Summary: Is God to blame? We find in Job that this life is often unfair, but there is a difference between the unfairness of this life and the just character of God.
Sovereignty And Suffering, Job 1:13-20
A minister’s son was caught skipping school for three days. His father reprimanded him and prayed for him and though the boy wept and was truly contrite, he was still punished. “Son, one of the facts of life is that where there is sin, there is suffering,” the father said. “You have been living a lie for three days, so for 72 hours I am banning you to the attic, with a bed and three meals a day, but you must stay up there and make amends,” he charged. The boy did as he was told. When supper was served, the minister prayed with his wife, but he was restless and could not eat. When it was time to go to bed he knew he would have no rest. “Honey, I am going upstairs to sleep with our boy,” he told his wife. He found his son wide awake and he hugged him and lay down beside him. Each night, the father took the place of punishment with his child. How like our own God, who despite our transgressions loves us enough to send His Son to be with us and to die for us.
In this life there is suffering of every kind. The curse of sin rests like a blanket over the entire earth. We look around us and see its presence. We look in our own lives and see that the world is not all that it should be. Within all of us is a sense of wrestling between the “is and the ought.” That is we all perceive a tension between the way the world is and the way that it ought to be.
The world is not always fair. Commonly the righteous suffer while the wicked prosper. In light of the realities of suffering, The classic question is raised, “Is God to blame for human suffering?” For many unbelievers it is this very notion which keeps them away from Christianity and compels them toward a rather low view of its God and His claims. But there is a difference between justice and fairness. While the world is often unfair; God is always just.
The relationship between God’s sovereign rule of the universe and the suffering which is rampant upon the earth is a source of great perplexity among people of faith as well. Such questions are indeed difficult to answer with any level of honesty and compassion. It is altogether too easy to paint of picture of God as a tyrant or as a God of whimsical love with little power.
Many great minds have wrestled with these questions. I will lay no claim to giving the final resolution upon such matters. I will, though, seek to offer some insight, some perspective we can apply to our lives to aide us in understanding and dealing with the suffering, pain, and hurt in our lives and in the lives of those around us.
Job’s Prestige. The book of Job opens with Job as a prosperous man who had great faith in God. “… This man was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil.” (Job 1:1 NIV) In order to understand the theology of Job when disaster strikes, we need to look to his view of God before that time. Job’s reaction to suffering is intrinsically linked to his view of God prior to that time.
Reactions are formed prior to the events which trigger them. Foundations are laid prior to full construction. Is it any wonder that when people ignore God in their life until they are in need of Him that they do not understand Him?
Job was a man who feared the Lord. The text literally says that he was a man “Without moral blemish,” or “morally whole” and upright “straight” in the sense of not deviating from God’s standards.” In Job we see that the suffering which befalls humanity is not reserved purely for the wicked or unbelieving people. This is a motif that is consistently presented throughout the Bible.
In the gospel of Luke 13:1-5 Jesus is asked about some Galileans who were murdered by Pilate and other people living in Jerusalem who apparently died during an accident which occurred during a construction project. The question is raised to Jesus, “Were these men worse sinners than others living in the same area?” Jesus answer was a plain spoken no.
Rather than condemning those who were killed by government authorities or those who were killed by accident, Jesus exhorts all present to repent because similarly, they do not know when the time of their death will be at hand.
We live in a fallen world where Satan has deceived humanity into believing that God does not have their best interest at heart. According to Dr. Greg Boyd, “This is the foundation of all sin: the lie that God is untrustworthy, the lie that God is not altogether loving and that he doesn’t have our best interests in mind.” The pain and suffering found in the world is not reserved only for the evil and wicked; experience tells us that all people from every background experience pain and suffering. The point that Jesus makes in Luke 13 is that the state of the world after the fall of mankind into sin is such that tragedy may befall anyone at anytime.