Job and the problem of suffering and evil.

Job 40:1 Then the Lord said to Job, “Will the faultfinder contend with the Almighty? Let him who reproves God answer it.”Then Job answered the Lord and said, “Behold, I am insignificant; what can I reply to You?
I lay my hand on my mouth. “Once I have spoken, and I will not answer;
Even twice, and I will add nothing more.”

Job 42:1 Then Job answered the Lord and said,“I know that You can do all things, And that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted.
‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have declared that which I did not understand, Things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.” ‘Hear, now, and I will speak; I will ask You, and You instruct me.’ “I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear; But now my eye sees You; Therefore I retract, And I repent in dust and ashes.”

You are probably familiar with the suffering Job endured. First, the loss of all his possessions and his children. Then, terrible pain from boils all over his body. At first, he handled all that well. “The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away”. “How can we accept good from the Lord and not accept the bad also”. But then (ch 3) he wished he had never been born, or that he had been still born, and cursed the day he was born. When his 3 friends tried to tell him that his suffering must be the result of sins that he had done, he defended himself vigorously, saying that he had helped the poor and done nothing worthy of such suffering. But he also started claiming that he was not being treated fairly by God. He called for an arbitrator to step in between him and God to determine the fairness of his case.

That’s when God finally spoke out of a whirlwind. God rebuked Job for contending or arguing with God, for accusing God of not treating him fairly. He never told Job why He had allowed Satan to do all these evil, cruel things to him. He basically put Job in his place by asking him if he had been present when God created all the animals, stars, things of nature, etc. In other words, “who do you think you are to complain to Me like you are complaining?”

That’s when Job made the replies to God in ch 40 and 42 as shown above. He realizes that he has gone too far in criticizing God. He realizes that He is insignificant compared to God and should not be speaking so boldly to God. He realizes that he has been questioning God’s actions when he doesn’t have a right to, nor does he understand why God allows such suffering and evil as had happened to him. Those things are too wonderful for him to possibly understand because he can’t know God’s mind, and he simply needs to trust God during suffering and evil.

I have studied many discussions on the problem of evil and suffering. That is probably the number one reason that many atheists use to say why they don’t believe in God. You know the very early argument: a loving God who is all powerful would simply not allow evil and suffering to exist, especially in the horrific extremes that it exists such as genocides, tsunamis, famines, plagues, brutal dictatorships, torture, terrorism, rape, murder, etc.

I had read all the arguments defending God allowing evil and suffering. Some point out that God created man with freedom of choice and must allow evil consequences of our choices or even the choices of others. Or that the earth was cursed because of sin in the garden. Or that God wants to test us or humble us. Or the argument that no one can even say what is evil if there is no God or no divine moral code of right and wrong (i.e. who can say that what Hitler did is wrong if there is not a God who determines what he did to be wrong). Or someone will point out all the good things that can come when we suffer with faith instead of doubt, such as proven character, tested and proved faith, more hope for eternal life, an example for others who suffer (as Job’s example was for us), to make us stronger, to draw us closer to God, etc.

All those arguments are valid, but let’s go back to the story of Job. Notice that God did not make any of the arguments I just listed. He did not to convince or show Job the benefits of suffering. God just put him in His place and said “trust Me” during your suffering. Trust Me that I know what I am doing when I allow you to suffer. Trust me that even though it is painful that I will somehow in the end make it right, that I will make it better. And of course He did that by rewarding Job even in his lifetime with double the possessions and with more children. Now God doesn’t always reward faithful sufferers in this lifetime. Many faithful sufferers die for their faith and never see their reward until after death in heaven. The souls under the altar cried out from heaven for vengeance, so they died painful deaths without reward in this life. Lazarus the beggar did not get his reward for suffering in poverty at the hands of the rich man until after death. Stephen and many of the prophets died without reward in this life. I often wondered why God rewarded Job with replenishing his assets and children at the end of the story instead of letting him die in pain and with nothing. I think it was to show that God did reward faithful suffering, even though the reward might not come in this life for other sufferers (but they will be rewarded).

So I think we try to rationalize and use logic too much to discuss the problem of suffering and evil. There is a sufficient amount of evidence that God does exist: from the cosmological argument (you can’t get something from nothing), the argument from design (of the universe, of the human body, of the periodic table, of the cell), the moral argument (God put a conscience in us), etc. In Romans 1:20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. A person has no excuse for not believing that there is a supreme being, a God who created everything, a designer. There is ample evidence that this God is a loving God as revealed in His book to us, the Bible. He is just and must punish sin, but He is a loving God who wants the best for us and has prepared an eternity of happiness and bliss. That amount of evidence for the existence of an all powerful, loving, God cannot be ignored or refuted whether we figure out why God allows suffering and evil or not. The existence of suffering and evil might make us have doubts (as Habakkuk did) or questions, but it can’t take away our faith that there is a God. You either believe in God and trust Him during suffering or you don’t. Faith and trust in God is the answer to the problem of suffering and evil, not logic and rational arguments. It’s fine to discuss those arguments, but remember the story of Job. God could have told Job all about why He allowed Satan to do evil things to him, but he didn’t. So who are we to keep trying to figure out the mind of God on why He allows suffering and evil? Who are we to keep trying to come up with the perfect answers to give to all those who question the existence of God because of suffering and evil? We need to spend more time trying to show them the proof that there is a God, to ground them in the faith that there is a God, instead of trying to give them that perfect, logical argument as to why God allows suffering.

In conclusion, one verse comes to mind. Hebrews 11:And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him. Wow! Doesn’t that verse sum up everything I have tried to say in this long article? Many of the great heroes in the “hall of faith” in Hebrews 11 suffering many things. Most of them did not get their reward in this life. Their suffering did not cause them to lose their faith in God. The Hebrews writer said that they simply needed to believe that God exists, and that He will eventually reward them. They don’t need to understand why God allowed them to suffer. They just needed to believe God would reward them for their suffering. What a great verse to end with!!!!!!!!!! I hope this article strengthens your faith in God, especially if you are suffering or doubting God.

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