Letter to the Editor — A Purpose to Our Suffering
[draft; your input is always welcome; will submit to the paper Monday]
Paul Williams wrote in Dr. Weinberg’s most recent column: “If God sometimes seems indifferent and uncaring, it might be He has chosen not to know. Maybe, when he created all that is now, he also chose to remain unknowing until this grand play comes to its final act.”
Williams was careful to use “might” and “maybe” as he speculated on the nature of God. Such is a wise course when one’s position is conjecture. Of course, if Williams is right then it is certain that the Bible is wrong since the Scriptures affirm that God “knows all things” (I John 3:20). If the Bible is true, then God does indeed know all things and is not ignorant of anything. If the Bible is false, however, then perhaps Williams is correct. I affirm, without hesitation, that the Bible is true. It would be my pleasure to sit down and study with anyone on this matter and provide a logical rationale for why I believe the Bible is true and why it should be the guide for our lives.
The “problem of evil,” as it is often called, has been around since before the birth of Christ: If God is all-knowing, all-powerful, full of love and kindness, then why doesn’t He put an end to all the evil that exists in our world? Atheists would suggest that God must not exist since there is so much suffering. Williams doesn’t seem to doubt God’s existence but does suggest that maybe God is purposefully remaining in the dark about the misery of this realm. I think there is another solution to the alleged problem.
The book of Job (located in the Old Testament) is a masterpiece all should study to better understand human suffering and our proper response to it. In that inspired work, it is implied that God knows all humans thoroughly since He told Satan there was none like Job on all the Earth (1:8). Job was blameless and upright. Yet, despite these facts, God permitted Satan to strike Job with a tsunami of suffering. In one day the man who was rich in possessions, influence, and offspring lost them all. But he did not curse God or doubt His existence. He mourned and worshiped God. Next, Satan was allowed to destroy Job’s health and make him suffer like few other humans ever have. Most of the book deals with dialogue between Job and his friends, who are convinced he must have committed some heinous sins to have fallen like this. Job gets a bit sassy at times, but stays true to God and generally speaks what is right (42:7). In the end Job is held up as a model of perseverance (Jam. 5:11).
Why bring all this up, Stephen? Because it shows that God can have full knowledge of human suffering and even permit it to happen because there is a greater purpose to be served. Job grew through his suffering and turned out better for it in the end. As James 1:2,3 puts it – “Count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.” Sometimes we suffer because of poor choices, and sometimes we suffer for no reason we can discern. But, merely because we cannot discern such doesn’t mean that no reason exists! Job didn’t understand at the time, but came to learn what we all must: namely, that God’s ways and thoughts are beyond ours (Isa. 55:8,9). Let us all trust God and believe in the final analysis that He will work all things out for good–for those who love Him (Rom. 8:28). For more info on this important theme, please visit: Evil.AudioEvangelism.com.
-Stephen R. Bradd, Clinton Church of Christ