just happens.
My point of this post is not to bash God. It’s simply to offer a different look on suffering and where it comes from.
Scripture states that God’s ways are not our ways. God operates on a totally different level that we can only try to understand, and we fail miserably at those attempts most of the time.
If God causes / allows suffering so that we might know Him better, isn’t that a good thing? We might not like it while we’re going through it, but if it has a good result in the end, I would say it’s worth it, even if God caused it.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on God and suffering!
Good post! Started searching Scripture, praying and thinking iabout suffering. Suffering first. I try to always think of the Cross when troubles befall me. Of course there is no real comparison but that keeps me balanced and less dramatic. I don’t tend to have as large a self-pity party then, as well. Remembering O.T. is giving us shadows and hints of The Son of GOD coming Earthside I relate the account of Job as a hint of Christ and His sufferings. Job was chosen by GOD and gave Satan permission to do what he wanted to Job with the one exception that he had to spare his life. In Job 38:10-11 GOD says that He “set the boundaries for the seas”. Also in Psalm 104:9 and in Proverbs 8:29 He reminds His followers that He has already established the boundaries of even the seas.
My next thought was how we comfort each other in these times by reminding each other that He will only “give to us what we can handle”. Often times this saying aggravates me because it is sometimes said in such a cavalier attitude and tone that it’s meaning is reduced to a Christian platitude rather than a friendly piece of advice. Nevertheless I have found it to be a piece of the truth.
After that round of thought I usually go back to my Savior on the Cross to return to reality. He was alone. It was the very first time that He was completely and definitely all alone. GOD His Father had to turn away from Him because He is Holy and cannot even glimpse at sin. Christ took all the sin of humankind upon Him. Christ had never experienced sin in any form but now He had the totality and completeness of it thrust upon Him and His Father couldn’t be there with Him. I do not know what that was like. I only have Christ’s Words excruciatingly yelled from His Lips and with physical pain having taken over His Body, “ My GOD, My GOD, why hast Thou forsaken Me now at the hour of My Death.” So what does it mean to suffer? I know that I don’t know.
I do know what King David knew in I Chronicles 21:13, “I am in deep distress. Let me fall into the Hands of the Lord, for His Mercy is very Great; but do not let me fall into human hands”
Great stuff! Thank you for sharing. I also don’t like the “won’t give you more than you can handle” because that’s not actually what that verse says. It says that He will not let us be tempted beyond what we can bear. Similar in meaning, but to me it’s not the same thing.
I have moved in circles before where God’s love was touted as the primary trait of His character. The people I found there knew little about the prophecies of old, except for those that are talked about in the New Testament, or those that promise long life and health and wealth. They rarely read the Old Testament, and they knew little of what it taught. Many had never read Job, and steered clear of it because of it’s somber and sobering truth about God’s wisdom and how much higher it is than mans. I don’t blame them…who among us wants to think our brains are puny organs incapable of grasping divine knowledge. The fact is that good people suffer and righteous people experience pain, and anyone who refuses to recognize that is missing out on a good half or more of Scripture’s truth.
I wish that no good person had to suffer, ever, and that all evil people would find their deeds exposed and punished, but this planet doesn’t operate that way.
Thank you for dealing with a hard subject here, Jared. I appreciated reading what you wrote, even if I cannot say I enjoyed it.
“Pain is real, Princess. Anyone who says differently is selling something.” -The Princess Bride Maybe not Scripture, but truth, nonetheless.