So this all began when my wife and I started having a conversation about Job. It really is one of those books that you come away from scratching your head. I mean I guess there could be simple approaches to a celestial observance of a righteous man’s suffering countered by the intrusive wisdom arguments of supposed friends all driven at the holiness of mortals standing up under the sovereignty of God played out against the backdrop of the demands of freewill…but why would you want to make that simple? Anyway our discussion came around to the nature of God in the whole discussion regarding suffering and contemplating his action or lack there of regarding the life of Job or of those who are suffering in our modern world. Why doesn’t God intervene? Why do people suffer? And I realize that most anyone can try to give you some sort of simple answer but in all honesty not many of them suffice.
Fortunately in the wisdom poem that is Job we are given a response from God…and it is a doozy. God doesn’t condemn Job for questioning Him but his response is still heavy, Job 38:2-3 puts it like this “Who is this that obscures my plans with words without knowledge? Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me.” Woh! And then God goes on to ask Job of his omnipotent powers which of course Job has none. Basically setting up that for Job to be able to question the moral character of God, that Job has to be God. For a lot of us this still doesn’t necessarily give an answer as to suffering, but as a dad I am beginning to catch a glimpse. Let me explain…
Often times in the church we forget that we serve a Triune God. We live by the presence of the Holy Spirit and what a friend we have in Jesus, but who wants to submit to the authority and discipline of Father God? I am not saying that God the Father is like the cruel dictator branch of the trinity, but I think that there is a lot of depth behind the revelation of God as Father. In my own life, as a dad, I have a lot of tough decisions regarding the upbringing of my children. My goal in life is to raise up Godly young men and women who are responsible for their actions, own their own behavior and have real life experience. Sometimes the means to that end is not pleasant. I can see that if my son keeps running around the house in his socks (after being warned a couple of times) that he will eventually bust and bruise his pride. But I don’t always stop him from wearing socks or burn them all to prevent future tragedy. I know that my children don’t always listen when they are warned about the consequences of their actions but does that mean I remove the consequence?
Proverbs 3:11-12 reads like this, “My son, do not despise the LORD’s discipline, and do not resent his rebuke, because the LORD disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in.” Now I am not saying that human suffering is a discipline from God (PLEASE HEAR ME ON THAT POINT). But I think that often times our Father in Heaven sees the bigger picture.* He is like a Father to us and the things He allows us to go through I have to believe are one day redeemed. And even with redemption being an end goal I also believe that he hurts in his role as the heavenly father as much as I do, if not more, as an earthly father when my child is hurting. And the magnitude of the suffering that He endures as the Creator of all man kind…I can’t imagine.
I guess at some point we trust in His goodness despite not being able to see the whole picture. And maybe in the midst of suffering we might be able to say with Job, “Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him (Job 13:15).”
* I could really spend paragraph upon paragraph upon this subject. We will let this shortened/simplified answer ride for the sake of this blog post.